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News, Pressemitteilung

| 26.10.2021

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

Implementation research gains momentum in Hamburg

Hamburg / Erfurt, Germany, 28 October 2021 - As of now, 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). 

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A picture of Prof.Cornelia Betsch from the front smiling in a blue shirt
Prof. Cornelia Betsch
Picture: Marco Borggreve

Implementation research at the BNITM is dedicated to the challenge of how scientific knowledge can be implemented to best combat disease. The new research division of the Leibniz Institute investigates this issue with a special focus on tropical infectious diseases such as malaria and Ebola in low-resource countries. Modern ways of health communication should also help to fight infectious diseases more effectively in these territories and to strengthen health systems in the long term.

The World Health Organization (WHO) attaches crucial importance to social and behavioural science research for the control 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 Best Minds Program of the Leibniz Association. Betsch will continue to research and teach as a professor at the University of Erfurt - and will now be able to extend her research to other cultural contexts at the BNITM.

Cooperation with University of Erfurt enables cutting-edge research

Prof. Jürgen May, new Chairman of the BNITM Board of Directors 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 the winning of Cornelia Betsch. She and her team will enrich the implementation research and the science location Hamburg."

"Thinking about the global south in this context is essential for understanding and overcoming these comprehensive challenges," says Prof. Benedikt Kranemann, Vice President for Research at the University of Erfurt. For the University of Erfurt, he said, this cooperation is a great gain, as it opens up new opportunities 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," Betsch says. The crisis further teaches us that our democratic structure and political decision-making need a scientifically informed population. Only then, she adds, can the population engage in a dialogue about possibilities for shaping and coping.

This also applies to planetary health. This refers to the health consequences of human intervention in nature. That's why the topics of infection control and climate protection are main 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 enable a healthy future" - and that requires globally networked and interdisciplinary research.


About Prof. Dr. Cornelia Betsch

Cornelia Betsch (42) received her diploma in psychology from the University of Heidelberg in 2002. In 2006, she received her doctorate in the interdisciplinary Collaborative Research Center 504 at the University of Heidelberg on individual decision-making styles, habilitated at the University of Erfurt in 2013, and has been Heisenberg Professor of Health Communication there since 2017. Since fall 2021, she additionally heads the Health Communication Research Group at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg as Leibniz Best Minds Professor. Her work is primarily devoted to questions around planetary health - she observes from the perspective of psychology questions of infection control as well as the connection between health protection and climate protection. Cornelia Betsch has published internationally leading and highly regarded work on vaccination fatigue, dealing with misinformation, and processes of vaccination decision-making. Her expertise has led her to serve as a consultant and collaborator in numerous national and international public health agencies. She played a leading role in establishing Germany's first master's degree program in health communication at the University of Erfurt and is committed to supporting young academics in this field. Her numerous research projects are funded by independent research sponsors (DFG, BMBF), government agencies and health organizations (RKI, BZgA, WHO) and foundations (Klaus Tschira Foundation). During the pandemic, she and her research group conducted the regular COVID-19 Snapshot Monitoring COSMO, which provided information on the acceptance of the measures and psychological situation of the people in Germany. 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 measures to combat them. Nevertheless, these often do not reach the affected people or do not effectively reduce the number of illnesses or deaths. The factors behind the failure of prevention and control measures under real-world conditions are complex and usually too poorly understood. Implementation research, a relatively new discipline, is devoted to these questions. It is seen by WHO and funders as a 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, hemorrhagic fever viruses, immunology, epidemiology and clinic of tropical infections, and 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). The BNITM includes the national reference center for the detection of all tropical infectious agents and the WHO collaborating center for arboviruses and hemorrhagic fever viruses. Together with the Ghanaian Ministry of Health and the University of Kumasi, it operates a modern research and training center in the West African rainforest, which is also available to external working groups.

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