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  • Bielefeld School of Public Health

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General Orientation of the School of Public Health

The priority of health sciences / public health is to further improve the basic conditions for the health of all population groups and to reduce the prevalence of disease and their potential consequences. The School of Public Health is interdisciplinary, uniting the diverse scientific and methodical approaches of its members and promoting the lively exchange of the disciplines involved. Scientific and thematic content emphasis reflects the specialized expertise of the different faculty departments. Simultaneously they form the framework for addressing urgent societal issues concerning health and disease.

The School infuses theory construction, method development, and basic and problem-oriented research on the causes, framework and consequences of health and disease into all aspects of Health Sciences / Public Health. Both health systems and population-related issues are taken into consideration. The development of new methods and concepts is vital, in order to react in a flexible way to new research requirements. The School is also committed to the self-application of knowledge, with the aim of creating a health-promoting work environment.

Health Sciences / Public Health are highly relevant to both practice and policy. Against this backdrop, the School maintains close contacts with local, regional, and international healthcare institutions. The resulting contractual partnerships have proven to be very important for the problem-oriented focus of research and teaching. To this end, achieving the transfer of both practice to theory and of theory to practice is a central concern .

The School's approach to teaching Public Health stays true to the interdisciplinary nature of the subject. We see teaching and learning as a mutual process based on continuous exchange; new teaching concepts are developed, tested and deliberated upon, together with students and other teachers.. Our aim is twofold: to transmit specialized and professional knowledge and methods, as well as to impart key skills, such as self-directed lifelong learning, communication and teamwork, and the ability to reflect responsibly and critically on healthcare systems.

The Concept of Health
Health, in the sense of health sciences / public health, is aligned with a positive definition/understanding of health. Taking up the basic concept of salutogenesis, we view both health and disease merely as endpoints on an imagined health-disease continuum. In this context, the term "Public Health" emphasizes the focus on health burdens and needs of the population as a whole and of social subgroups. We take a holistic approach and assume that physical, psychological and social dimensions of health and disease are inextricably linked, as are their influencing factors.

By virtue of the numerous areas of work and activities that are associated with the concept of health and health-related issues, work in this field is necessarily interdisciplinary. The key feature of health sciences / public health, unlike many other academic disciplines, is therefore their interdisciplinary orientation. Participating fields include population sciences, biology, epidemiology and statistics, management sciences, medicine, ecology, pedagogy, nursing sciences, psychology, social sciences, sociology, economics and, depending upon the question of interest, other disciplines.

Subject Areas
Health Sciences / Public Health address options to improve the health of populations. Central areas of action include the coordination and cooperation of health promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and care in all areas of healthcare and across institutional boundaries. Practical, needs-adjusted programs that address behavior and circumstance-oriented health promotion and prevention, problem-oriented proposals for health system design, but also the development and application of management and evaluation concepts on the basis of theoretical models all contribute to more effective and efficient healthcare.

Health Sciences / Public Health are guided by the notion of health promoting environments, in which health and well-being are supported in a targeted way through appropriate measures and options, while detriments to well-being, including disease processes and their negative consequences, are minimized. At the same time, an important goal is to improve the social, ecological and economic framework for health.
From these primary objectives, several sub-objectives can be derived:

  • Reducing the negative impact of social inequality on health and disease,
  • Increasing gender and age related equity in health care,
  • Improving the health status of vulnerable populations,
  • Prioritizing health promotion and prevention over disease treatment,
  • Providing demand and need-oriented design and provision of health services for all,
  • Prioritizing economization over rationing,
  • Encouraging the involvement of the population in health-related issues and support / activation in the design of lifestyles and setting that can have lasting and positive effects on health,
  • Permanent review and qualitative development of health-related services,
  • Promoting evidence-based health-related procedures and interventions.

