Community Health and Health(care) Systems Research Group

As a multidisciplinary research team, we are part of the ISPM (institute of social and preventive medicine) at the University of Bern, Switzerland.

Our Research Mission is

to apply theory-driven social science methodology to understand and explain contextual conditions of health to promote and improve community health, and to apply the knowledge gained to influence social determinants of health and policymaking contributing to health equity and well-being.

Our Team

I am interested in understanding, explaining, and promoting health, equity, and well-being. Within the research group, we focus on three research areas: (1) prevention and health promotion, with a particular focus on physical activity promotion, (2) community health, and (3) healthy settings.

I am also dedicated to supporting students in developing their skills in critical thinking and asking why about health, disease, and illness. I do this by teaching courses on health promotion and Qualitative health research in different programs: the Public Health Sciences Course program for PhD students at UniBe, the inter-university MPH program, and the medical degree program.

My background is in social science: I studied political science and North American studies at FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg/Germany and at McGill University Montréal in Canada. With work on the capability approach as a paradigm for physical activity-related health promotion, I received my habilitation at the University of Tübingen in 2021. Prior to my current position, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Univ. of Tübingen (2018-2021) and the FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg (2013-2018).

Out of the office, I try to spend the maximum time outside — Aare swimming and strolling; backcountry canoeing, tenting, and hiking with my family; as well as running for charity and talking time with the best squad.

I am from the Philippines. I am also a licensed physician but I shifted to an academic career to pursue my interests in public health research. I completed my PhD in Epidemiology at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel in 2019. In March 2022, I joined the University of Bern as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine. I have a strong interest in understanding health system performance in different contexts, with a focus on low- and middle-income countries. I am particularly interested in exploring how health program/policy development can improve people’s health, and how community participation and action, in turn, can shape health systems. My publications have contributed to addressing questions in a wide range of topics, such as reflexivity, primary care, human resources for health, and decentralization. I use multiple methods to pursue my scientific inquiries, including systematic literature reviews, social science theories, and qualitative and quantitative methods. I have lived in countries with very different cultural contexts, namely, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Switzerland.

I am a sport scientist and studied psychology in minor. My fascination relates to science in general and the way how the real world can be systematically analysed with research methods to understand a phenomenon such as sport or health and its relationship. Currently, I am investigating differentiated aspects of physical activity and mental health in order to derive solutions for the increasing mental health issues in our society. Besides my work at the ISPM, I am a goalie coach in ice hockey at our local ice hockey club SC Bern. The balance between office work at the ISPM and coaching motivated young people keeps me fresh and motivated.

I was born and raised in Bern where I also completed my BA in History and MA in Religion in Contemporary Society. Since May 2021 I am a PhD candidate at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine ISPM at the University of Bern. My research topic are researcher-decision-maker-interactions during public health emergencies. I am particularly interested in the science-policy interface, and how research is translated and implemented in practice. On a more superordinate level, I contemplate about how science is perceived by different actors in this context, and what its “purpose” might be on a societal level.

Cristopher Kobler Betancourt researcher ISPM

I completed my Bachelor’s at the University of Basel in Sociology and Law. Then I continued my master’s in social anthropology at the University of Bern and Vienna. Since April 2022, I am a PhD candidate at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM) at the University of Bern. Within my PhD, I focus on landscapes of health and illness and societal division in the context of Covid-19. My heart beats for phenomenological and explorative research designs where contingency is at its peak.  Further, I’m interested in visual anthropology, anthropology of religion and human-nature relationships.

My parents grew up in Vietnam whereas I was born and raised in Bern. I completed my BA in Social Anthropology and Sustainable Development at the University of Bern and currently, I’m studying for a master’s degree in Health Sciences at the University of Lucerne. Since February 2023 I am a research assistant at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine ISPM at the University of Bern. I mainly contribute to the project “The pandemic society in Switzerland: Polarization and public health”. I am particularly interested in health behaviour and its determinants on a socioeconomic level, in efficient collaborations between different health providers (shared decision-making) and in health from a cultural point of view. For example, palliative care, as may be understood based on cultural beliefs about the meaning of cure, disease and death.

I was born in France and then raised in five different countries (South Korea, Taiwan, Iran, India and the Netherlands). In the Netherlands, I completed my BSc in Public Health and MSc in Global Health. In 2020, I returned back to my roots in Switzerland, and eventually found myself working in public health as a project manager for the Swiss Association for Tobacco Control. Since 2022, I am also a PhD candidate at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine ISPM at the University of Bern. My research topic is migrant health and smoking in Switzerland. I see tobacco as one of the biggest public health challenges and am particularly interested in the politics of tobacco control. My other interests include global health governance, agroecology, and chocolate.

