Basic information – Mission of the National Institute of Public Health, Statutes, History

History of the National Institute of Public Health

Protecting public health and improving the health status of the population is an important mission in every state. The National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) is a scientific institution which, through its specialised activities, considerably contributes to the prevention and control of morbidity in the Czech Republic. Through international cooperation, the NIPH also participates in a number of projects aimed at improving population health globally.

The establishment and development of the National Health Institute (1921-1939)

Plans for the establishment of a national health institute were drafted under Vavro Šrobár, the first Minister of Health of Czechoslovakia. Negotiations with the Rockefeller Foundation on the terms for providing a donation intended for construction of the institute began during his tenure. A plot of land in the immediate vicinity of the Vinohrady hospital was selected as suitable for construction, and the buildings were designed by the architect Rudolf Kvěch.  

The State Health Institute was inaugurated in November 1925 and its first director was Prof. MUDr Pavel Kučera. During the period of the First Republic, the Institute became an important scientific and professional institution, with extensive scientific activity, production of serums and vaccines, and ensuring bacteriological and serological diagnostics. An important component of the Institute was the department for social hygiene, which, among other things, dealt with health statistics, epidemiology, nutrition hygiene and occupational hygiene.


The Institute during WW2 (1939-1945/9)

After the dissolution of the Czechoslovak state, the State Health Institute came under the control of German occupation administration, and a separate institute was established in Bratislava in Slovakia. Agreements were ratified between the two institutions, which mainly concerned the production and supply of sera and vaccines to Slovakia. The Institute’s epidemiologists showed great courage in eliminating the spotted typhus epidemic that spread before the end of the war in the concentration camp in Terezín.


Reorganisation of the institute and its further activities (1949-1989)

In 1949, the State Health Institute was reorganised and, in addition to a regional institute for Slovakia in Bratislava, branches were established in other cities. The production of sera and vaccines became independent with the establishment of Biogena. After three years, the Institute was abolished and its branches were transformed into regional public health stations. The activities of the Institute were then continued by successor institutes, which were effectively offshoots from its original departments. In 1971, the separate multiple institutes were again integrated into the newly established Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology. During these years, the professional level of individual institutes and the IHE increased, along with close cooperation with the Faculty of Medicine and Hygiene and collaboration with the Hygiene Service. Studies of a heavily polluted environment brought significant insights, and inroads were made in professional toxicology as well as research on the epidemiology and microbiology of infections; a vaccination strategy was successfully implemented.

Renewal of NIPH (1989-2003)

After 1989, the institute went through a number of changes that reflected new trends in society and in preventive medicine. In 1992, the original name of the institution was restored, as the National Institute of Public Health. As part of this reorganisation, the Centre for Radiation Hygiene was separated from the Institute, which took over the agenda of the abolished National Centre for Health Promotion. Headquarters for the System for Monitoring Population Health Status in Relation to the Environment were newly established. At this time, the NIPH also played an important role in a number of nationwide preventive programmes, such as the National Health Promotion Programme, the National Programme to Fight AIDS or in the coordination of iodine deficiency prevention.

NIPH after the entry of the Czech Republic into the EU (2004 to the present)

The entry of the Czech Republic into the European Union in 2004 represented a historical landmark for the healthcare sector, in which the NIPH played an important role. The Institute not only participated in the implementation of EU regulations into Czech legislation, but its experts also contributed to the introduction of new regulations (for instance in the field of the health safety of toys) which were based on Czech standards and became a model for European legislation.

With these activities, the NIPH successfully ranked among the specialist European organisations forming a professional background for the requirements of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The culmination for NIPH was the preparation of European legislative standards in the field of ​​public health protection during the presidency of the Czech Republic in the Council of the European Union in 2009.

In 2008, there was an unsuccessful reorganisation at the NIPH, when the Institute was divided into the Centre for Laboratory Activities in Protection and Promotion of Public Health and Centre of Specialised Activities in Protection and Promotion of Public Health. However, the respective activities of both Centres were subject to a great amount of overlap and the majority of tasks necessitated very close cooperation. In connection with this, there was an unfortunate reduction in the number of employees and in financial support from the state budget. After three years, the untenable situation was resolved by returning the organisational structure to its original state. Despite the continuing limitations of financing and personnel, it has been possible to maintain the quality of the Institute’s activities.

In subsequent years, the NIPH began to take part in coordinating and implementing the National Antibiotic Programme and implementing the National Action Plan for Sustainable Pesticide Use in the Czech Republic. In 2015, leading specialists collaborated on preparing a total of 13 so-called action plans which specify the aims, responsibilities and markers for key priority issues of the National Health Strategy 2021.

At present, the NIPH plays a unique role in the Czech public healthcare system. It is a professional institution that covers all activities related to the functioning of the public health system in the Czech Republic, and its activities comprehensively cover all areas of public health protection and support. It fulfils its mission mainly by preparing documents for national health policy, and methodological and reference activities. The basis of the professional work of the institute’s specialists is scientific and research activity, associated with NIPH involvement in national and international research projects. NIPH is also significantly involved in the undergraduate and postgraduate education of health and non-health workers. Authorisation and accreditation activities are an integral part of the institute’s work.

NIPH personnel are involved both in international EU and WHO working groups, as well as inter-departmental groups in the Czech Republic. The NIPH is one of the founding members of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI – International Association of the National Public Health Institutes). It continues long-term collaboration with other European organisations such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), European Joint Research Centre (JRC), The European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) and others. NIPH representatives regularly attend meetings with these organisations.