Unit of Public Health

The Unit of Public Health conducts research and teaching in social medicine, public health science, medical education, nutrition and dietetics, implementation sciences, eHealth and sports medicine.

Research at the unit

Social medicine and public health science study the state of health, its distribution in the population and changes in health over time, both nationally and internationally. In the subject area, research and teaching is carried out on the determinants of health, disease prevention and health promotion methods, as well as the implementation of these methods in the health care and other sectors of society.

The population's state of health is affected by societal structures, health care interventions as well as people's living conditions, environment, living habits and various social and psychosocial factors. The subject area is therefore characterized by interdisciplinarity, with the application of knowledge from many different fields and disciplines, e.g. biomedicine, epidemiology, statistics, behavioral science and social sciences. Within the unit, many different issues are studied, e.g. inequality in health, injury epidemiology, eHealth, insurance medicine, lifestyle, mental illness, stress and evidence-based practice. New research areas that have great potential to contribute to improved public health are the digitalisation of health care, which is changing healthcare's traditional working methods and the application of precision medicine and AI, which could achieve more individualized prevention and treatment.

Employees in Social Medicine and Public Health at the unit have varying educational backgrounds, which favors a broad understanding of various health-related problems and facilitates the utilization of solutions in health care and society at large. In the medical profession, social medicine and public health are a separate medical specialty that requires 5.5 years of further training after a medical degree.

Medical Education Research at HMV focuses on pedagogical relationships that include students, faculty, professionals and patients in health care practice. The object of research comprises learning processes in the health professions educational settings, as well as pedagogical processes in the clinical and professional health care practice. Specifically targeted topics are interprofessional education, learning and collaboration; being a strategic effort from Linköping University (LiU) and Region Östergötland aimed at strengthening research and development within of Medical Education (IPLS-FoU).

Nutrition is the science of how diet affects the body, about human energy metabolism and the need for different nutrients as well as their function and availability in different foods. It is an interdisciplinary science that spans over a number of subjects such as chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, food science, physiology, toxicology, epidemiology and public health science. In the beginning, nutrition was mainly about identifying and mapping nutrients, with the intention to prevent deficiencies. Nowadays, nutrition research mainly focuses on the importance of diet in preventing and treating non-communicable diseases. For example, the interplay between diet and genetics for the origin and treatment of various disease states as well as components of the diet and the importance of the intestinal flora for health. Another important field of nutrition is prevention research, which provides support to individuals or groups to promote a healthy lifestyle.

The word “implement” is derived from the Latin “implere”, meaning “to fulfil” or “carry into effect”. This provides a basis for a broad definition of implementation science as the scientific inquiry into questions concerning how to carry intentions into effect. The intentions may be formulated in policies, clinical guidelines or other recommendations; they can be manifested in specific interventions; and they can relate to the use of research in decisions by individuals and organizations. The birth of the field of implementation science is usually linked to the emergence of the evidence-based movement in the 1990s. The movement popularized the notion that research findings and empirically supported (“evidence-based”) interventions and other practices should be more widely implemented in various settings to achieve improved health and welfare of populations. The field of implementation science has seen a surge in interest in the 2000s.

eHealth is a growing field in research as well as in healthcare. There are several definitions, but eHealth is defined by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare as "using digital tools and exchanging information digitally to achieve and maintain health". In other words, it is a broad concept that refers to the use of information and communication technology in all types of health care. For example, eHealth includes technologies for communication between patients and caregivers; data-driven analysis; computerized decision support; technical solutions to facilitate remote monitoring, to assist patients with treatment; or to provide patients with digital support to improve their lifestyle behaviours (e.g., diet, physical activity, smoking, alcohol), i.e., prevention. The eHealth focus area is a strategic investment by Linköping University and Region Östergötland with the aim of strengthening research and development in eHealth.

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