Wortwolke Public Health-Projekte, Abteilung Sozialepidemiologie


In our research, we combine social and environmental epidemiological methods and research questions from a public health perspective. The overarching goal is to contribute to a reduction of socially and environmentally induced health inequalities.
In order to achieve this, it is essential to understand the extent of social and environmental health inequalities in the population, to identify the causes and mechanisms, and to develop, test and evaluate interventions aimed at reducing these inequalities.

Increasing equity in environment and health can only succeed if the effects of interventions and programmes on health and health equity are taken into account across sectors. Therefore, the establishment of Health Equity in All Policies is the overarching, long-term mission of our research.

Urbanization increases all over the planet: more than 50% of the population worldwide are living in cities, in Europe more than 70%. The research field "Urban Health" investigates the influence of the urban environment on health outcomes and health equities. In this research area we particularly focus on the public health relevance of built and social environments and of access to supply structures. We investigate physical and mental dimensions of health including subjective well-being.

The urban space is a complex system with interactions between elements of the built and social environment. Especially cumulative exposures and multiple environmental burdens are important issues in this research area. Therefore, we pursue not only a pathogenetic perspective on environmental pollutants in urban environments relevant for health, such as noise, air pollution or heat. We also consider the salutogenetic perspective on environmental resources, such as access to green or blue spaces or social support in the close neighbourhood environment. Furthermore, we investigate how health relevant behaviours (e.g. physical activity) are influenced by the social and built environment.

Based on our research results on health risks and resources in the urban context we develop approaches for healthy city planning. We give recommendations for planning neighbourhood environments supporting physical activity as well as increasing participation in political decision processes relevant for urban environments, such as in the context of noise action planning. For the development and implementation of health promoting strategies a comprehensive cooperation between public health and urban planning is essential. Moreover, a health (equity) in all policies strategy is elementary for cross-sectoral health promoting urban development.

Our projects in this research area are:



  • Equal-Life: Early environmental quality and life-course mental health effects, more
  • An integrated small-scale monitoring concept: Supporting decision-making for healthy and sustainable urban development, more



  • SalusTransform: Evaluation of measures for equitable health-promoting urban development and major transformation in terms of promoting health, reducing social inequalities, and protecting climate and the environment, more
  • Integrated Indicator Set Urban Health, more
  • Climate change and health equity: a public health perspective on climate justice in Germany, more
  • Heat action plan for the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven, more
  • AFOOT – Securing urban mobility of an ageing population (1st funding phase), more
  • AFOOT – Securing urban mobility of an ageing population (2nd funding phase), more
  • A stress test for resilient neighbourhoods: The impact of epidemics on neighbourhoods and strategies to increase their resilience - the example of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in German cities, more
  • Co-designing Public Space: In Policy and Practice, more
  • Strengthening health-promoting co-operation in administration in the district. Health In All Policies in Bremen, more
  • Subjective perception of the effectiveness of prevention measures, more
  • Artificial lighting and cancer diseases, more
  • COST ES 1204 Loss of the Night Network – LoNNe, more

Social inequalities in health, which are avoidable and perceived as unjust, are an important challenge for public health. Social inequalities in environmental burdens and resources contribute essentially to health inequalities.

Environmental justice focuses on socially unequal distributed environmental burdens and resources (distributional justice) and socially unequal opportunities for participation in environment-related decision-making processes (procedural justice).

At the interface of social and environmental epidemiology, in the research area of socioeconomic position, environment and health we analyse social differences in environmental burdens and resources and in the vulnerability to environmental factors. Furthermore, we analyse whether certain population groups have lower participation opportunities in policy-making relevant for environmental health.

Based on the findings,we aim to develop strategies and interventions to achieve equal opportunities in environment and health. With our research we contribute to the international environmental justice discussion. In Germany, we contribute to theoretical foundation, practical implementation and further development of the environmental justice approach.

As WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Inequalities (, we conduct a monitoring of social inequalities in environmental burdens and resources in Europe and refine indicators for this assessment. In addition, we are working on methods for estimating and quantifying the health consequences of these inequalities.

