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Research

Empowerment for parents, protection for children – DFG extends HELICAP project

The photo shows parents with a child.

Brandenburg an der Havel, 27 February 2024

The handling of health-related information and subsequent decision-making are extremely challenging for the majority of the population. HELICAP (health literacy in early childhood allergy prevention) is an interdisciplinary group of researchers who continue their nation-wide activities to strengthen the health competences specifically in parents of children suffering from allergies or with a higher allergy risk.

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has announced extended funding for the project by a further three years. The university medical department of Magdeburg spearheads the project, and the MHB Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology directed by Prof. Christine Holmberg is involved with the subproject “Doing Health”. With a total of 20 experts from social sciences, health sciences and medicine at six university locations in Germany, HELICAP pursues an interdisciplinary approach and combines a variety of perspectives. The idea is to improve the scientific basis in the field and consistently strengthen parents’ health competences.

 

Focus on improved health literacy


Epidemiologist Prof. Dr. Christian Apfelbacher is the spokesperson of the group and directs the Institute of Social Medicine and Health Systems Research (ISMG), University of Magdeburg. Her underlines the need to strengthen health competences in the general population as essential for improved health care. But he also points to the complexity of the health system and the wealth of information on illness and health which tends to overwhelm many people: “It is difficult for more than 50% of the population to identify, understand and assess health information and use such information as a basis for autonomous health-related decisions. Studies reveal that higher health literacy is associated with better health. It is particularly important to improve the health competences in parents of children suffering from allergies or with a higher allergy risk, since almost every fifth child is affected by allergies, “ so Apfelbacher. He says prolonged funding helps to intensify the interventional aspects of the HELICAP project: “Our findings contribute to a better understanding of health-related decisions and to the development of targeted actions.”

                                             Prof. Christine Holmberg, director/MHB Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology

The focus in the second funding phase of HELICAP is on five subprojects addressing early allergy prevention and COVID-19 in children suffering from allergies. Prof. Apfelbacher: “Both topics are of great relevance to public health. The point is to develop strategies to promote health competences. To this end, we identify factors which hamper health-promoting choices, we take social and ecological conditions into account and critically assess scientific evidence. It is essential to include parents and affected individuals in our research.”

The five subprojects comprise syntheses of scientific evidence regarding interventions, knowledge transfer by care providers, ethnographic studies on care practices, integration of user perspective and offered services, and the epidemiology of parental health literacy and allergy prevention. An additional target is the design of a tool to assess specific health competences in terms of allergy prevention.

Key research issues in Brandenburg

The work group “Doing Health” based at the MHB Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology explores approaches to health in families with a child under one year or expecting a child. The focus is on available offers and structures, and on modes and content of communication between various groups of health professionals (social workers, midwives, physicians) on the one hand, and young families on the other. According to Prof. Christine Holmberg who heads the MHB Institute, the objective is to understand the interplay of various formats and sources of knowledge which creates knowledge about being healthy, and to learn how such knowledge is transferred into action. The team looks at ways in which families handle allergy-related health information and seeks to optimize health interventions on that basis.  

Partners in the research team HELICAP (Fkz.: 409800133): Universities of Magdeburg, Regensburg and Mainz, the Freiburg University of Education, the Hannover Medical School (MHH) and the Brandenburg Medical School (MHB).

 

For further information on HELICAP see the homepage: www.helicap.org

Scientific contact:
Prof. Dr. Christine Holmberg
Director, MHB Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Phone: +49 3381 41 1281
E-Mail: christine.holmberg@mhb-fontane.de

Contact for prospective students:
Dr. Joshua Paul
, research assistant, MHB Institute of Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Phone: +49 3381-41-1293
E-Mail: joshua.paul@mhb-fontane.de

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© 2024 MEDIZINISCHE HOCHSCHULE BRANDENBURG Theodor Fontane
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