Institute for medical information - processing, biometry, and epidemiology (IBE)

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Research Group: Evidence-Based Public Health

Main thematic research areas

Global health

All team members share a keen interest in global health, and we put this into action through cooperation with partner institutions in low- and middle-income countries, in particular through the Collaboration for Evidence-Based Healthcare and Public Health in Africa (CEBHA+). Our global health portfolio also includes projects on household air pollution, other environmental health risks and maternal and child health.

Nutrition and physical activity

Unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity are leading risk factors for premature death and disease in Germany, Europe and the world. Our research activities focus on population-level interventions to address these challenges, including a Cochrane Review on sugar-sweetened beverage interventions, the piloting of the private sector module of the INFORMAS (International Network for Food and Obesity/non-communicable Diseases Research, Monitoring and Action Support) framework in Europe and the application of the INFORMAS Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI) in Germany.

Air pollution
Air pollution is among the main risk factors for noncommunicable diseases, in particular cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. As a group we are involved with research activities related to ambient air pollution as well as household air pollution from solid fuel use. These focus on interventions to reduce air pollution exposure and include both systematic reviews and primary research to evaluate the impacts of specific measures.

Main methodological research areas

Complex systems approaches for public health
A complex systems model of public health conceptualises health as the outcome of a multitude of interdependent elements within a connected whole, which has significant implications for how interventions to improve public health are designed, implemented and evaluated. We use the Context and Implementation of Complex Interventions (CICI) framework, logic models and other tools to conceptualise interventions in this manner and bring together a broad spectrum of methods to assess their impacts.

Systematic reviews and guidelines
We develop and apply methods for systematic reviews characterised by complexity, including quantitative as well as qualitative, mixed-method and methodological reviews. We work on several reviews of environmental interventions (e.g. a Cochrane review on interventions to reduce ambient air pollution) and are proud to be part of Cochrane Public Health Europe, the European satellite of Cochrane Public Health, and frequently contribute to the development of guidelines by WHO and other organisations.

Non-randomised study designs for intervention evaluation
When evaluating population-level health interventions, randomisation is often not feasible. In these situations, selected non-randomised study designs such as controlled before-after (CBA) and interrupted time series (ITS) studies provide the best available evidence. We examine both how these studies are used in systematic reviews, and apply and assess them ourselves in the evaluation of specific interventions (e.g. Bavarian smoking ban).

Qualitative and mixed method approaches
In addition to our focus on quantitative methods, we employ different qualitative and mixed method approaches – these form an essential part of the toolkit to do justice to a complex systems model of public health. We put these methods into practice in developing interventions (e.g. HIV prevention package at primary schools in Tanzania) and in conducting process evaluations of interventions (e.g. Prevention Chain Freiham).