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The Green Position Prevention

Holistic and all-encompassing

Here in Germany, health policy generally consists of policies for the care and treatment of the sick. It is a "repair operation" on a massive scale, and focusses on treating diseases, not promoting health. We want to change this situation. Prevention and health promotion are key priorities for us Greens. They can help to protect health and delay the onset of illness and the requirement for long-term care, and can be carried out in all areas of life and work. Prevention is a key theme of green health policy. We are working to ensure that prevention becomes a pillar of the health system, alongside the treatment of disease and rehabilitation and care. At present, non-medical primary prevention is overshadowed and undermined by a lack of funding, quality development, and action.

As part of the SPD-Green government, we were able to strengthen prevention and put it on a legal footing. As a result, the statutory health insurance funds now support services that focus on primary prevention, i.e. behaviour-oriented preventionand a social and environmental approach to prevention. These measures target people who are in good health, and therefore aim to maintain health. Prevention in people's own environments (school, nursery, neighbourhood, etc.) is now given greater priority. At the same time, the health insurance funds have also been legally mandated to help reduce socially induced health inequalities. We have always attached particular importance to this issue, for socially disadvantaged people suffer more illness and die younger than the average population.

However, these measures are not enough for genuinely broad-scale prevention. For that reason, as part of the SPD-Green government, we produced draft legislation on prevention with the aim of strengthening structural capacities for prevention. From 2005 to 2009, the Grand Coalition (CDU/CSU and SPD) – despite numerous announcements and half-hearted efforts – was unable to bring forward legislation of this kind. The present government excluded a commitment to legislation on prevention from its coalition agreement altogether. The CDU/CSU and FDP merely pay lip service to health promotion.

We will not give up until a law on prevention, focussing on non-medical primary prevention, becomes reality. We remain firmly convinced that what is required is legislation that genuinely helps to reduce socially induced health inequalities and establishes adequate funding arrangements. This would be a major step towards the further development of prevention at practical policy level.

On its own, however, legislation on prevention cannot solve all Germany's health problems. Prevention and health promotion must be embedded more firmly in all areas of the health system, e.g. in hospitals and medical service centres. Ultimately, the concept of prevention must play a greater role in other policy fields as well, such as education, transport and environmental policy. We will continue to be firm advocates for this approach.