Joint project AdvanceGender

Logo AdvanceGender

Current public health programs focusing on health promotion, prevention and health service delivery are not always equally effective among different population groups characterized by sex/gender. Such differences are often explained by recurring to sex-related differences in terms of disease development, by individual health behaviour such as nutrition or physical activity, and by different needs for health services. This approach is problematic, however, as it follows a dichotomous understanding of sex/gender (“female” and “male”), which insufficiently depicts the complex interplay between health and the socio-structural dimension of sex/gender. To conceptualize the complexity of sex/gender beyond biological characteristics there is an increasing use of theoretical approaches regarding “ intersectionality”. These argue that social and health-related inequalities are formed by multiple interacting structural categories, which might overlap and mutually reinforce one another.
The joint project AdvanceGender uses intersectional approaches to identify, promote and enable sex/gender-sensitive population-based health research and health reporting.

The aim of AdvanceGender is the development of new methods for sex/gender-sensitive research processes in population-based studies through:

  1. Analysis and evaluation of sex/gender-sensitivity, focusing on specific aspects regarding the research process of population-based studies;

  2. Improvement of the interconnection between data analysis, health reporting and health promotion/prevention;

  3. Development of a sex/gender-sensitive toolkit.

The toolkit will be based on the results of the three research projects of AdvcanceGender and aims to support theory-based sex/gender-sensitive health research.

Theoretical and methodological starting point 
AdvanceGender uses qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate the sex/gender-sensitivity of aspects of the research process in population-based, quantitative studies. Aspects investigated include the recruitment of participants, data analysis, as well as communication of sex/gender in health reporting.

Research projects
AdcanceGender consists of three closely cooperating research projects: (1) The analysis of recruitment and study participation in population-based research (AdvanceRecruitment), (2) the identification and development of sex/gender-sensitive research strategies for intersectionality-based multivariate data analysis (AdvanceDataAnalysis), and (3) sex/gender-sensitive and intersectional health reporting (AdvanceHealthReport).


project structure



Spokesperson: Christine Holmberg (
Project coordinator: Philipp Jaehn (

AdvanceGender is funded by the initiative “Health Across the Life Span” of the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (reference no. 01GL1710). The initiative promotes sex/gender-sensitive research projects that aim to maintain and improve health and health services of women and men.



AdvanceRecruitment (sub project 1) explores the multifaceted processes of recruitment and participation in population-based studies. It is located at the Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane, Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology. AdvanceRecruitment aims to refine sex/gender-sensitive approaches for analysis of response in population-based studies. It addresses three research questions:

  1. Are there sex/gender-related differences in participating in population-based studies?
  2. How significant is sex/gender in the recruitment process for and narratives of study participants?
  3. How is sex/gender related to other categories like social class or ethnicity?

To answer these questions, AdvanceRecruitment uses qualitative and quantitative research methods, which are informed by approaches of sex/gender-sensitivity as well as intersectionality.
In a first step, the current practice in health research of reporting sex/gender-related study participation and non-participation in German and international cohort studies will be reviewed.
In the quantitative part, AdvanceRecruitment will use two approaches. A secondary data analysis will be conducted in order to investigate study participation by analysing data of the German National Cohort (GNC, NaKo-Gesundheitsstudie) and population wide surveys of the Robert Koch-Institute. The aim is to explain who participates in large epidemiological studies with a special focus on sex/gender and intersections with other socio-structural variables.
The qualitative part comprises individual interviews with participants and non-participants of the GNC, who will be interviewed for their motivation of non-/participation and their perspective on population-based studies. Document analyses of GNC information material as well as participatory observation in the GNC study sites will complement the sub project.

Research team: Prof. Dr. Christine Holmberg (project head, spokesperson), Dr. Philipp Jaehn (project coordination), Dr. Sibille Merz



Within the framework of AdvanceDataAnalysis (sub project 2), led by the Department of Social Epidemiology at the Institute of Public Health and Nursing Research (IPP), gender-sensitive data analysis strategies are developed and tested with special consideration of intersectionality approaches. The starting point is a systematic research on different theoretical concepts and their operationalization within the scope of data analyses in health sciences. The identified concepts and strategies for gender-sensitive multivariate data analyses are further refined and applied in the context of intersectionality-based multivariate data analyses within selected fields, relevant for health reporting. In cooperation with the project partners, the implications of the research results for the practice of intersectionality-informed gender-sensitive health reporting are presented and approaches for further research are elaborated.
More information.

Research team: Prof. Dr. Gabriele Bolte (sub project leadership), Emily Mena



AdvanceHealthReporting (sub project 3) aims to improve health reporting by reviewing international literature and conducting an online survey about current strategies of sex/gender-sensitive health reporting in the OECD- and EU-countries. To capture the diverse social reality in Germany and to consider needs and perspectives of different groups of society focus group discussions are conducted. In a Delphi study, a panel of scientists and experts in health reporting discuss sex/gender-sensitive, intersectional strategies of analysing and reporting health data. Results of the joint project will be compared and interpreted in close cooperation with the other sub projects for a sustainable improvement of health reporting.
More information (in German).

