Research Cluster of the LSC DiPH

The central scientific questions are divided into four Research Clusters, each of which is coordinated by an experienced full-time researcher.

The strength of our LSC lies in the interdisciplinary expert teams that collaborate in the Research Clusters, thereby profiting from the different types of expertise. A brief summary of the four Research Clusters is presented hereafter:

Research Cluster 1
One key challenge in research on and with digital health technologies in public health is that development so far has been driven mainly by the potential of new developments in technology rather than mapping developments to key public health functions and needs – a shortcoming at least partially due to a lack of a systematic framework of such functions and needs from a public health perspective.

Our work in this Research Cluster will provide such a comprehensive framework for the development, use of and assessment of digital technologies in public health for use both in research and applied public health practice. We will develop logic models that link health outcomes with determinants that can be addressed by digital health technologies, while at the same time outlining the relevant legal and sociocultural aspects, health equity and demands to technology development. The framework will identify possible entry points for digital public health interventions, and define common terms and joint concepts for interdisciplinary collaborations.

We will develop a framework on digital public health through an iterative process, taking into account the rapid evolvement of the digital health technology landscape. Involving stakeholders throughout the development process will ensure the inclusion of all relevant perspectives. We will use different types of scientific studies including systematic reviews and primary data collection, both qualitative and quantitative, as well as development of new methods. We will develop selected use cases to identify, understand, clarify, and organize evaluation requirements. Research will be participatory involving target groups and stakeholder right from the beginning in conceptualizing the research. We will closely collaborate with national and international researchers from different scientific disciplines as well as with developers, users and public health actors (e.g. health care providers), and integrate work from throughout the Leibniz ScienceCampus Digital Public Health Bremen. Our results will be published using both scientific pathways (mainly through open access publications) and user-oriented guides on our website.

Research Cluster 2
While digital public health allows for fundamentally new ways of delivering individually tailored prevention and health promotion content to various populations, comprehensive evaluations of digital public health programs are still rare, and appropriate evaluation paradigms are yet to be developed. There is a need for in-depth research and systematic conceptual work through interdisciplinary scientific approaches. The Leibniz ScienceCampus Bremen Digital Public Health (LSC DiPH) sets out to advance interdisciplinary research in the charged and fast-moving scientific and societal environment of digital public health.
In research cluster 2 (WP2) “Need-based Public Health Technology” we will focus on understanding how technologies can support individual and community health needs. We will focus on three main aspects within WP2.

  • After identifying and describing individual and community health needs, we first design, develop and evaluate novel interfaces for individuals and communities to provide data for digital public health programs and specialists.
  • In addition, we explore novel automated approaches to detect positive and negative effects of both physical and virtual environments on public health.
  • This enables us, in a third step, to provide novel personalized interventions for prevention and health promotion for different populations.
As technologies are progressing very dynamically and rapidly, it is important to allow for an adaptive and iterative process. We will follow a user-centred design approach, as we believe that understanding the users’ needs as well as providing a high level of usability and user experience are the key to developing successful digital public health interventions. This includes, but is not limited, to iterations between theoretical reflection, building prototypes, and formal and informal testing with users. Within each year we plan for multiple iterations in which theoretical issues and insights, generated through reflection on empirical observations, inform the  design of prototypes to evaluate and explore the theories. By doing so we want to get a deep understanding of user needs, interests and perspectives on digital technologies for public health.
Exemplary research in this area will combine formative research with conceptual work on digital innovation in order to identify implicit needs beyond the conscious scope of individual and community users as well as public health stakeholders.

Experts are Wolfang Ahrens, Ingrid Darmann-Finck, Ulrike Haug, Heinz Rothgang, Johannes Schöning, Tanja Schultz, Karin Wolf-Ostermann and Hajo Zeeb.