Social and Economic Relevance
The public health system is one of the most dynamic, employment-intensive and financially important sectors in the economy, which is characterized by the concentration and globalization of economic power. A close focus of our work on central ethical and social policy principles is therefore of particular importance to the faculty. Advocacy for a health-related rather than a disease-oriented perspective in the overall health system, as well as in all areas of life and social (sub-)systems, is as important as our commitment to equal opportunities in health. With this approach, we are able to meet the requirements of realistic, practice- and policy-relevant health sciences / public health.

The group of addressees in health sciences / public health encompasses a range of healthcare professionals and professions, including persons and institutions that are directly or indirectly involved in the organization and provision of healthcare. Health sciences / public health also focus on individuals and institutions creating responsible health-relevant spaces and communicating health-relevant lifestyles. For us, the general population is one of the indirect addressees. Through providing them with a wide range of high-quality information opportunities, we support and enable them to make independent and responsible health decisions and to shape the framework for health.

We feel it is our responsibility to apply our understanding of the factors that promote health directly to our own faculty and staff. By creating a health-promoting working environment, we hope to ensure and preserve the long-term physical, mental and social health and well-being of our employees. Employees who are ill and / or recovering from illness or injury receive comprehensive support meant to reintegrate them into the work process.

Equality and Responsibility
The School aligns itself with the fundamental ideals of solidarity and partnership. In all arenas, the right and duty to co- and self-determination, as well as co- and self-responsibility exist. Employees and students identify themselves with the principles and objectives of the School and collaborate to create a working, teaching and learning space that is oriented towards the model of a "health-promoting university". This includes the School's commitment to equal rights, equal opportunities and inclusion, regardless of age, sex, sexual identity, nationality, religion, social status, skill, health restriction or disability. In addition, we endeavor to optimize our workflows, so as to facilitate a healthy work-life balance.

Social Cooperation
The School's employees bring with them a range of biographies, scientific ideals, objectives and interests. We approach all our colleagues with appreciation, tolerance and respect, and we strongly oppose any form of discrimination. A climate of openness and mutual trust helps all faculty members to participate in the work process according to their abilities and skills, and to help shape everyday social cohesion. A positive working atmosphere is the shared responsibility of all colleagues.

Democratic Decision Making
All members of the faculty commit themselves to fulfilling the tasks of self-administration by working on committees. As in all other areas, decisions and resolutions are based on fundamental democratic principles and a set of rules. We contribute to the reduction of hierarchical structures by delegating the greatest possible responsibility to the lowest possible level.

Interdisciplinary Cooperation
As members of an interdisciplinary faculty, we consider all disciplines of science, represented by the different departments, to be equivalent. The same applies to the working groups themselves. The faculty thrives on cooperation with non-university practical training institutions as well as from cooperation with university and external scientific institutions. The cooperation on scientific disciplines across institutional and geographical borders is a high priority for the faculty in the processing of health-related problems.

Promoting Skills and Performance
The School is dedicated to developing, supporting and promoting the potential of its employees. High-quality work in all divisions of the School is our benchmark. Above-average performance by all faculty members is especially valued. In all departments, young academics are given particular encouragement and support, and department leaders assume the responsibility of ensuring the necessary temporal and structural framework conditions for the further qualification of young academics. This includes the opportunity for all faculty members to participate regularly in further education and training courses.

Exchange with Alumni
Our former students are a pivotal link between practice and research. With their experiences and networks, alumni represent an important resource for the School. We therefore maintain an intensive exchange with our alumni in the form of a graduate network and the inclusion of alumni in career orientation measures and teaching.

National and International Partnerships
Local and supraregional partnerships exist with various institutions of the healthcare system and are vital for application- and problem-oriented research and teaching. These partnerships are actively maintained, e.g. through joint research and teaching collaborations. Within the consecutive degree programs, the partners are available for the supervision of projects and doctoral theses. A lively practice-theory and theory-practice transfer, ensures a win-win situation that benefits all participants and is of great importance for the qualitative development of our work. We maintain relationships with a large number of international partners from practice and research. In order to expand and enlarge these partnerships continuously, the faculty is, for example, an active member of the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER).

