Department 2: Epidemiology and Health Monitoring
The main topics handled in this department are the significant challenges and burdens placed on the population in general and the healthcare system in particular. These challenges are characterised by rapidly changing working and living conditions, demographic change, the increase in life expectancy and associated ageing of the population, and the shift in the spectrum of diseases towards chronic-degenerative and mental illnesses.
The focus is placed on diseases relevant to public health and their risk factors, in accordance with the “WHO global action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases 2013-2020”:
- Physical health
- Mental health
- Health-related behaviour
- Social determinants and health
The department carries out nationwide health monitoring for this purpose. The data collected in the regularly recurring representative health surveys is included in the health reporting of the federal government. The department bears responsibility for the content of this data. At the same time, the data forms the basis of analytical, epidemiological evaluations by scientists within the department. The results of these evaluations are used for policy advice, developing preventative approaches, providing information to the public, and teaching and research. The overriding objective is to improve the health of the population.
The department works in a close network of cooperative partnerships with national and international scientific institutions (see below) and is a member of diverse research associations. It is involved in the German Centre for Cardiovascular Disease and the German Centre for Diabetes Research. All units work according to the life course approach and take the specifics of the various stages of life into account. In view of the particular significance of the childhood and adolescence stage, a Child and Youth Health steering committee forms part of the department management. In this committee, proposals are developed for the strategic objectives of the department in the area of children’s and adolescents’ health and support is provided in the implementation of these proposals. The steering committee is made up of one scientist from each unit as a representative of the respective unit.
Because of its experience in conducting monitoring studies, the department was awarded the contract for external quality assurance at the German National Cohort (NaKo). In this context, a working group, partly financed by third-party funds, conducts site visits in the NaKo study centres. The working group develops quantitative and qualitative methods of quality assurance that are implemented in a standardised manner. The quality assurance concepts provided are also used for the health monitoring activities of the department. The aim is to create a comprehensive quality management concept as a prerequisite for consistently high study and data quality. The department performs its own research in the field of methods for health studies and discusses this with the professional public.
The Centre for Cancer Registry Data, which performs tasks stipulated by the Federal Cancer Registry Data Act, is part of the department. A scientific advisory board supports and advises the Centre for Cancer Registry Data in the completion of its tasks.
The Committee for Health Reporting and Health Monitoring supports and advises the department in designing, carrying out and implementing health monitoring, as well as in further development and quality assurance of health reporting.
The Committee for Environmental Medicine works in close technical cooperation with the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Its branch office is based in the department. The committee’s task is to advise the RKI and UBA on topical issues relating to environmental medicine. The focus is on assessments of environment-related (biological, physical, chemical and socioecological) health risks for the population and on the implementation of preventative measures.
In its activities, the department is well-networked on a global level, and particularly within Europe. Within the remit of the European Commission, the department is involved, for example, in the implementation of European health indicators (ECHIM, DG Santé) and in conducting the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS). At the OECD, the department is represented in working groups in the areas of healthcare quality, patient orientation, cancer treatment and mental health.