January 21, 1940 – February 11, 2023


With sadness, the Executive Board of IUHPE reflects on the life and contributions of Prof. Emeritus, Jürgen M. Pelikan, PhD.


He was professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Vienna, Austria and Adjunct professor at the Centre for Environment and Public Health, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.


Prof. Pelikan was a long-time supporter of IUHPE and an elected member of the board of trustees from 2007 to 2013, as well as a founding member of the IUHPE Global Working Group on Health Literacy. He co-authored the International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) Position Statement on Health Literacy (2018). He was also active on the Global Working Groups for Salutogenesis and Healthy Settings.


He was the founder (1992) and (co-)director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion in Hospitals and Health Care, hosted at the Department of Health and Society at Gesundheit Österreich GmbH (Austrian Public Health Institute).


As principal investigator (PI) of the WHO model project “Health and Hospital”, and the first European Pilot Hospital Project on Health Promoting Hospitals, he co-initiated the International Network of Health Promoting Hospitals (HPH) and Health Services. Since its start in 1993, he was the Chair of the Scientific Committee of the annual International HPH Conference and advisor to the HPH Governance Board. He co-authored the Budapest Declaration, the Vienna Recommendations, the 18 HPH core strategies, the Amsterdam Declaration towards Migrant-Friendly Hospitals in an ethno-culturally diverse Europe, and the New Haven Recommendations on partnering with patients, families, and citizens to enhance performance and quality in health promoting hospitals and health services.


Prof. Pelikan was influential in establishing health literacy research in Europe. He co-initiated the first European Health Literacy Survey and was responsible for data analysis and results reporting. He was the Principal Investigator for a project on Health Literate Health Care Organizations and led work on the European Diabetes Literacy Project. He was the project director of an Austrian project on adolescent health literacy and on health literacy of two migrant groups in Austria.


He was a co-editor and author of the WHO publication Health literacy: The solid facts. He co-chaired the WHO Action Network on Measuring Population and Organizational Health Literacy (M-POHL).


He held multiple positions in international organizations over the years: member of the scientific advisory board of the Asian Health Literacy Association (AHLA), founding member of the Executive Board of the International Health Literacy Association (IHLA), President of the European Society of the Sociology of Health and Medicine, consultant to WHO/Euro, WHO-HQ and the European Commission. He was a member of the editorial board of the journal Health Promotion International and was a co-editor of Clinical Health Promotion – Research and Best Practice for Patients, Staff and Community.


Prof. Pelikan, a sociologist, has authored numerous publications on the theory of health and health promotion, on salutogenesis, the settings approach, evaluation in health promotion, quality in health care, measurement of personal health literacy and of health literate health care organizations A list of his scientific publications is available from:  https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Juergen-Pelikan


In addition to his many professional accomplishments, Jürgen was appreciated by his colleagues as a friend and mentor. He was known to be “always building bridges”, a “champion of social justice”, “a humanist of great culture”, and to have a “keen intellect.” As one member said, “He did a lot, but said little. Wise, thoughtful, calm and supportive.”


As individual members and as a global organization, IUHPE wishes to acknowledge Professor Jürgen Pelikan’s passing and to offer sincere condolences to his family and friends.


Selected Quotes from IUHPE Executive Board Members


“I had the privilege to work closely with Jürgen and other colleagues to create “Health and Modernity” a reflection on theories for health promotion. For this project our small group held several meetings over a few years and during which we shared thoughts and experience on the theoretical foundations of our field. Jürgen was an extremely original and sophisticated thinker on how health promotion is a reflection and a transformative force in our societies. I will remember him as a kind man and a “renaissance” man: a humanist of great culture. I think that we should also extend our condolences to Marina, his lifetime companion, who was ever present in his conversations.”

Louise Potvin


“I worked with Jurgen since 2007 on implementation & promotion of health promoting hospitals and health literate organizations. With the support of his expertise, we held the 2012 International Conference in Taipei reaching the ever highest number of participants and countries. He did a lot, but said little.  Wise, thoughtful, calm and supportive.”

Shu-Ti Chiou


“I am really sorry to hear this sad news about the passing of Professor Jürgen Pelikan.

He was a very significant figure in Health Promotion, not only in Europe but internationally. Both his earlier ground breaking work in relation to Health Promoting Hospitals and more recently in Health Literacy had a global impact.

I had the privilege of getting to know him through my role as a Scientific Board Member of the then Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Health Promotion Research in Vienna. I visited over a number of years for annual meetings. 

Alongside his keen intellect, Jürgen was always incredibly courteous, thoughtful and kind.

He will be sadly missed by the global health promotion community and my sincere condolences go to all his close colleagues, friends and family at this sad time.”

Margaret Barry


“Professor Pelikan has been serving as the advisor to Asian Health Literacy Association (AHLA) and attended our annual conference in person for many years. He is a great supporter to the establishment of AHLA in 2013. 

As the pioneer in health literacy, he shared his experiences in health literacy research in Europe with Asian group.  His speech is always full of wisdom, and we always love to hear his advice, in particular the way how to develop/validate health literacy measurements and how to advocate health literacy in organizations despite of all the challenges and barriers. 

His valuable contributions to health literacy knowledge and practices in both Asia and the globe is well recognized. 

Our deepest condolences to his family and we wish him rest in peace.” 

Angela Leung


We are deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Dr. Pelikan's passing.

His organization's health literacy chart impacted many professionals in Japan.

I want to express my sincere condolences. I pray that he may rest in peace.

Hiroshi Fukuda