My name is Lea-Sofie Hahn. I graduated in Würzburg, Germany with BA degrees in Sports Science and Education. Actually, I’m living in Tübingen, Germany, where I also completed my MA in Sports Science. Since April 2021 I’m a PhD candidate and scientific employee at the Institute of Sports Science. My research topic is the investigation of the transferability of the National Recommendations for Physical Activity (Promotion) in nursing homes. Within the “BaSAlt” project, I’m particularly interested in the improvement of organizational structures to increase the residents’ physical activity and quality of life.

I was born and raised near Basel. For my first studies, I graduated in sports sciences at the University of Basel, EHSM Magglingen and the University of Berne. At the moment I am working at the University of Basel as a lecturer as well as a coordinator of communication, and at the University of Berne as a research assistant. Besides, I am studying for the second time (theology) to complete my interest in a holistic understanding of the human being. If I am not rushing through any kind of building at the University, you can find me on the ice or in the dance centre, where I am working and creating as a figure skating coach. Overall, I am interested in “life in all its facets. I like moving, being moved and moving others.

I work as an assistant for this research group at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM). I’m studying Psychology at the University of Berne. I’d consider myself a generally curious person and I am still figuring out where my main interests lie – probably somewhere between Psychology, Neuroscience and Philosophy. In my leisure time, I recharge my batteries by getting exercise in nature (be it running, cycling, hiking, skiing, …), spending time with good people, being creative and volunteering for the exchange organization I spent a year in Argentina with.

I was born and raised in Chur (Switzerland), and my parents are immigrants from Bosnia-Herzegowina and Kosovo. I finished my BA in medicine at the University of Fribourg, and for the MA in medicine, I changed to the University of Bern. Currently, I’m an MD candidate at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine ISPM at the University of Bern. I am particularly interested in the intersection between medicine (as a natural science) and social sciences, i.e. how society as a social construct influences the health of people. On a more superordinate level, I like to reflect on how community health is created, especially for minorities and marginalized communities such as ethnic minorities or gender and sexual orientation minorities. I contemplate about how complex constructs such as the health of entire communities are influenced by the social environment in which they are situated and what this means in regard to our responsibility as healthcare workers/scientists on a societal level.

I grew up in a village near Biel and now live in Bern. Here I completed my bachelor of medicine in 2021. Currently, I’m writing my master’s thesis about the health behaviour of rural residents during the Covid-19 pandemic, which will be the basis of my subsequent dissertation. I really enjoy the multidisciplinary environment at the ISPM as I’m also interested in social approaches to medicine in addition to the scientific aspects. Since I want to be a general practitioner or paediatrician in the future I will certainly benefit from this experience.

Current projects

Duration: 2022-2024
Funding agency: core funding
Involved RG members: Prof. Dr. Phil Annika Frahsa, Sophie Meyer (PhD candidate), B.A. Gia Thu Ly, Marina Köhli

The European hospice care model provides comprehensive support for individuals with life-ending diagnoses, addressing their emotional, psychological, spiritual, and palliative needs. This care involves professional staff, relatives, and patients themselves. This project investigates the needs and requirements for a planned hospice in Bern from three perspectives: caregiving relatives and patients, specialist scientists, and hospital and hospice nursing experts. Through literature review and interviews, it aims to understand global and Swiss-specific hospice needs. The study maps stakeholders’ perspectives to identify alignment and divergence for a possible hospice project in Bern.

For more information in english click here.

Für mehr Informationen in Deutsch hier klicken.

Duration: 2022-2025
Funding agency: MCID Bern, Vinetum Foundation
Involved RG members: Prof. Dr. Phil. Annika Frahsa (PI); Cristopher Kobler Betancourt (PhD candidate) 

In Switzerland, there are major gaps in knowledge about
the factors influencing Covid-19 related societal division,
health-related behaviors, and affective polarization (in-group
favouritism and out-group animosity which can be triggered
by divisive political events such as governmental responses
during a crisis). To improve future responses to pandemic

threats and to understand this complex phenomenon from a

multidisciplinary perspective, the project uses a mixed methods
approach to collect and analyze both existing and new data.

Click here for more information.

