15th Anniversary


SSPH+ assembles public health sciences across Switzerland into one national inter-university faculty. Our faculty’s expertise mirrors the scientific and professional field of public health, which encompasses a broad range of disciplines, spread across universities, faculties, and institutions.

The SSPH+ “virtual inter-university faculty” provides a promising base from which to strengthen a cohesive and competent public health structure where the togetherness and critical mass provides an added value.


When we planned the SSPH+ 15th anniversary in 2019, the world was a different one. With 100 years behind us since the Spanish flu, pandemics were merely a footnote in the public health text books. Yet, a small, invisible virus has changed our perceptions of public health and our lives completely. Instead of gathering at each of our partner universities 12 times during 2020, we have had to cancel or postpone planned events and celebrations and stay at home. The pandemic dictates our agendas, plans and behaviour.

Bill Gates, in a short TED lecture held in 2015, urged that the world must prepare for pandemics before entering into crisis mode. Also the public health community was not able to move our societies to a better prepardness. The awareness of the pandemic and the detrimental consequences of its “exponential growth” initially reached the public via the daunting experiences of the very first and thus most seriously affected countries. In Europe, Northern Italy was most notably affected, as well their neighbours in Southern Switzerland, who were challenged only a few days after the initial outbreak in Italy, an almost inevitable consequence of their close economic and cultural ties.

Although there are still many more questions than answers with respect to the pandemic, those in the public health science community wittness in awe as the well known paradigm that shapes public health first and foremost plays out: namely, how inequities in health, wealth, and education play a crucial role in crisis response. Specifically, the implications for this mean that the severity of COVID-19, its death toll and public resilience for dealing with the severe consequences of the pandemic will be unequally distributed within societies, countries and across the globe. Many of those reading this jubilee report belong to the most privileged and thus most equipped to deal with the pandemic. However, our thoughts are with all those who are not as fortunate in this regard and are suffering in the face of the unpredictable, long-term consequences of the pandemic.

However, there are also some silver linings emerging from this common crisis and lockdown for SSPH+ and the science community. Good collaborative practices and knowledge sharing increased significantly. We learned about using digital tools for teaching and discussion purposes. One of the most relevant developments, from a Swiss public health perspective, is that SSPH+ could live up to its vision to unite the national multi-disciplinary public health experts as a fast acting, open minded community that is ready to support federal and cantonal authorities in their difficult task of steering responses to the pandemic. Furthermore, now, more than ever, our “Public Health Resource” concept has become a highly valuable and urgently needed resource. With the enthusiastic support of our SSPH+ network and the Federal Office of Public Health, the COVID-19 SSPH+ Platform was up and running, shortly after the lockdown was initiated in Switzerland. Since then, authorities have submitted questions and data on the platform that are closed to the public and the media, whilst an ever growing academic community provides helpful material, links, analyses, and evidence-based suggestions. Moreover, in response to this, many members of our community have contributed to the different groups of the National COVID-19 Science Task Force. We can be certain that public health sciences and systems will be different in the post-COVID era. Importantly, SSPH+ will grow and continue to contribute to better public health in all respects, even as the pandemic subsides and ‘normal’ life catches up with us again.

SSPH+ Directorate
Nino Künzli, Luca Crivelli and Antoine Flahault
Sandra Nocera, Jorgen Bauwens, Daniela Erb, Ann Walser, Emily Reeves and Ursula Erni

SSPH+ Foundation

From January 2020, the SSPH+ Foundation incorporates twelve Swiss universities. The inclusion of the University of Fribourg and the Bern University of Applied Sciences will bring SSPH+ closer to its aim of embracing Faculty members of all Swiss universities active in public health sciences. SSPH+ is coordinated by its Dean’s office – a lean administrative structure to orchestrate collaborations and activities. SSPH+ is funded by the 12 Foundation Universities (core funding) and grants as well as donations (project funding). The strategic focus is rooted in three pillars of prime relevance for public health sciences:

  1. Fostering RESEARCH in the SSPH+ network
  2. Strengthening TRAINING & EDUCATION for public health in academia
  3. Bridging public health sciences with PRACTICE & POLICIES

​Annual faculty meetings

Annual faculty meetings are hosted by a member institution of SSPH+, with the University of Zurich organizing the 2020 meeting. These meetings usually last for two days and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise, welcoming new faculty and young scientists and students, but also discussing and sharing our strategy for the future of SSPH+ and academic public health in Switzerland and beyond. An evening social event is an opportunity to present awards to our students and SSPH+ Honorary fellows; these are individuals who have substantially contributed to public health in our country.

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