The concept of health promotion is relatively new in Austria, as it is in other comparable countries. For a long time, health was defined as being the mere absence of disease. Then a new understanding of health began taking hold and won out at the latest when consensus on the Ottawa Charter was achieved at the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1986: Ever since then health has been defined in positive terms, namely as a person’s overall sense of physical, emotional and social well-being.
Austria picked up on this idea quite quickly. Just two years after the Charter, in 1988, committed health policymakers established what was called “Forum Gesundes Österreich” (Forum for a Healthy Austria), later renamed Fonds Gesundes Österreich: This organization had been set up specially for health promotion and began performing information and coordination tasks to the extent allowed by its modest budget. Sets of documentation on health promotion and self-help were also established in the fund as it existed at the time.
Austria’s accession to the European Union gave fresh impetus to health promotion: The Member States of the EU have been setting up transnational networks since 1996. Through their cooperation and exchange of experiences on various health promotion initiatives, these networks have done much to help improve quality in this area. Fonds Gesundes Österreich was the logical platform through which Austria could participate in these EU activities.
But the European dimension of health promotion was not the only one to gain significance in Austria. The national dimension also became increasingly important. A team of legislators and experts responded to this trend by drawing up a bill on health promotion. The outcome of the debates on this subject is the current Health Promotion Act, passed by parliament in 1998. In terms of substance, it sets down the holistic approach to health adopted by the WHO. Organizationally, it strengthened the “new” version of Fonds Gesundes Österreich, not least by expanding its responsibilities and its budget.
Effective from August 1st 2006 the FGÖ is a subsiduary of the Gesundheit Österreich GmbH (Health Austria Ltd).