Genealogy and Development of Preventive Health-Care in Germany (1918 - 1995)


The project investigates how and under which social, cultural and economic conditions specific models of preventive health have developed since the interwar period. It aims to investigate how chronic diseases were handled, here in particular the prevention of cardio-vascular diseases, which is paradigmatic of today’s preventive health model.
Methodically the project takes up current approaches from the History of Science and administration, and additionally from Oral History. Concerning the national-comparative questions approaches from comparative and transfer history are to be taken into account. The investigation is based on a critical analysis of archival material and published documents.

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TRANSFORMATIONS of HEALTH between POLITICS and CULTURE A comparison of prevention practices in 20th century Europe

International conference at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB)
24th/ 25th July 2008

Contact: Martin Lengwiler,  Jeannette Madarász
Program as PDF

Conceptions of health changed fundamentally during the 20th century in Europe. Around 1900 the battle against epidemics on the basis of moralising state efforts still dominated the discourse on health. Since the First World War, however, individualising approaches to health prevention in connection with the new focus on chronic diseases (for example coronary diseases) came to the fore. In the second part of the century health finally became an issue in everyday culture, embedded in consume orientated life styles and dietary habits. Various factors contributed to the transformation of health policies and health cultures. A pronounced impact had, for example, the medical research conjectures with their changing causality and risk models, the alteration of institutions relevant to health politics between initiatives of the civil society (e.g. the Lebensreform movement or patients’ associations) and the evolvement of welfare state institutions. In addition, expanding consumer society transformed the cultural meaning of health-related dietary and behaviour habits.
The conference has two aims. Firstly, it is intended to trace in broad strokes the Western European discourses on health from a perspective of cultural history and historical anthropology. Thereby, the developments of the 20th century shall be set against the background of the 19th century. Secondly, the European variations of health conceptions in Western and Eastern, Northern and Southern European states shall be considered on the basis of approaches in comparative and transnational history. Also, the range and the results of the Europeanization of health politics since the 1950s shall be part of the conference theme.
The conference is organised in the context of the research association Preventive Self (Präventives Selbst) funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.


Witnesses to History-Workshop "The Development of Social Medicine in Germany"

04 April 2008

Prof. Dr. Johannes Siegrist
Prof. Dr. med. Dr. Phil. Heiko Waller
Prof. Dr. med. Heinz-Harald Abholz
Prof. Dr. Dr. Alf Trojan
Prof. Dr. Rolf Rosenbrock

Further Information (in German)