Our projects in this research area are:



  • Equal-Life: Early environmental quality and life-course mental health effects, more
  • Monitoring of environmental health inequalities in Europe, more



  • Integrated Indicator Set Urban Health, more
  • Addressing Global Environmental Health Inequalities: Digital Assessment of Subjective Environmental. Exposure and Environmental Injustice – A Feasibility Study in Nepal (DASEIN-NP), more
  • Study "Environment and Health of Children in Dortmund“, more
  • Junior research group Salus: The city as a healthy living environment independent of social inequalities, more 
  • Transforming noise action planning into an instrument for more health equity, more
  • Exploring cognitive-motivational determinants of health (inequities) in the context of the European Environmental Noise Directive, more
  • DASEIN: Digital assessment of subjective environmental exposure and environmental injustice, more

"Quite simply, if research is not gender sensitive then it is not good research and if policies do not take gender differences into account then they will most probably perpetuate inequalities rather than address them successfully." (Ilona Kickbusch, International Journal of Public Health 2007, 52: S3)

The integration of sex/gender in public health research is essential for the relevance and validity of the research results. Gender is a complex social determinant of health. Based on approaches from biomedical and gender research, we address the question how sex/gender can be adequately considered in epidemiological research. Epidemiology, as a core discipline of public health, addresses the frequency and determinants of health-related conditions and events in populations, including the study of health potentials and health care issues. Our main research focus is the conceptualisation an operationalisation of the biological and social dimensions of sex/gender in epidemiological studies, as well as the consequences for multivariate statistical analysis.

We explore the potentials of the intersectionality approach for social epidemiology with its focus on quantitative research to capture and explain sex/gender related health inequalities. In particular, we are interested in the interaction of health relevant inequities as well as in the analysis of health effects resulting from dynamic relationships between social structures and individual actions. The aim is to develop sex/gender-sensitive data analysis strategies that integrate the concepts of intersectionality and the dynamics and entanglement of sex and gender. The AdvanceDataAnalysis project in the AdvanceGender collaborative research project aims to identify intersectionality-based and sex/gender-sensitive data analysis strategies in population-based studies and to adapt them according to the needs of health reporting.

Another focus of our research is the impact of sex/gender on environmental health and on equal opportunities in the context of environment and health. We initiated research in this area with the research network "Sex/Gender – Environment – Health (GeUmGE-NET)" and further developed it within the collaborative research project INGER. In order to improve data collection in population-based studies on environmental health, the collaborative research project INGER developed new questions and questionnaire modules based on gender-theoretical concepts and is testing them in environmental epidemiological studies.

Our projects in this research area are:



  • DIVERGesTOOL – Toolbox for operationalization of sex/gender diversity in research on health care, health promotion and prevention, more
  • INGER – Integrating gender into environmental health research: Building a sound evidence basis for gender-sensitive prevention and environmental health protection, more
  • AdvanceGender – Advancing Gender-Sensitive Health Reporting to Improve Prevention: Methods for a Gender-Sensitive Research Process of Population Studies. AdvanceDataAnalysis – Development of methods for gender-sensitive multivariable data analysis (subproject 2), more
  • GeUmGe-Net – Research network Sex/Gender – Environment – Health, more
  • PROFIL Gender: Project-based explorative and interdisciplinary learning, more

Reducing social inequalities in health, particularly those considered avoidable and unjust, are a priority for public health. However, health promotion and prevention measures may unintentionally induce social inequalities in health or increase existing health inequalities. The evaluation of these intervention-generated inequalities, however, is still scarce. In particular, there is a lack of appropriate innovative methods to systematically assess the impact of complex interventions on health inequalities.

Our research focus on the equity impact of public health interventions, that is, the effects of such interventions on health equity. Using the example of tobacco control measures, we investigated whether the introduction of public smoking bans had influenced social inequalities in children's exposure to tobacco smoke. In the project EQUAL, which is embedded in the prevention research network AEQUIPA, we examine whether primary prevention measures affect social inequalities in physical activity among older adults. For this purpose, we work conceptually on the development of innovative methods for assessing the impact of complex interventions on health inequalities. The systematic application of appropriate methods can provide important indications for the future design and prioritization of public health interventions most likely to be effective in reducing health inequalities.

Our projects in this research area are:



  • Equal-Life: Early environmental quality and life-course mental health effects, more



  • EQUAL – Equity impacts of interventions to increase physical activity (2nd funding phase), more
  • EQUAL – Equity impacts of interventions to increase physical activity (1st funding phase), more
  • IGIs-SHS – Impact of tobacco control policies on social inequalities in children's exposure to tobacco smoke, more

Current Projects

Overview of the current Projects of the Department Social Epidemiology.

Completed Projects

Overview of the completed Projects of the Department Social Epidemiology.