ROBERT RODALE, the head of a publishing empire whose magazines dealt with health, fitness, organic farming and similar subjects, died yesterday in an automobile accident in Moscow. He was 60 and lived in Emmaus, Pa.
A spokeswoman for his company, Rodale Press, said from its headquarters in Emmaus that Rodale was being driven to the Moscow airport with Yevgeni Gringaut, his partner in a publishing venture, when the wreck occurred. Both men, along with the driver of the car and an interpreter, were killed.
The spokeswoman, Kae Tienstra, said preliminary word was the car was struck head-on by a bus that had swerved into oncoming traffic.
Rodale was in the Soviet Union to establish a Russian-language edition of The New Farmer, one of several publications of Rodale Press devoted to a natural approach to agriculture that reduces reliance on chemicals.
The Rodale Press was founded in 1942 by J.I. Rodale, Rodale's father. The son joined the business in 1949 and built it into an internationally known publishing concern whose magazines included Prevention, Organic Gardening, Runner's World, Backpacker, Bicycling, Men's Health and American Woodworker.
At his death Rodale was chairman and chief executive of Rodale Press. He devoted much of his time in recent years to the Rodale Institute, a non-profit organization seeking to use existing resources to make agriculture more profitable and biologically sound.
Rodale traveled around the globe seeking ideas for his publications. In 1973, in China, he chanced upon a book on ear acupuncture. Against the advice of colleagues he had it translated and published in the United States. It went through several printings.
Rodale also conceived the Prevention Index, an annual survey conducted by the Louis Harris polling organization that tracks changes in the preventive health behavior of Americans.
Although the Rodale family became wealthy from its publishing ventures, Rodale, who was born in New York and attended Lehigh University before joining his father in publishing, continued to live in a modest brick house surrounded by gardens.
At the Rodale Institute, a 305-acre experimental farm in Maxatawny, Pa., a staff of agronomists develops farming techniques that have attained worldwide use.