Research Areas

Please find below detailed information about the current research focus of the Center for Interdisciplinary Health Research (ZIG).

Bio-, Health- and Medicine Law

Biotechnology, health care and medicine pose fundamental questions for contemporary society. For instance, how far may stem cell research, embryo research or cloning go? What societal consequences will the development of genetic diagnostics have? What is the borderline between therapy and enhancement? What conditions have to be fulfilled in order to ensure a humane process of dying? How can be patient-oriented medical care be ensured? The institute for Bio-, Health- and Medicine Law (IBGM) considers bio-, health- and medical topics in an intra- and interdisciplinary way. In close collaboration with practitioners the IBGM has created a national and international network of scientists from law, medicine, social sciences, ethics and theology, providing national and international symposiums, lecture series and seminars as an opportunity for professional exchange.

Health Communication

In daily life, health and media are closely connected: Television, radio, newspapers and magazines report regularly on current medical developments, preventive measures, or a healthy life-style. The “patient 2.0” collects online information about the latest medical developments, including the course that an illness may take and its possible treatments. The “patient 2.0” also engages in exchanges with other patients on social networks, communicates via email with doctors and tweets the latest health-related news. For many people, media has thus become the most important source of obtaining and exchanging information about health issues. This influences their health knowledge and attitudes, as well as their relationship to doctors and medical institutions. This research area thus focuses on the investigation of health communication within digital media, and the use and effects of mediated health communication.

Health Economics and Health Care Operations Management

In Germany, annual spending for health care adds up to 300 billion Euros. It is estimated that every ninth employee works in health care. Therefore health care is one of the most important industries in Germany. The field of research called health economics covers the questions of how health should be funded (publicly or privately), and what consequences emerge from this for health and income. Furthermore, the analysis of health markets forms an important research focus. For instance, how should compensation for doctors be organized in order to motivate them to work efficiently? Do individuals make efficient preventive choices – for themselves and possibly for their children? Which options are there for regulators in case of inefficiency and how should these options be used for an optimal output? The section of Health Care Operations Management is concerned with the planning and analysis of service processes in the health sector. Its research priorities lie on the modelling, analyzing and optimizing of practical problems through the use of quantitative methods, which occur in close cooperation with practitioners. A particularly practice-oriented focus lies on the analysis and improvement of processes in hospitals; the central questions in this area concern the scheduling of doctors and nurses as well as the planning of surgery rooms, where stochastic influences and the dynamic appointment allocation need to be considered.

Health Prevention

As defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), health is composed of the dimensions of physical health, psychological health and social well-being. In a salutogenetic perspective, health prevention therefore means especially the building and strengthening of individual health resources. This preventive understanding puts the emphasis on the individual itself, who has to confront the topic of health in an appropriate way. Taking modern western societies into account, it is evident that physical activity and sport activities are becoming increasingly excluded from everyday life, which leads to negative consequences for the individual and the social development, such as physical inactivity, obesity or cardiovascular diseases. As current studies demonstrate, physical activity and sports can lead to positive effects in all dimensions of health and may thus become a resource for health related efforts. Therefore, research in the area of “Health Prevention by Physical Activity and Sport” is concerned with the following questions: How can physical activity and sport be integrated in life-styles? How can physical activity and sport contribute to positive individual development? How can health competence of individuals be increased through physical activity and sports? How can mediating institutions (e.g. schools and associations) act in a way to support healthy lifestyles?

Health und illness in everyday life

We live in a “health society”. Nowadays, the health sector is an area with high economical value for many societies. Health itself is regarded as a central norm that should be achieved and maintained by every individual through their personal risk management and prevention. “Health” is thus a central topic not only in scientific and public debate but also in everyday life. Practices and strategies that are used daily by people in order to gain health, cure illness, or learn to live with a disease, depend on the specific socio-cultural framework of a society or era, similarly to the societal ideas of health and illness themselves; therefore, personal health practices are bound to change in time as well. To investigate the layman understanding of and confrontation with “Health and illness in everyday life” research requires an interdisciplinary approach applying a contemporary, as well as a historical perspective.

Death and the End of Life

In the following decades, not only an increasing life span has to be considered, but also the increasing number of elderly people who will likely live with chronic illnesses due to a higher life expectation. Due to these changes, the following generations may face a longer dying process and higher dependence on different forms of institutional care. The main focus of this research area is thus the societal change in the confrontation with the process of dying and the death itself, including the current developments in palliative care.