Linnaeus Knowledge Environment: Sustainable Health

Good health for all in our time requires handling of a number of challenges: demographic changes, empowerment of citizens, changing illness patterns, traumatic events and organisational coordination. The purpose of the knowledge environment Sustainable Health is to tackle these societal challenges – promoting health and well-being for all people of all ages.

Our society is facing great challenges within a number of different fields. Meeting these societal challenges with knowledge in creative environments that integrate education, research, and collaboration – knowledge environments – is something that permeates Linnaeus University’s vision and work.

Seven of the university’s knowledge environments have been appointed Linnaeus Knowledge Environment. These focus on the fields of education, materials, democracy, water, digitalisation, environment, and health. They all work interdisciplinary and link together subjects, departments, and faculties in order to get a broad take on the societal challenges within each field.

Societal challenge: sustainable health

The societal challenges evolving from global health are complex and require commitment and engagement from multiple perspectives and numerous angles (figure 1). The Linnaeus Knowledge Environment Sustainable Health will take on societal challenges identified from UN's Sustainable Development Goals, which constitute the basis for Linnaeus University’s way of working with sustainability.

figure 1
Figure 1.

In particular, we target goal number three: Good health and well-being for people. This goal aims to ensure a healthy life and promote the well-being of all people at all ages. Here, the global demographic changes as well as lifestyle changes are seen as the most challenging domains.

Parallel to the increasing life expectancy of the earth's population, the birth rate is declining in most countries, resulting in fewer people of working age in the future. These factors, together with increased migration, globalization and changing needs of health care, health prevention and health promotion, are the demographic changes that need to be addressed. These demographic changes are also linked to the changes in current lifestyles appearing today, which for example could be exemplified with malnutrition due to dietary habits that are less healthy.

Moreover, the changing patterns of disabilities and diseases also include the move of health-care from in-patient to out-patient care and further to prevention and health promotion. As this requires organisational changes, the call for solutions within this domain is crucial. Increased collaboration is therefore needed for effective global health care. Specific challenges in relation to this might be the lack of participation, as unequal access to health care demands digitalisation but might lead to exclusion by absence of both competencies and digital devices.

Current

Research

The knowledge environment Sustainable Health includes well established and internationally recognized researchers and research groups. Within the widespread competence seen in the research group of Sustainable Health, we aim to integrate competencies and activities in cross-disciplinary collaboration to identify, find and test sustainable solutions for societal challenges. The research performed within Sustainable Health will also include collaboration with stakeholders locally and globally, contributing to both broader and deeper analysis of health throughout a life course.

With expertise in eHealth, food science, palliative care, optometry, social work and health humanities, the environment will have a unique ability to contribute to the above challenges in a holistic way (figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2.

In more specific, the fields of research within Sustainable Health are:

  • Arts and visual science
  • Biochemical methods and environmental chemistry
  • Business administration, economics and (social) entrepreneurship
  • Computer science and health informatics
  • Film science
  • Food science and nutrition
  • Media and communication science
  • Medical humanities science
  • Medical science and biomedicine
  • Palliative care
  • Pedagogy
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychology
  • Social work
  • Sports science
  • Vision science and eye care

Education

The multidisciplinary background and existing resources of the principal investigators/teachers of Sustainable Health – within medicine, natural and formal sciences, caring sciences, social sciences and humanities – allow holistic systemic perspectives and applications during research, teaching and interaction with society.

Sustainable Health will provide opportunities to create new interdisciplinary educational courses as well as developing current programmes in the health area. This will give our students a distinctive and modern competency that will make them exceptionally attractive for employers. In consequence, this will lead to an increased number of applications to our programmes and greater student satisfaction.

Collaboration

We have well-developed collaborations with various well-regarded universities, both regional, national and international institutions. We also collaborate actively with several county councils/regions, other authorities in Sweden and with companies in the business sector.

Steering group

Cornelia Witthöft is contact person and chair of Sustainable Health.