Researching Global Health with Society

The Berlin University Alliance Funds Four Groundbreaking Alliance Projects on Global Health

As part of its Grand Challenge Initiative on Global Health, the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) is funding four innovative projects, which address urban mental health, planetary health, health care and migration, and antimicrobial resistance worldwide. The alliance projects will be funded with a total of approximately 5.4 million euros for three years.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has once again highlighted the complexity of the challenges in the field of global health - and how important it is to conduct research on joint solutions in cooperation between science and society. Societal challenges worldwide - the so-called "Grand Challenges" - can only be addressed in an interdisciplinary and multi-institutional manner and with participatory approaches. This is the goal that the alliance, consisting of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, has set for themselves. In its second Grand Challenge Initiative - following the Grand Challenge Initiative on social cohesion - the Berlin excellence alliance is focusing on global health. The focus is on improving the health of all people worldwide.

Global health comprises health issues in a transnational and global perspective, focusing particularly on the interactions between globalization, health, and determinants of health. One focus here is to reduce existing inequalities by, for example, making health services equally accessible to all. The interrelationships between the medical, social as well as cultural, political, economic, and environmental factors influencing human health are to be better understood to inculcate shared knowledge for action and robust solutions. Therefore, questions and challenges in the field of global health affect not only the health sciences but also a variety of other research areas such as environmental and natural sciences to social sciences, law, religion, politics, and philosophy.

"The large response to the call for proposals was encouraging. We have received numerous applications on vastly different global health issues. The selected projects stand out above all for their future viability. This means that through their research they develop long-term and sustainable solutions to urgent questions, for example in the field of antimicrobial resistance and in the field of urban coexistence in the big city," says Friedemann Paul, a member of the steering committee for the Grand Challenge Initiatives and spokesperson for the Grand Challenge Initiative on Global Health.

The funding of research projects as so-called exploration projects aims at the long-term development of larger interand transdisciplinary alliance research projects with non-academic participation in Berlin. "Transdisciplinary research means that the projects conduct research together with partners not affiliated with academia," explains Dr. Audrey Podann, a member of the steering committee of the Fostering Knowledge Exchange objective of the Excellence alliance, adding, "Thus, stakeholders from civil society, politics, economy, and art and culture become part of the research, to which they contribute their knowledge and experience as equals. Through this diversity of perspectives, new knowledge is created together with the researchers. This in turn is an important prerequisite for the development of robust solutions to global societal challenges." The Grand Challenge Initiative on Global Health is accompanied by measures from the BUA Research Forums, which provide technical and methodological support for the transdisciplinary collaboration.

The Four Funded Projects

  • "Exploring and Designing Urban Density. Neurourbanism as a Novel Approach in Global Health": The neurourbanism research platform explores how urban density affects people’s psyches. Based on a new theory of cognitive science of urban space, social, design, and construction factors that influence the mental health of young people and immigrants in the city are examined.

BUA partner institutions involved in the project: Charité, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin

  • "Re-Scaling Global Health. Human Health and Multispecies Cohabitation on an Urban Planet": Exploring urban human-animal-environment relationships and how they affect human health in urban spaces forms the basis of this project. The multiple links between health, biodiversity, and environmental pollution are thereby investigated.

BUA partner institutions involved in the project: Technische Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Charité, Freie Universität Berlin

  • "Exploring gender-specific determinants and contexts of migrant health from an integrated Global Health perspective": In the implementation of the right to health, immigrant populations in Germany face numerous barriers and exclusion mechanisms of a social, cultural and structural nature. The project will examine health needs of different immigrant groups, gender-related differences, and the dynamics of intersectional inequalities in Germany. Perspectives from potential countries of origin are included to develop potential solutions.

BUA partner institutions involved in the project: Charité, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin.

  • "GlobalResist - Forecasting antibiotic resistance evolution - a new approach to address a major issue in global health": Development of resistance to antimicrobial agents is one of the major challenges in the fight against infectious diseases. GlobalResist is developing a wide-ranging approach to predicting antibiotic resistance that intricately links different disciplines. The aim is to enable the assessment of risks of patients developing resistance before use in the future, ideally so that resistance issues can be avoided and antibiotics can be used more sustainably.

BUA partner institutions involved in the project: Freie Universität Berlin, Charité, Technische Universität Berlin

The Berlin University Alliance

The Berlin University Alliance is a consortium consisting of three major Berlin universities - Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin - and Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, established to shape research and education in Berlin. The four partners joined forces to further develop Berlin as a research hub with international drawing power. Together the partners explore major societal challenges, increase public outreach, promote the training of junior researchers, address issues of quality and standards in research, and share resources in the areas of research infrastructure, teaching, diversity, equal opportunities, and internationalization. The Berlin University Alliance is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the State of Berlin under the Excellence Strategy of the German federal and state governments.

Joint press release issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin along with Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin


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