SSPH+/ETHZ Online Lecture Series "This Is Public Health"

Wednesday, 24 February - 2 June 2021, 18:15-19:15; moderated by Maša Davidović, Swiss TPH & Peter Francis Raguindin, ISPM-University of Bern (see also flyer)

Due to COVID-19 the lectures can be followed via live stream (including online discussion) only.

Link to Webinar:

We recommend to join a few minutes in advance to test the connection. Once in the webinar, you can ask questions with the Q&A-Feature. If you have questions about lectures or webinar, write to or

Find the past edition 2020 here.

The "This is Public Health (TIPH)" - Europe is the ASPHER-led campaign, available to Association's members and organized in partnership between ASPHER and ASPPH. It is aimed at communicating the importance of Public Health as a field, a well-solicited career path and showing the impact possibilities concerning population health.


Date Title Lecturer
24 February 2021

Happy pills? Mental health effects of the dramatic increase of antidepressant use

This lecture provides new insights into the analysis of mental health consequences of the surge in antidepressant use. We exploit the large geographical and time variation in antidepressant sales at product level and individual hospital admissions and suicide between 2003 and 2014 in Switzerland. Our estimates are based on an instrumental variable strategy that combines the exogeneous growth in sales due to product innovation and pharmaceutical company local market power. We estimate that an increase in antidepressant sales causes a sharp increase of hospital admissions related to depression symptoms and some evidence of increasing suicides among working age women.

Download reading material: Proportion Of Antidepressants Prescribed Without A Psychiatric Diagnosis Is Growing

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Fabrizio Mazzonna
Professor at the Institute of Economics of the Università della Svizzera italiana
03 March 2021

The sex gap in cardiometabolic diseases: What we (don't) know and why it matters?

Cardiometabolic diseases- Type 2 diabetes (T2D) and Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) are considered major causes of premature illness and death in most countries and impose a substantial financial burden to society, especially in women. Almost 1 in 2 women will develop T2D during their lifetime, and most women will die from CVD. In the general population, women, particularly those at younger ages, have in general more favourable cardiovascular risk profiles than men of similar age, but this protective effect might be reversed in women with diabetes. Similarly, menopause marks the period at which woman’s diabetes and heart disease risk starts to increase; compared with age-matched men, premenopausal women have a lower risk of CVD which gradually increases after menopause so that by the sixth decade women have the same incidence of CVD as men. Sex differences in risk of cardiometabolic morbidity and mortality could be explained through sex-specific differences in risk factors associated with T2D and CVD and their management, including hyperglycemia, obesity, dyslipidemia and hypertension. Additionally, women have unique risk factors, such as pregnancy, menopause and use of hormonal therapies for contraception and menopausal symptoms which can also lead to disparities in health outcomes between women and men. Sex-tailored prevention such as diet and treatment strategies in the future might help to reduce mortality from cardiometabolic diseases and improve health outcomes for both women and men.

Download reading material: Menopause Transition and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Implications for Timing of Early Prevention

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Taulant Muka
Research Group Leader at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine of the University of Bern
10 March 2021

Simple, preventable diarrhoea and cholera are still killing people around the world, more than COVID-19 does, let’s stop this!

Diarrhoeal diseases account for 1 in 9 child deaths worldwide, making diarrhoea the second leading cause of death among children <5. Cholera can kill a person within hours and it is far of being eradicated from poor countries: 3-5 Mio cases/y, over 100’000 deaths/y. No access to simple treatment such as oral rehydration and IV infusion results in a high death rate, up to 50%. Despite these sobering statistics, strides made over the last 20 years have shown that safe water and improved hygiene/sanitation is the best prevention. Learn how simple/inexpensive interventions can save many lives of children around the world.

Download reading material: Diarrhoeal diseases

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Claudio Valsangiacomo
Head of the SUPSI Centre for Development and Cooperation; Member of the WHO Global Task Force on Cholera Control
17 March 2021

Ethics, public health & the COVID-19 response

Recent public health decision-making as a response to COVID-19 sparked global discussions on its ethical aspects. The vast array of ethical challenges that public health professionals had and still have to deal with will be discussed, including the underlying ethical values of quarantine, wearing masks or how to allocate potential vaccinations in a fair way. Trust as a crucial element of ethical policy-making in public health will be elucidated. Highlighting ethics as a prerequisite of decision-making processes in public health not only in acute crises, the lecture will conclude with useful frameworks and checklists for ethical decision-making in public health.

Download reading material: Teaching seven principles for public health ethics

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Caroline Brall
Postdoc at the Health Ethics and Policy Lab, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich
Felix Gille
Postdoc at the Health Ethics and Policy Lab, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich
24 March 2021

Let's talk about the big C in public health: Communication

Communication is essential in public health. Yet, communication about health matters is often sub-optimal. Many reasons for this exist, but it comes down to a lack of understanding about the science of communication. In this talk, I will present a summary of the evidence regarding effective public health communication, with focus placed on pandemic and health emergencies. Examples from across the globe as well as findings from an SNF funded project on COVID communication (USI and ZHAW) will highlight the gaps and strengths in strategic, evidence informed public health communication.

Download reading material: Communication and SARS-CoV-2

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L. Suzanne Suggs
Professor at the Institute of Public Health, Università della Svizzera italiana; Vice-president SSPH+
31 March 2021

Infodemic during COVID-19: How to strengthen institutional health communication and community engagement

Starting from an analysis of infodemic (overload of information) during COVID-19, this lecture presents some theories and models from communication sciences and persuasion research to strengthen institutional communication. Specifically, it focuses on how to promote behaviour change towards recommendations, limiting the spread and impact of disinformation and misinformation.

