Section of Theory and Empirics of Health

The focus of the section "Theory and Empirics of Health Care" is on analyses at the health care system level (macro level), of institutions and actors in the health care system (meso level) and on the health of those affected (micro level).

The research interest is mainly focused on issues of appropriateness, quality development, barrier-free access and health inequality. Social determinants affect the distribution of health and disease in a population. A research focus is on the health conditions, behaviors, and health care utilization of vulnerable populations. These include people in particular life stages or social situations (such as unemployment, flight, homelessness).

In the context of public health theories, the focus is on the sectors of prevention and health promotion, outpatient and inpatient health care, and the public health service. Of particular interest are professional and methodological issues of social work in health care (such as hospital social services or public health departments). The field is concerned with interventions for social situation-related health promotion, setting and lifeworld approaches as well as the "Health in all Policies" approach of the WHO.

Furthermore, health and illness are important cross-cutting issues among the social and health professions as well as the students.

Research profile of the section of Theory and Empirics of Health

Empirical analyses at the macro, meso, and micro levels in health care

„Social science-based research [...] can make an important contribution to better and more socially equitable health care for individuals, groups, and populations and generate insights for health care system development. The focus is on empirical analyses
at the health system level (macro level),
of institutions and actors of the health care system (meso level) and
on health-related resources and restrictions of those affected and their social environment (micro level).
International health care system comparisons can be used to examine relevant developments on selected criteria such as fairness of financing, demand planning, medical care needs or service provision. Health policy framework conditions, control, forms of care and overuse, underuse and misuse in the system are to be critically reflected. The research serves the goal of patient orientation of the health care system.
Interface and networking research focuses on improving the structures and processes of the health care system, especially between the outpatient and inpatient sectors (the two major pillars). In addition, public health and public health services as the 3rd pillar in the health care system represent an important research area (cf. Hollederer & Wildner, 2015).
Of particular importance in Germany is currently the field of prevention and health promotion (4th pillar). It’s structures are developing with high dynamics in the wake of the Prevention Act 2015, while prevention reporting and research specifically on socioeconomic-/sociodemographic-related health promotion are underdeveloped.”

Social determinants of health and disease and health inequalities

The research activities are aimed at optimizing health care with regard to appropriateness and reduction of health inequalities. For the German health care system, there is a general aspiration to make health care equally accessible and of high quality for all population groups and in all regions, regardless of age, origin, gender and socio-economic status. However, challenges exist concerning access to health care and utilization of the health care system by vulnerable groups. These include people in special phases of life (such as children, the very old), social situations (e.g., poverty, flight, homelessness, etc.), and structurally disadvantaged regions. Accessibility is a scarcely considered quality criterion in health care. A research focus is on the analysis of social inequalities in health conditions, health behaviors and social barriers to utilization. Health burdens and resources accumulate over the life course. Health and social mobility are associated. One example is the interaction of unemployment and health. To reduce socially determined and gender-specific unequal health opportunities, scientifically based health promotion strategies are needed at the individual level (e.g., social situation-related health promotion, health literacy promotion), the organizational level (setting and lifeworld approach), and at the federal, state, and local levels (e.g., "health in all policies" approach).

Social Work in the health care service

The manifold challenges in the health care service increase the need for core competencies of social work and accompanying research. Network building and case management are core competencies of social work and can contribute to the necessary improvement of cross-sectoral cooperation and medical and social care. Social work is predestined to reach socially disadvantaged groups with increased risks of disease, to tap resources and to promote health competencies. For example, it forms the second largest professional group (after physicians) in the health care service with a mandate to provide health counseling and health promotion. Evaluation research is oriented towards the structures in the health care system and the fields of action of social work in the health care system (prevention, curation, nursing, palliative and hospice care, public health service, self-help ...).
In addition, the health of social work employees is itself an important cross-cutting issue (e.g. with regard to incapacity to work or mental health).