The history of the Health Council dates back to 1902, when the first ‘Central Health Council’ was founded in accordance with the first Health Act (1901).
This first Health Act provided for the establishment of a national ‘Public Health Supervisory Service’ which was to carry out inspections under the management of the Central Health Council. This Council, consisting of the chief inspectors of the Supervisory Service and private experts, was also given the task of advising the government.
In the years that followed, it became apparent that the dual task - administrative and advisory - was problematic. Although it performed its advisory role well, the Central Health Council failed as an administrative body. In 1919 the second Health Act brought a change: the government itself took over the management of the Supervisory Service, and the Central Health Council would henceforth focus exclusively on advising. From then on, it consisted of scientists and representatives of social and professional organisations, and its name was abbreviated to the Health Council. The advice given to the government could relate to both social and scientific issues.
However, little by little the Health Council increasingly began to assume the role of a scientific advisory body: the role of representatives of interest groups in the Council diminished more and more. Shortly after the Second World War, this led to the establishment of the ‘Central Committee on Public Health’ - known today as the ‘Council for Health and Society’ - as a social advisory board for the government. Ten years later, the Health Council attained formal recognition as a scientific advisory body.
In 1997, a radical revision of the system of advisory bodies for the Dutch government took place. This resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of advisory bodies. A revision of the Health Act served at once to consolidate and reinforce the position of the Health Council as a scientific advisory board within the existing order. The Council was given the task of informing not only the government but also parliament about the latest knowledge in the field of public health. Traditionally, this field of activities has also embraced issues such as nutrition, environmental protection and occupational hygiene, and, more recently, the evaluation of permit applications for medical population screening.
Another milestone was the Health Council’s centenary in 2002. On this occasion the book entitled Paradox van wetenschappelijk gezag (Paradox of scientific authority) was published, which reviewed the effects of the Council’s advising. The most recent expansion of its sphere of activity took place in 2008, when the Advisory Council on Health Research was merged with the Health Council. Since then, it has been the Council’s statutory task to provide the government and parliament with advice in the field of public health and health/healthcare research.