Health Targets for Health Promotion in an Area of Conflict between Individual Freedom, State Paternalism and Common Welfare

K. Michelsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In Germany, a growing number of health targets has been adopted in the last years by various actors. While health targets are a useful instrument of governance, the priority setting and a respective redistribution of resources have to be legitimised in the cause of their advantages and disadvantages for population groups. The involved sciences including ethics can support decision-making, but not fully justify decisions. Therefore, decisions on health targets must be made in a transparent and participative process. In spite of a growing number of health targets, the lack of targets in health policies is to be criticised. Within the health targets, those measures assigned to curative medicine and prevention have a greater weight than health promotion. Health promotion should follow the WHO Ottawa-Charter and be embedded in the concept of "capabilities". Under these conditions, a stronger consideration of health promotion in the health target process would be desirable. However, the present actor constellations within health target processes make such a direction improbable. The struggle around capabilities and individual freedom occurs through, in and about institutions of the civil society as well as political and legal institutions. To restrict the discussion about public health and health promotions to an juxtaposition of individual freedom and state paternalism minimises societal and social restrictions of individual freedom as well as the possibility of a safeguard and enlargement of individual freedoms through political and legal institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-47
JournalDas Gesundheitswesen
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


  • health promotion
  • Ottawa-Charter
  • health targets
  • capabilities

Cite this