Press releases

Prof. Cornelia Betsch builds up health communication at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine

Implementation research in Hamburg picks up

Hamburg / Erfurt - The graduate psychologist and holder of the Heisenberg Professorship for Health Communication at the University of Erfurt, Cornelia Betsch, will strengthen implementation research at the largest research institute for global infections in Germany, the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM), with immediate effect.

Implementation research at the BNITM is dedicated to the question of how scientific findings can be implemented to fight diseases in the best possible way. The new research branch of the Leibniz Institute investigates this question with a special focus on tropical infectious diseases such as Malaria and Ebola in resource-poor countries. Modern ways of health communication should also contribute to fighting infectious diseases more effectively in these regions and to sustainably strengthen health systems.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) attaches crucial importance to social and behavioural science research in the fight against and prevention of infectious diseases. With the Health Communication Working Group now headed by Cornelia Betsch, this is another focus of research in Hamburg. The professorship is funded by the Leibniz Association in the Best Minds Programme. Betsch will continue to research and teach as a professor at the University of Erfurt - and will now be able to expand her research at BNITM to other cultural contexts.

Prof. Jürgen May, the new Chairman of the BNITM Board and Head of the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, has high hopes for the new working group: "The Board is delighted about the cooperation with the University of Erfurt and the addition of Cornelia Betsch. She and her team will enrich implementation research and Hamburg as a science location."


Portrait of a young, self-confidently smiling researcher with half-length brown hair and glasses
Prof. Cornelia Betsch
©Marco Borggreve

Cooperation with the University of Erfurt enables cutting-edge research

"Thinking about the global South in these contexts is central to understanding and overcoming these comprehensive challenges," says Prof. Benedikt Kranemann, Vice President for Research at the University of Erfurt. For the University of Erfurt, this cooperation is a great gain, as it opens up new possibilities for international cooperation in research and teaching.

Lessons from the Corona Crisis for Global Infection Research

"Through the Corona Crisis, we share the common experience of how intertwined our lives are and how much public health depends on each individual," says Betsch. The crisis also teaches us that our democratic structure and political decision-making need a scientifically informed population. Only then can the population participate in dialogue in shaping and coping options.

This also applies to planetary health. This means the health consequences of human intervention in nature. This is why the topics of infection control and climate protection are central and interconnected pillars of Betsch's research: "We put people at the centre of our research interest and want to understand what influences individual and social behaviour in order to develop tools that make a healthy future possible" - and for this, he says, globally networked and interdisciplinary research is needed.


About Prof. Dr. Cornelia Betsch

Cornelia Betsch (42) received her diploma in psychology from the University of Heidelberg in 2002. She received her doctorate in 2006 in the interdisciplinary Collaborative Research Centre 504 at the University of Heidelberg on individual decision-making styles, habilitated at the University of Erfurt in 2013 and has been Heisenberg Professor for Health Communication there since 2017. Since autumn 2021, she has also headed the Health Communication Research Group at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg as a Leibniz Best Minds Professor. Her work is primarily dedicated to questions around planetary health - she looks at issues of infection control as well as the connection between health protection and climate protection from the perspective of psychology. Cornelia Betsch has published internationally groundbreaking and highly regarded work on vaccination fatigue, dealing with misinformation and processes of vaccination decision-making. Her expertise has made her a consultant and cooperation partner in numerous national and international health authorities. At the University of Erfurt, she took the lead in establishing Germany's first Master's programme in Health Communication and is committed to supporting young academics in this field. Her numerous research projects are funded by independent research sponsors (DFG, BMBF), authorities and health organisations (RKI, BZgA, WHO) and foundations (Klaus Tschira Stiftung). During the pandemic, she and her working group conducted the regular COVID-19 Snapshot Monitoring COSMO, which provided information on the acceptance of the measures and the psychological situation of Germans. The study quickly became an important reference in politics and the media to accompany social discussions and political decisions. Cornelia Betsch is a member of the DFG Commission for Pandemic Research and has contributed to several statements of various professional societies. For her work, Cornelia Betsch will receive the German Psychology Award in 2021.

About implementation research

For many tropical infectious diseases, there are already vaccines, drugs or other ways of combating them. Nevertheless, these often do not reach the people affected or do not effectively reduce the number of illnesses or deaths. The reasons for the failure of prevention and control measures under real-life conditions are complex and usually too little understood. These questions are addressed by a relatively young discipline, implementation research. It is seen by WHO and donors as key to developing and implementing effective control strategies. The more opportunities there are to combat and prevent poverty-related diseases, the more important this line of research becomes.

About the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM)

The BNITM is Germany's largest institution for research, care and teaching in the field of tropical and emerging infectious diseases. Current research focuses on malaria, haemorrhagic fever viruses, immunology, epidemiology and clinic of tropical infections as well as the mechanisms of virus transmission by mosquitoes. For handling highly pathogenic viruses and infected insects, the institute has laboratories of the highest biological safety level (BSL4) and a safety insectarium (BSL3). BNITM includes the national reference centre for the detection of all tropical infectious agents and the WHO collaborating centre for arboviruses and haemorrhagic fever viruses. Together with the Ghanaian Ministry of Health and the University of Kumasi, it operates a modern research and training centre in the West African rainforest, which is also available to external working groups.

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