Duration: 2021-2025
Funding agency: core funding
Involved RG members: Prof. Dr. Phil. Annika Frahsa (PI); Sophie Meyer (PhD candidate)
In this PhD project, we aim to establish an understanding of actor-oriented processes in knowledge translation in public health that helps to develop a concept for a Swiss health science and policy exchange mechanism in public health emergencies. We are interested in the social interaction between researchers and decision-makers, how does it take place, what are barriers or facilitators to an interaction or exchange and what could be improved for future emergency settings?
Duration: 2022-2023
Funding agency: USAID/Results for Development
Involved RG members: Dr. Harvy Joy Liwanag (co-PI); Prof. Dr. Phil Annika Frahsa (co-author)

The Forum for Advancing Better Health Policy and Systems Research Institutions (FAB HPSRIs) aims to identify and analyse the set of organizational functions and attributes that facilitate robust performance of HPSRIs across the evidence to policy cycle. The project will develop a framework for assessing organisational capacities, map and profile the HPSRIs operating in the Philippines and Nepal, and explore strategies for capacity strengthening to accelerate organisational development. This study has an exploratory sequential mixed methods design and is implemented in partnership with the Alliance for Improving Health Outcomes (AIHO) in the Philippines and HERD International in Nepal.

Duration: 2022-2025
Funding agency: Swiss Association for Tobacco Control
Involved RG members: Prof. Dr. Phil. Annika Frahsa (PI); Kris Schürch (PhD candidate) 

Data on smoking behaviour amongst low SES migrant groups in Switzerland are unknown. In addition, smoking-related public health interventions targeted at specific migrant populations are non-existent in Switzerland. We will develop and disperse a smoking survey available in 10 languages and will hold focus group sessions. The survey will be dispersed via migrant information channels, such as Diaspora TV, via social media, promotional videos and events, with the aim to provide essential insights into the smoking habits of low SES migrant populations in Switzerland. With reference to SDGs 3 and 10, we will provide a basis for the development of prevention measures directed towards overlooked migrant subgroups. We aim to collect data from 10’000 to 20’000 respondents.

Duration: 2022-2023 (ongoing)
Funding agency: core funding
Involved RG members: MD, MBA, PhD Harvey Joy Liwang (Pl); Dr. Phil. Annika Frahsa
This is a systematic literature review that analyzed the concept and practice of accountability in global health in the context of transforming the global health system.
Duration: 2022-open
Funding agency: Vinetum foundation & MCID
Involved RG members as research partners: Dr. Phil. Annika Frahsa; Msc. Lucia Bühlmayer

Within the Beready cohort study, the RG aims to develop and implement a comprehensive community engagement strategy to identify issues of relevance in pandemic preparedness among households in the canton of Bern, co-design instruments and assessment procedures, initiate dialogue about issues of interest, make sense of findings, and feedback study results into communities.

Projects finalized

Duration: 2019-2023
Funding agency: BMG
Involved RG members: Prof. Dr. Phil. Annika Frahsa (co-PI); Lea-Sofie Hahn (PhD candidate) 

“Verhältnisorientierte Bewegungsförderung und individuelle Bewegungsberatung im Setting ‚Altenwohnheim‘” a biopsychosocial analysis and counselling project”. Physical activity promotion in nursing homes. 

Duration: 2022-2023
Funding agency: core funding
Involved RG members: MD, MBA, PhD Harvey Joy Liwang (Pl); Dr. Phil. Annika Frahsa
This is a qualitative study that analyzed the integration of the dimensions of primary care and public health in the training of medical students in the Southern Philippines that is based on social accountability and community-engaged medical education.
Duration: published in 2021
Funding agency: WHO HQ
Involved RG members: Dr. Phil. Annika Frahsa; MD, PhD Nathalia Gonzalez, M.A. Sophie Meyer

The main aim of this tender with WHO was to develop a manual with tools and indicators to guide operational research on urban governance for health and well-being within a WHO special initiative in five cities (Bogota, Douala, Khulna, Mexico City, and Tunis)

Duration: Completed & published
Funding agency: Department of Science and Technology (Phillipines) & core funding
Involved RG members: MD, MBA, PhD Harvey Joy Liwanag (Pl); Dr. Phil. Annika Frahsa
This project performed projections for the supply of and demand for health professionals in the Philippines that was based on the model of cocreation that brought together researchers and policymakers in the planning process. Findings from this project offered useful lessons for policymakers and researchers in low- and middle-income countries on health workforce planning to shape the future of healthcare systems.

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Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

University of Bern

Phone:  +41 31 684 56 79

Office: 489

Postal Address: Mittelstrasse 43, 3012 Bern

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