Fundamentals of Research
The School conducts theory and method development, basic research, problem-oriented and application-related research on the development and maintenance of good health, as well as on the causes, conditions and consequences of disease in all areas of health sciences / public health. Novel health systems-related and population-related questions, ideally arising out of practical situations, form the core of our research. On this basis, we identify and analyze priority public health problems and develop suggestions for solutions. The potential thematic spectrum includes:

  • the demographic and epidemiological shift, including the growing importance of chronic diseases and new requirements for prevention and health promotion as well as arrangements for long-term care,
  • social inequality in health opportunities at both national and international levels,
  • local and regional inequality in access to health services and facilities,
  • new health-relevant developments as a result of differentiation and diversification of society, i.e. through internal as well as transnational migration and refugee flows,
  • deficits in efficacy and efficiency in many areas of healthcare,
  • the continuing underestimation of the value of prevention and health promotion in politics and society,
  • new and reemerging health risks resulting from global climate change,
  • targeted health communication to support evidence-based decisions,
  • increasing health stress due to changes in the working world,
  • an appreciation of of the opportunities and risks of molecular biology research and gene technology.

The development of new research methods and concepts, as well as the improvement of existing approaches, is an inherent part of this process. An issue of special concern to us is maximum transparency in the different stages of research and therefore in the preparation of research results for both scientific specialist circles and for politics and practice.

Principles of Interdisciplinary Work
Our strength lies in an interdisciplinary approach based on a wide range of scientific disciplines. This is clearly reflected in the topics and focus of the departments represented at the School. The task and goal is to nurture and promote a lively, appreciative exchange between all disciplines involved. Freedom of research in the sense of mutual recognition of research objectives and methods is one of our fundamental principles.

Concentration of Reserch
We form interdisciplinary research concentrations with social relevance. These are characterized by long-term strategies and the extensive professional expertise in the School. We orient our focus areas towards current research needs and questions relevant to practice, both national and international. The focus areas are developed by consensus and accompanied by the research commission of the School.

Principles of Good Scientific Research
Health sciences research at the School adheres strictly to central ethical principles. We respect human dignity and human rights and observe principles of good scientific practice. Internal and external evaluation of the scientific activities is an elementary component of any research project and is carried out with suitable instruments during and after each research project.

The aim of our teaching is to provide students with the opportunity to develop and expand their professional and personal expertise to a level expected of professional employees in the most diverse fields of healthcare. We approach teaching and learning as a participatory, mutual process. Our aim is twofold: to transmit specialized and professional knowledge and methods, as well as to impart key skills, such as self-directed lifelong learning, communication and teamwork, and the ability to reflect responsibly and critically on healthcare systems.

Public health teaching at the faculty follows the requirements of the interdisciplinary orientation of the subject. In doing so, we test new teaching concepts, reflect them and pass on our experiences.

As lecturers, we promote interdisciplinary dialogue, both with colleagues and with the students. We are committed to a critical examination of the content and methods of the courses we offer. We reflect our didactic and methodological competences and extend them through regular participation in further education and training courses.

As students, we see ourselves as self-responsible and self-determined learners. With the qualifications and professions we bring to the School, we take an active role in lessons design and in academic life. Central to joint learning is the continuous examination of the teaching content and active participation in the courses.

Quality of Teaching
The dialogical process between teachers and students is reflected in the quality development process and is actively encouraged by the School. This includes the exchange of experience, the joint development of curricula, coordination of teaching content of the various courses, and their continuous evaluation and adaptation.

The Relationship Between Research, Practice and Society
Through appropriate didactic and methodological approaches, and close cooperation with practical training institutions and external cooperation partners, the School's work is guided by the current situation of and changes in the healthcare system. The findings obtained in this way are continuously fed into teaching and research and are used for the further development of the School's work.

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