Virchow Foundation

for Global Health



Founder of Modern Medicine | Father of Modern Pathology
Founder of Social Medicine | Physician | Biologist
Anthropologist | Politician | Writer

Rudolf Virchow was an example of a great scientist, medical doctor, pathologist, anthropologist, sociologist and influential politician, who with his ideas, discoveries and activities, had profound impact on the health and wellbeing of people during his time through present day.

Virchow united in one person the interdisciplinary, intersectoral and humanistic activity which is needed to improve global health. Rudolf Virchow is thus an example and an inspiration to successfully bridge, with complexity, the increasing challenges within health and other areas of our modern civilisation.

The Virchow Prize for Global Health was launched in October 2021, providing symbolic value to the global health community’s celebration of Rudolf Virchow’s 200th birthday on October 13, 2021.

“Medicine is a social science and politics is nothing but medicine on a grand scale!”

Global and public health is currently defined as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through organised efforts of society”, or in the words of Rudolf Virchow, “medicine is a social science and politics is nothing but medicine on a grand scale!

There is consensus that the relationship between medical, political, economic and social determinants must be addressed directly and jointly in order to achieve sustainable and universal improvement of health.


Rudolf Virchow truly is an example and an inspiration to successfully bridge, with complexity, the increasing challenges within health and other areas of our modern civilisation.

In this spirit, the Virchow Prize for Global Health is established and supported by the Virchow Foundation for Global Health, to recognize innovations of outstanding significance with a positive and sustainable impact on the broad field of global health.

We are confident that the Virchow Prize for Global Health Laureates, through their lifetime achievements, will be leading examples in striving for these necessary, ambitious efforts while providing inspiration to the community in improving health and well-being for all – our common and noble goal.

The Virchow Foundation for Global Health is an independent non-profit foundation which strives to raise awareness of global health issues in a holistic approach, addressing all sectors of society, with the aim of improving health and well-being. The primary focus will include emphasizing the understanding of the complex interrelationships between medical, political, economic and social determinants through trans-sectoral cooperation. This will be promoted through a joint commitment of respected individuals and organisations, across disciplines and regions, who are committed to a sustainable improvement in global health. The Virchow Foundation for Global Health strongly acknowledges, supports, and relates its work with the efforts of the United Nations, towards preserving the health and well-being of people and the planet, through the attainment of the UN 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the 2021 World Health Summit (WHS) in Berlin, Professor Detlev Ganten, Co-Founder of the Virchow Foundation for Global Health, publicly announced the establishment of the Virchow Prize for Global Health. The presentation was made during the WHS Opening Ceremony on 24 October,  where speakers included UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and German Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn, attended by several hundred participants in the plenary hall and several thousand digitally connected participants from the global health community. The WHS was held under the High Patronage of Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Excellencies, Dear friends,

We all agree:

  • Improving global health requires holistic input across silos and beyond disciplines.
  • We need the support of stakeholders from academia, medicine, politics, the private sector, and civil society to achieve Health for All: our common goal.
  • Partnerships for the goals and initiatives like the World Health Summit and the M8 Alliance are important.
  • A common understanding and holistic concepts such as “Health in All Policies”, “One Health” and “Planetary Health”, which involve entire ecosystems to find solutions to complex and intersecting tasks are needed to make progress.

It is increasingly evident, that coping with complexity is the great challenge of mankind for the future in our global world. Only by agreeing on a joint unifying concept, a common, comprehensive holistic view we can create the necessary synergies to solve our problems.

In 2009, at the first World Health Summit, we were commemorating Charles Darwin. His influential theory of evolution was a revolution to our understanding also of health and disease. It taught us how to preserve health by bridging the gap between our 3.5 billion year old biology and todays modern, often unhealthy, lifestyles.

In 2019 we celebrated the 250th birthday of Alexander von Humboldt. This great scientist and humanist created a new and comprehensive view on the world in his famous “Naturgemälde – Picture of Nature” of the Chimbarazo Mountain in Columbia. Humboldt combined climate, the biology of plants, animals and man, with the importance of geography and culture in his famous Cosmos lectures and books.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

today, in 2021, we are commemorating the 200th birthday of Rudolf Virchow.

Rudolf Virchow was born on October 13, 1821. He was a Doctor at the Charité and is the father of the Berlin School of Medicine. He used the most advanced scientific methods in optics, physics, chemistry, and other emerging sciences to develop a new concept of health and disease: Virchow’s Cellular Pathology.

Virchow went beyond science and coined the famous phrase: “Medicine is a social Science – and Politics should be nothing else but Medicine at a larger Scale!”

Virchow united in one person the interdisciplinarity we are striving for today. An outcome of his holistic view was the concept of public and global health.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As another step forward towards this global vision, I’m delighted to announce today the establishment of the “Virchow Prize for Global Health”.

With the support of the Presidents of the Leopoldina – German National Academy of Sciences and the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, the “Virchow Prize for Global Health” honours the legacy of Rudolf Virchow.

This is the first, and long overdue, prestigious international prize in the spirit of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Individuals or organisations who have made significant contributions to improve global health – are eligible to be nominated.

Today is the first announcement and in October 2022, at next year’s World Health Summit, the first “Virchow Prize Laureate” will be presented.

We are confident that the “Virchow Prize for Global Health” will showcase examples and inspire the community with new energy to improve health and well being for all – our common and noble goal.

Thank you!