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Horst Noack

The European Public Health Community is mourning Richard Horst Noack.

On the 19th of May 2023, EUPHA’s past president and ÖGPH’s Honorary President – Professor Richard Horst Noack – passed away in his hometown Graz, Austria.

Horst Noack joined the EUPHA Executive Council in 2004 as president-elect and was EUPHA president in 2006. In 2005, Horst was the president of the EUPHA Conference, organized in Graz, Austria. The main theme of the 2005 conference “Promoting the Public's Health: reorienting health policies, linking health promotion and health care” reflected his cross-sectional vision. Under his leadership, the 2005 Graz conference had some great innovations. It was the first time that a EUPHA conference was organised by three countries (Austria, Croatia, Slovenia) and it was also the first time that one conference track was dedicated to the European Commission’s efforts to strengthen the field of public health, providing a platform for intersectorial discussion and, first-hand information on five European public health programmes and funding procedures. It was also the first time that a big public health event was organised in Austria. Horst remained active for EUPHA giving advice for years and even being on the Local Support Committee of the EPH conference 2016 in Vienna.

Horst Noack grew up in a rural region in Sachsen in East Germany. His parents were craftsmen and small scale farmers. Together with two fellow students at the Technical University of Dresden he fled nineteen-year-old in 1957 from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) on a bicycle only with his work clothes to West Berlin, the suitcase with clothes and most important documents were already "drüben" (over there).

As an officially recognized GDR refugee Horst would have been allowed to complete his Engineering studies in the Federal Republic of Germany, but he chose to study Medicine instead at Universities in Bonn and Tübingen. Horst also studied Psychology and Methods of Social Science Research at the Iowa State University in Ames in the USA. After completing his studies, he set up and headed the Department of Health Research at the Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern in Switzerland. From 1992 Noack was appointed Professor of Social Medicine and Epidemiology in Graz, Austria, where he retired in 2005. He has also held various positions at the World Health Organization.

Horst Noack played a pioneering role in the development of public health, both nationally and internationally. He consolidated the term "New Public Health" in order to further develop public health away from a medically patriarchal eminence-based perspective towards a modern interdisciplinary scientific discipline.

Public health in Austria is inextricably linked to his person and his name. He was a co-founder of the Austrian Public Health Association (ÖGPH). He was the first ÖGPH President and, as Honorary President until his death, still had sympathetic ties to ÖGPH. His most important goal in the founding years was the development of part-time master’s course in public health based on the Swiss model, which was finally established in Graz for the first time in Austria. Later he also co-founded the education program Public Health Governance in Vorarlberg.

His commitment to the training of a scientifically active public health work force, the creation of structured foundations for health promotion - he was significantly involved in the development of the Ottawa Charter of the WHO in 1986 - and his numerous publications and book contributions make him one of the most important personalities in the international Public Health. To enumerate all his activities and merits would require writing a book. His guiding principle, however, that years of life gained should also be years of healthy life, has become a basic principle of health promotion and prevention.

Anyone who knew him and, above all, anyone who was fortunate enough to work with him will remember his charismatic, clever, educated and lovable personality. We will miss him greatly.

Stan Tarkowski

The 21st January 2019 brought the sad news that Stanislaw (Stan) Tarkowski had passed away that morning. Stan was a tremendous supporter of EUPHA. He served as our President in 2009/10 and hosted an extremely successful European Public Health Conference in his home city of Łódź, Poland. He had returned there after serving for seven years as Director of the Division of Environment and Health at WHO EURO, taking up a post as Professor of Public Health at the Nofer Institute of Occupational Health. Łódź had been a major manufacturing centre, sometimes called the Manchester of Poland, and its experience of industrialisation had highlighted the important contribution of occupational and environmental health to the wellbeing of the wider population.

Stan’s formal involvement with EUPHA had begun in 2000, when he attended his first Governing Council, as President of the Polish Association of Public Health. Those present recall his commitment to public health in Europe and determination that Poland should play an important role in developing the public health community. With its sections, pillars, and themes, EUPHA can seem a complex organisation for a newcomer but his perceptive questions meant that he soon understood its ways of working. In 2007 he joined the Executive Board as President Elect, always providing sound advice to his colleagues and ensuring that we kept a focus on the major issues we faced. He was especially concerned about the need to strengthen the public health workforce to make it fit for the future. 

Never one to be deterred by a challenge, he had identified a conference centre that had everything needed except that it was still undergoing renovation. Indeed, by June it was still incomplete but he made sure that everything was ready by the time of the conference.  He used the conference to highlight something he had been arguing for over many years, the importance of understanding the influences of the environment for health. In this respect, the conference was an opportunity to look to the future, and especially the threat posed by climate change. But those gathered in Łódź could not ignore history, and especially that of the city’s Jewish community. The city had welcomed large numbers of Jews fleeing the Russian pogroms and, by the 1930s, they comprised a third of the city’s inhabitants. Stan was determined that no-one should forget what happened next, organising a poignant pre-conference at Auschwitz that served as a reminder of why the public health community must always speak out on racism, xenophobia, and populism.

In 2010, Stan passed the baton to Walter Ricciardi, but agreed to remain on the Executive Board for a further four years as Past President, always contributing his wisdom and advice in a quiet, but extremely perceptive and helpful way. This was a time of major organisational change for EUPHA, a process he gave valuable support to, including through his leadership of the Past Presidents Committee.

Even after standing down, he continued to support the work of EUPHA but was prevented, by his final illness, from attending the Ljubljana conference.

Those who were fortunate to work with him will remember his loyalty, kindness, vision, and support. We will miss him greatly.