Andrija Štampar’s Enduring Influence on EU Health Policies

May 2024
By Danko Relic*

Decades ago, Dr. Andrija Štampar, a prominent figure in 20th-century public health from Croatia, recognized the profound interconnection between health, democracy, social progress, and individual well-being. He envisioned a healthcare system where physicians served not only as medical practitioners but also as social advocates and educators, independent of patients’ financial status and accessible to all. Dr. Štampar prioritized preventive medicine over curative approaches, laying the foundation for modern public health practices.

In the face of the numerous health challenges in today’s EU, including the surge in chronic diseases, healthcare access disparities, and ongoing pandemic management, the relevance of Dr. Štampar’s visionary principles becomes even more pronounced. Renewing our commitment to these principles is a choice and a necessity for effective and inclusive health policy development.

At the heart of Dr. Štampar’s philosophy was the proactive promotion of health, community engagement, and the pivotal role of education in public health. To truly honor Dr. Štampar’s legacy, the EU must invest more in preventive measures, health education, and wellness programs. Additionally, incorporating harm reduction strategies into our approach is crucial, particularly in addressing pressing public health challenges such as mental health, obesity, nutrition, maternal/child health, tobacco control and infectious diseases.

Dr. Štampar emphasized the importance of community involvement in public health initiatives. This translates to actively engaging academia and civil society organizations (especially patients and health professional representatives) in policymaking, ensuring that their perspectives contribute to developing more inclusive and effective health policies.

Education was a cornerstone of Dr. Štampar’s public health strategy. By promoting health literacy across the EU, we can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their health, ultimately fostering healthier and more resilient communities.

As we navigate the complex landscape of EU health policy, Dr. Štampar’s principles stand as a guiding light of hope. By embracing preventive care, fostering community engagement, promoting health education, and implementing harm reduction strategies, we can build robust health systems capable of meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow. Let us commit to these principles in our advocacy efforts, ensuring that every European has access to the healthcare they deserve and paving the way for a healthier and more resilient future.

Andrija Štampar’s 10 Principles of Public Health and Social Medicine (published in 1926)

1.  Informing the public is more important than the law.

2.  It is crucial to prepare the terrain and help shape correct opinions on health issues in communities.

3.  Everyone, regardless of position, should participate in public health issues and work to improve it.

4.  Social therapy is more important than individual therapy.

5.  A physician should not be financially dependent on a patient.

6.  No differences should be made between the economically strong and economically weak.  (egalitarianism)

7.  When organizing healthcare, the physician should seek out the patient, not vice versa, to reach all those needing care.

8.  The physician should be a teacher (to the public).

9.  Questions of public health are of greater economic than humanitarian concern.

10.  The place of greatest influence of the physician is in the community, not the office.

*Member of the European Economic and Social Committee, Croatia