Research cluster 3
The cluster will provide strategies how to evaluate digital public health interventions addressing different societal levels and make results available in a comprehensive framework. To measure the success of digital public health interventions, the cluster identifies relevant short- and long-term outcomes (physical, mental, social, economic, and ecological) to display public health improvement. Part of this work is also the exploration and application of new study designs and methods that take the iterative nature of digital public health interventions and continuous data collection into account. Furthermore, the cluster investigates factors that support or hinder successful implementation of digital interventions. Considering ways to tackle the digital divide, the research cluster works on inclusive digital public health intervention designs that take the perspective of intervention recipients into account and help to understand their specific needs aiming at needs-tailored interventions that will also reduce health inequity. Finally, the cluster aims at providing recommendations for developers, users, researchers and policy makers alike to guide future evaluation of digital public health interventions.
The cluster pursues these goals by planning and realizing different types of scientific studies including systematic reviews and primary data collection, both qualitative and quantitative, as well as development of new methods. It will develop selected use cases as these are seen as an adequate method to identify, understand, clarify, and organize evaluation requirements. Research will be participatory involving target groups and stakeholder right from the beginning in conceptualizing the research. We will seek exchange with the other research clusters and with national and international researchers from different scientific disciplines as well as with developers, users and public health actors (e.g. health care providers). The cluster will collaboratively work on conference contributions, scientific publications, grant proposals and formats to engage with the public to discuss its ideas and results.
Its purpose is to advance public health and to contribute to the overall advancement of digital public health and evaluation research in order to improve effectiveness, efficiency and equity in health.

Research cluster 4
The research cluster focuses on Transfer and Participation in Digital Public Health. It will develop formats, methods, and strategies geared towards inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration between diverse stakeholders in science and society in the field of Digital Public Health. To do so, on one hand, the cluster focusses on exploring, designing, implementing and assessing digitally enabled participatory approaches for facilitating two-way interaction and knowledge co-production among academics, practitioners, as well as citizens on research related to urban health monitoring and healthy urban development. On the other hand, the cluster investigates the use of digital public health technology in practice by integrating diverse knowledge enabled through innovative participatory approaches. Likewise, in order to tackle digital divide among various socioeconomic groups, the cluster not only investigates the role of participatory methods but also experiments with diverse participatory methods that facilitate the outreach of digital public health interventions to various groups. To address the equity perspective, the cluster inquires on various determinants for involving hard to reach population and considers early involvement of community with their locally embedded knowledge in the design and implementation of research. Therefore, the cluster provides conceptual as well as practice-oriented understandings of use of (digitally enabled) participatory approaches to bridge existing gaps between research, practice, and everyday life as well as to integrate various forms of knowledge from academics, practitioners, policy makers, developers and superdiverse citizens in collaborative public health research.

The cluster plans to fulfil its objectives through various scientific studies and research projects. These studies include systematic reviews, as well as transdisciplinary and community-based research. Both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis will be used to draw insights on the application of digitally enabled participatory methods in these studies. An overall methodology of the cluster includes conceptual work on digitally enabled participatory approaches, the development of (digital) methods and tools to enact collaborative and participatory research, the implementation of the approach and the evaluation of the results. In this respect, the cluster foresees exchanges of knowledge and expertise from various scientific disciplines, research clusters of LSC Digital Public Health, national and international academics, practitioners from different sectors, as well as citizens. These exchanges are expected to be realized in various forms and formats such as workshops, joint grant proposals and research projects, scientific conferences and publications. The cluster will leverage the ‘Living Lab’ concept or similar formats to ensure involvement of diverse stakeholders, including community, as co-producers of knowledge throughout the research process, from designing research questions, conducting analysis to interpretation of results.

Research Cluster four intends to strengthen the development and use of digitally enabled participatory methods and approaches in facilitating inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration as well as to understand the use of digital public health technologies in practice. In doing so, the cluster aims to address health equity by advancing meaningful engagement and knowledge integration of diverse stakeholders, including citizens, in health-related planning and decision-making process.