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Pioneering Institute of Public Health founded at the University of Cologne

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how important public health is – and that it needs to be strengthened in terms of personnel and expertise in order to respond more effectively to future epidemics and other threats to public health. The new institute strengthens the subject in research and teaching and cooperates with the Public Health Department of the City of Cologne as well as other national and international institutions in the field of public health.

The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Cologne has founded Germany’s first Institute of Public Health under the direction of Professor Dr Nicole Skoetz. The new institute focuses on research and teaching in the areas of public health and health maintenance. The institute is the first to introduce public health as a subject in the training of medical students at a German university. It analyses issues relevant to population medicine and develops interventions to optimize public health services. In this way, the institute reinforces an overarching research topic of the Faculty of Medicine: Health and Society.

The institute cooperates closely with the City of Cologne’s Public Health Department (Gesundheitsamt), the largest authority of its kind in Germany. Other cooperation partners include the planned Federal Institute for Prevention and Education in Medicine, the Robert Koch Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO).

New institute facilitates modernization and networking

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Public Health Service (Öffentlicher Gesundheitsdienst - ÖGD) has become the focus of politics and society and has taken on a key role in crisis management. However, it also became clear that the ÖGD needs to be strengthened in terms of personnel and modernized to more effectively respond to future crises and challenges - caused by climate change, new pathogens or demographic change.

On 29 September 2020, the federal and state governments therefore adopted the Pact for the Public Health Service in order to increase personnel working in the area across Germany and to facilitate modernization and networking. The role of university medicine is to initiate joint research projects. “Already before the coronavirus pandemic, university medicine institutes and clinics worked together successfully with the municipal health authorities. During the pandemic, we have intensified our collaboration even further,” said Professor Nicole Skoetz, director of the new institute. She added: “With the establishment of the institute, these collaborations can be systematically intensified in the form of joint research projects, but also offer further training.”

The City of Cologne's Public Health Department performs a wide range of tasks, including the provision of public medical service, drug, pharmacy and hazardous substance monitoring, counselling on family planning, health planning and promotion as well as addiction prevention. “We see great potential for innovative scientific collaboration for the benefit of the healthcare system and the population – not least of all due to the sheer size of Cologne’s Health Department and the wide range of issues it addresses,’ said Professor Dr Gereon R. Fink, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “We want to use this locational advantage, among other things to scientifically process data, jointly submit funding proposals and ensure optimized health and health maintenance for all citizens in Cologne and its vicinity.”

Strengthening public health in teaching

Content relating to public health and population medicine is an essential part of the training objectives and examination content of the currently planned new licensing regulations in human medicine. The new institute will play a key role in their implementation. According to the new licensing regulations and the National Catalogue of Learning Objectives in Human Medicine, the topic of public health will become an integral part of student education in the future. “Students have the unique opportunity to become acquainted with the diverse tasks of a public health department during their studies. At the same time, this expansion valorizes the professions in the public health sector,” institute director Skoetz concluded.

Media Contact:
Professor Dr Nicole Skoetz
+49 221 478 96651

Press and Communications Team:
Stephanie Wolff
PR Officer of the Faculty of Medicine
+49 221 478 30774