Research team: Alexander Rommel (sub project leadership), Dr. Kathleen Pöge, Sarah Strasser (all unit 24)

Participating institutions

Medical School Brandenburg Theodor Fontane
Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Hochstraße 15
14770 Brandenburg an der Havel


University of Bremen
Institute of Public Health and Nursing Research (IPP)
Departement of Social Epidemiology
Grazer Straße 4
28359 Bremen


Robert Koch-Institute
Department of Epidemiology and Health Monitoring
Unit 24 Health Reporting
Postfach 650261
13302 Berlin

Project members

Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane

Prof. Dr. Christine Holmberg (Project Head and Spokesperson)
Tel: +49 (0)3381 41 1281
Prof. Dr. Christine Holmberg is the project head of AdvanceGender. She is professor of Social Medicine and Epidemiology at Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane. Her research focuses are the consequences of medical and statistical technologies on medical practice and experiences of healthy and diseased people. She combines ethnographic methods on experiences of illness and production of knowledge with epidemiological approaches aiming at identifying risk factors and improving health care services. In her publications, she elaborates on how the production of epidemiological knowledge is deeply embedded within societal processes and how society itself as well as experiences of people are shaped by this knowledge. Prof. Holmberg holds a doctoral degree in European ethnology and a master’s degree in public health / epidemiology. She is a professor in epidemiology and public health. Her research profile is founded on her multidisciplinary background. The overarching aim of her work is the integration of social realities and experiences into medical and health research. She is dedicated to the development of novel methods to improve patient-oriented health care service planning.

Dr. Philipp Jaehn (Project coordinator)
Tel: +49 (0)3381 41 1283
Dr. Philipp Jaehn is a research fellow at the Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology at the Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane. He studied Medicine in Heidelberg, Germany and Istanbul, Turkey and holds a medical doctorate degree for his work on the epidemiology of gastrointestinal cancers among resettles from the former Soviet Union. Following this, Dr. Jaehn studied Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His research interests include quantitative research methods, social epidemiology and the epidemiology of non-communicable diseases.

Dr. Sibille Merz
Tel: +49 (0)3381 41 1284
Sibille is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in AdvanceGender at the Institute for Social Medicine and Epidemiology at the Medical University Brandenburg Theodor Fontane. She studied social sciences and cultural studies in Berlin and London and gained her PhD in sociology from Goldsmiths, University of London. In her thesis, she empirically examined the construction of ethnic and racial populations in global clinical trials. Her research interests include the social, ethical and economic dimensions of biomedical research; the construction of difference in biology and medicine, and qualitative methods.

University of Bremen

Prof. Dr. Gabriele Bolte
Tel: +49 421 218 68821
Gabriele Bolte is professor of Social Epidemiology at the University of Bremen and head of the Department of Social Epidemiology, Institute of Public Health and Nursing Research. Her main areas of research are methods of gender-sensitive health research, environmental health inequalities, environmental justice, and intervention-generated inequalities. She holds a Diploma and a PhD in Theoretical Medicine and a Master in Public Health with focus on Epidemiology.

Emily Mena
Tel: +49 421 218-68827
Emily Mena is research associate at the Department of Social Epidemiology at the Institute for Public Health and Nursing Research of the University of Bremen. She obtained a bachelors and master’s degree in Public Health. As a lecturer, she works in the fields of Scientific Working Methods and Epidemiology at the Faculty of Human and Health Sciences.

Robert Koch-Institute

Alexander Rommel
Tel: +49 (0)30 18754 3490
Alexander Rommel, M.A., studied sociology, political science and philosophy and is a senior researcher and project leader at the Robert Koch Institute in Unit 24 Health Reporting. His work focuses on the topics of health and sex/gender, the use of health services, migration and health, and burden of disease. He was one of the coordinators of the reports "Health of Men in Germany" (2014) and "Health in Germany" (2015) which are part of the federal government's health monitoring system.

Dr. Kathleen Pöge
Tel: +49 (0)30 18754 3254
Kathleen Pöge is a researcher at the Department of Epidemiology and Health Reporting of the Robert Koch Institute. After her studies in sociology in Leipzig and Paris, she worked in the KarMed-Project and taught at the University of Kassel. For her PhD she conducted a qualitative longitudinal study on the division of work when dual career couples become parents. Her research focuses on sociological gender studies, right-wing extremism and qualitative methods of empirical social research.

Sarah Strasser
Tel: +49 (0)30 18754 3717
Sarah Strasser is a scientific project assistant at the Health Reporting Unit of the Robert Koch Institute. She studied Health Sciences at the Charité in Berlin and in Maastricht and works as a midwife. Her research interest focuses on queer-feminist health sciences and health care.