Download reading material: Public Health and Online Misinformation: Challenges and Recommendations

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Sara Rubinelli
Professor of Health Communication at the Department of Health Sciences and Medicine of the University of Lucerne
14 April 2021

Update on child and adolescent health priorities

The lecture will introduce students to relevant aspects of child and adolescent health and public health (CAPH). The lecture will cover some basic differences in child and adolescent health and public health as compared to adult populations, and discuss child and adolescent health and public health from a life-course perspective on health and disease. Current health trends and data, from Switzerland mainly, and child and adolescent public health priorities will set the basis for a discussion on CAPH priorities in light of COVID-19.

Download reading material: Child Health Indicators for Europe

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Julia Dratva
Professor at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and PD at the Medical Faculty of the University of Basel
21 April 2021

Applying public health science in the quest for malaria elimination

The past 20 years have seen a renewed effort to control and eliminate malaria in the Global South. With massive investments in key interventions, surveillance and programme implementation, the number of malaria cases has rapidly decreased in many endemic countries. At the same time, malaria remains a major burden in some of the world’s most disadvantaged communities. Formidable challenges persist in the fight against the parasite and its mosquito vector and in strengthening of underdeveloped health systems. Based on many years of first-hand experience at the research-implementation interface, this lecture will give an insight into opportunities and challenges in the quest to eliminate malaria and present some of the key consequences for public health in the Global South.

Download reading material: World malaria report 2020

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Manuel Hetzel
Group Leader at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) and PD at the University of Basel
Christian Lengeler
Professor at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH)
28 April 2021

What is common between sweets, buildings and sunscreens? On the risk assessment and regulation of chemicals in Europe

This lecture will address the weight of epidemiological evidence in chemicals risk assessment and decision-making in Europe, using TiO2 as an illustration. TiO2 is widely used since 1920. In 2006, IARC classified it as possibly carcinogenic to humans, but this had no regulatory effect. In 2016, the case was opened to classify TiO2 within the EU regulation. However, several stakeholders questioned the epidemiological evidence in the classification proposal, concluding that epidemiological data were consistently negative. The weight of epidemiological evidence was re-assessed, enabling classifying TiO2 as a suspected human carcinogen. However, the case is still open…

Download reading material: Weight of epidemiological evidence for titanium dioxide risk assessment: current state and further needs

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Irina Guseva Canu
Head of academic sector, Department of occupational and environmental health, Unisanté
05 May 2021

From epidemiological evidence to action: example coronavirus pandemic

Most recent facts will highlight the epidemiological situation of the corona pandemic in Switzerland. Indicators used for monitoring will be shown, and other facts which are important for the prevention and control of corona will be displayed (e.g. transmission risks, disease progression risk factors, etc.). Based on these facts potential public health strategies and public health measures against corona will be outlined. The implementation of these measures will be discussed in an interdisciplinary frame, including epidemiologic, clinical, political, social, economic, ethical and legal reasonings.

Download reading material: Seroprevalence and humoral immune durability of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in Wuhan, China: a longitudinal, population-level, cross-sectional study

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Rolf Heusser
Coordinator EHCL Programme (NFP 74) at the Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute (EBPI) of the University of Zurich
19 May 2021

The maternity was too far away, so I died! - the challenging role of realistic geographical mapping for reducing maternal mortality in Africa

A lack of timely physical access to emergency obstetric and neonatal care (EmONC) is one of the reasons for the large maternal mortality in many African countries. After presenting the concept of accessibility modeling and how we are using it in an innovative methodology developed with the UN Population Fund, we will show how this was deployed in several countries. We will also discuss the challenges of realistically considering how women travel to seek care, and how working with high-resolution geographical data can make a difference.

Download reading material: Proposing standardised geographical indicators of physical access to emergency obstetric and newborn care in low-income and middle-income countries

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Nicolas Ray
Professor and Head of GeoHealth group, Institute of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva
26 May 2021

Health-tracking technologies: from the quantified self to a public health tool?

State intervention in public health nowadays often appears as a strategy for reducing exorbitant healthcare costs associated with non-communicable and chronic diseases. Current political dynamics present a push towards increasing individual responsibility by promoting healthy lifestyles through health insurance. In the wake of countless individual health-tracking devices, health insurers in several European states have started monitoring the behavior of their insured, offering premium reductions in exchange for data sharing. These incentives reinforce the trend towards the transparent individual-consumer-patient. The lecture will discuss the intriguing phenomenon of wearables and its normative implications for solidarity, non-discrimination, and privacy at the intersection of public health and health insurance.

Download reading material: Stay fit or get bit – ethical issues in sharing health data with insurers’ apps

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Melanie Levy
Assistant Professor at the Health Law Institute of the University of Neuchâtel
02 June 2021

Data are not enough to re-enchant public health surveillance

We will discuss why, despite the growing access to multiple type of health data, it remains difficult to produce information useful for public health decision. At the heart of the problem is the confusion between public health surveillance and health data science. Public health surveillance is effective when it produces information useful for decision making and action. It is more than gathering data, conducting analyses, and making them available. We will explain why we need more than data for efficient public health surveillance systems.

Download reading material: Glossary for public health surveillance in the age of data science

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Arnaud Chiolero
Professor and head of the Population Health Laboratory (#PopHealthLab) of the University of Fribourg; Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Primary Health Care (BIHAM) of the University of Bern and of the Department of Epidemiology of the McGill University