Scientific Advisory Board

Thomas Altgeld - State Assembly of Health and Social Medicine in Lower Saxony, Germany
Ellen Annandale – University of York, United Kingdom
Anne Hammarström – Umeå University, Sweden
Olena Hankivsky – Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada
Petra Kolip – Bielefeld University, Germany
Alan White – Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom



Presentations and posters

  • Presentation by Christine Holmberg at the annual conference of the German Society of Epidemiology 2017 in Lübeck, Germany with the title Verbundsprojekt AdvanceGender – Geschlechtersensible Gesundheitsbericherstattung: Methoden für einen geschlechtersensiblen Forschungsprozess in populationsbasierten Studien
  • Presentation by Kathleen Pöge at the 17th biennial conference of the European Society for Health and Medical Sociology 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal with the title Towards gender-sensitive and intersectional Health Reporting in Germany
  • Presentation by Kathleen Pöge at the annual conference of the German Society of Epidemiology 2018 in Bremen, Germany with the title Repräsentation gesellschaftlicher Vielfalt in der Gesundheitsberichterstattung – Perspektiven einer geschlechtersensiblen und intersek-tionalen GBE
  • Poster presentation by Christine Holmberg at the 11th European Public Health Conference 2018 in Ljubljana, Slovenia with the title Developing research approaches to improve gender-sensitive health reporting: concept proposal
  • Presentation by Kathleen Pöge at the 11th European Public Health Conference 2018 in Ljubljana, Slovenia with the title Perspectives of LGBTIQ* migrants, refugees and ethnic minorities for the development of a gender-sensitive and intersectional health reporting in Germany
  • Forum by the study group AdvanceGender at the German Public Health Conference "Poverty and Health", with the title Gender equality: The joint project „AdvanceGender“ – contributions to gender-sensitive health reporting
  • Presentation by Philipp Jaehn at the annual Conference of the German Society for Epidemiology 2019 in Ulm, Germany with the title Practice of reporting study participation in selected German and international population-based studies – Implications for an intersectional perspective
  • Presentation by Kathleen Pöge at the annual Conference of the German Society of Social Medicine and Prevention 2019 in Düsseldorf, Germany with the title Towards sex/gender sensitive and intersectional health reporting. Results of focus groups on sex/gender and sexual diversity
  • Presentation by Alexander Rommel at the annual Conference of the German Society of Social Medicine and Prevention 2019 in Düsseldorf, Germany with the title Sex/gender and health in health reporting – Results of an international comparison
  • Presentation by Emily Mena at the annual Conference of the German Society of Social Medicine and Prevention 2019 in Düsseldorf, Germany with the title Conceptual framework for sex/gender sensitive multivariable data analyses using an intersectional perspective
  • Presentation by Philipp Jaehn, Sarah Cook and Christine Holmberg on the 12th European Public Health Conference 2019 in Marseille about A critical discussion of theoretical foundations and measurement methods of gender roles” as part of the workshop “How to do (and not to do) gender in health research: methods developments and lessons from the field”.
  • Presentation by Emily Mena and Gabriele Bolte on the 12th European Public Health Conference 2019 in Marseille about „Conceptual framework for intersectionality-based gender sensitivity in multivariable analysis” as part of the workshop “How to do (and not to do) gender in health research: methods developments and lessons from the field”.


  • Kathleen Pöge, Alexander Rommel, Emily Mena, Christine Holmberg, Anke-Christine Saß, Gabriele Bolte."AdvanceGender – Verbundprojekt für eine geschlechtersensible und intersektionale Forschung und Gesundheitsberichterstattung" in: Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz, 2019 Jan;62(1):102-107. (DOI: 10.1007/s00103-018-2855-3).
  • Alexander Rommel, Kathleen Pöge, Laura Krause, Sabine Ludwig, Franziska Prütz, Anke Christine Saß, Sarah Strasser und Thomas Ziese. "Gender and health in the Federal Health Reporting. Concepts and new challenges"in: Public Health Forum, 2019; 27(2): 98–102. (DOI:
  • Emily Mena, Gabriele Bolte, ADVANCE GENDER Study Group. „Intersectionality-based quantitative health research and sex/gender sensitivity: a scoping review“ in: International Journal for Equity in Health 2019 Dez;199(2019). (DOI:10.1186/s12939-019-1098-8).
  • Kathleen Pöge, Sarah Mirabella Strasser, Anke-Christine Saß, Alexander Rommel. „Civil society stakeholders’ participation in national health reporting on sex/gender issues: a study protocol for an intersectionality-informed and sex/gender-sensitive approach to focus group research“ in: BMJ Open 2020;10. (DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-033412).
  • Philipp Jaehn, Julia Rehling, Ronny Klawunn, Sibille Merz, Christine Holmberg, ADVANCE GENDER Study Group. „Practice of reporting social characteristics when describing representativeness of epidemiological cohort studies – A rationale for an intersectional perspective“ in: SSM - Population Health 2020;100617. (DOI: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2020.100617).
  • Philipp Jaehn, Emily Mena, Sibille Merz, Robert Hoffmann, Antje Gößwald, Alexander Rommel, Christine Holmberg, ADVANCE GENDER Study Group. „Non-response in a national health survey in Germany: an intersectionality-informed multilevel analysis of individual heterogeneity and discriminatory accuracy“ in: PLoS ONE; 15(8): e0237349. (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0237349).