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Population Research Center

PRC Lunch Colloquium

The PRC Lunch Colloquium brings together population-based researchers from various faculties and disciplines. It is designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration, facilitate knowledge exchange, and strengthen ties within the population-based research community.

The PRC Lunch Colloquium is open to researchers and students from the University of Zurich and beyond, who are interested in population-based research and its interdisciplinary applications. No prior PRC membership required.

The colloquium is regularly held on Tuesdays (12:00-13:00) in person or via Zoom. Presentations are expected to last about 20 minutes, followed by a 40-minute Q&A session. All attendees, including PRC members and external participants, are encouraged to actively participate in the Q&A.

Program spring semester 2024

PRC Lunch Colloquium Program 2024 (PDF, 202 KB)



Application of speech-to-text in population research – Kick-off for a community-designed pilot study (powered by the Talk2UZH lab)
Prof. Viktor von Wyl (Institute for Implementation Science in Health Care)

The Talk2UZH lab is a DIZH-funded project that aims to establish and evaluate a UZH-hosted speech-to-text transcription platform for research and teaching ( Talk2UZH is a collaboration between the UZH Digital & Mobile Health Group, PRC (, LiRI (, and
As part of our Talk2UZH project we will conduct a pilot study to examine the benefits and challenges of working with speech-to-text in research. For this, we need your help! Please join us for the kick-off event to learn more about the Talk2UZH platform and the planned project, help us brainstorm ideas, and become part of the working group. This kick-off workshop and participation in the working group is open to all UZH researchers (no affiliation with PRC needed).


AND 4.19

An Introduction to the Zurich Project on the Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood (z-proso)
Dr. Denis Ribeaud (Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development)

The Zurich Project on the Social Development from Childhood to Adulthood (z-proso) combines a cluster-RCT with a long-term panel study. It began in 2004 in response to the need for a better evidence base to support optimal child social development and prevent crime and violence. Since then, the study has tracked the development of a culturally diverse urban sample of young persons (N = 1,675 in the target sample; ~50% female) from age 7 (n = 1,360) to age 24 (n = 1,160), with main data collection waves at ages 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 20, and 24. The study and its partner projects use a multi-method, multi-informant design that combines teacher, young person, and parent surveys with official records, observational and behavioral measures, biosampling, functional imaging, and ecological momentary assessment. Analyses of the data have contributed important evidence to a diversity of topics in life development, illuminating the developmental roots of crime and aggression, the impacts of exposure to different forms and combinations of victimization, and trajectories of mental health, among others. In this colloquium presentation, we will provide an introduction to the design, the sample, and the data collections of the z-proso study, and present selected areas of research to illustrate the scope of the study.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

z-proso has been designed as an interdisciplinary developmental panel study from the outset, bringing together perspectives from Sociology, Developmental Psychology, Criminology, and Educational Science. 20 years of collaboration with scholars from different disciplines has further widened the scope of the study, in particular by ways of add-on data collections. The presentation is aimed at providing an overview on available data and at encouraging its utilization and dissemination in the population-research community.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail (for you and your team)?

As a national research infrastructure supported by the SNSF it is z-proso’s key mission to provide the scientific community with its well documented high-quality data. Accordingly, we are keen to counsel and support researchers interested in using the z-proso data.


Deepen sleep to prevent Alzheimer and Parkinson
Dr. Angelina Maric (Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich)

There is growing evidence that the intensity of deep sleep is inversely correlated to neurodegenerative processes as they occur in Alzheimer or Parkinson disease. Such processes already start years before the disorder is diagnosed, but up to date there is very limited possibility to interfere with the progression. Lately, a new non-pharmacological method to enhance deep sleep has been established: using auditory deep sleep enhancement it is possible to safely enhance sleep intensity and potentially its beneficial effects. We will present how we aim to assess the possibility of slowing down neurodegenerative processes using auditory deep sleep enhancement in individuals at high risk to develop a neurodegenerative disorder like Parkinson.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

Neurodegenerative diseases already pose an immense burden on society and as society ages, this burden will become even greater in the future. The time before the actual onset of the disease offers an unprecedented opportunity to intervene in disease processes that have already begun, before irreversible damage has occurred. Understanding the role of sleep and the opportunity for interfering with such processes through sleep may add an important point of view to many fields.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail (for you and your team)?

In order to intervene with pathological processes occurring before the actual disease onset, there is a need to identify such individuals in the population, for which sensitive predictive (bio-)markers are required. Another challenge that comes with early-interventional studies, is the quantification of positive effects of the intervention on a short time-scale, where again (bio-)markers, that can be assessed unobtrusively would be of great value.


Long-term outcome and developmental trajectories of children with complex congenital heart disease
Prof. Bea Latal (University Children’s Hospital Zürich, Child Development Center)

Children born with complex congenital heart disease (CHD) are at risk for neurodevelopmental impairments affecting all developmental domains, starting in early infancy, and continuing into adolescents and adulthood. Little is known about developmental trajectories in this population. Developmental trajectories are important as they can help to identify individuals or groups of individuals with a favorable or poor trajectory, allowing better counselling and initiation of therapeutic interventions. This lecture will provide information on developmental trajectories in normally developing children and present the existing literature on group and individual trajectories of children born with a complex CHD and will identify fields of future research needs.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

This topic is relevant for population based reserach as it shows the importance of longitudinal cohort studies. 

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail (for you and your team)?

Future collaborations can help to establish new longitudinal studies addressing multiprofessional research questions e.g. regarding child development with an interdisciplinary approach.  


Leveraging large-scale language data to assess mental health in population research
Dr. Christina Haag (Institute for Implementation Science in Health Care and Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute)

Population research has traditionally prioritised quantitative measures, often neglecting textual data due to the time-consuming analysis required. However, natural language processing (NLP) and the emergence of large-scale language models have transformed the analysis of language, making it possible to quickly extract themes and emotions from large textual datasets or to build classification models. In my presentation, I will give a brief overview of two key NLP techniques - topic modelling and classifier training - that can provide valuable insights for population research. I will explain their functionality and data requirements, and demonstrate their application with interdisciplinary examples.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

Despite these technological advances, the integration of text and quantitative data in population studies remains a largely untapped area. In my presentation, I will explore methods for seamlessly integrating text or speech data into population research, thereby streamlining the analysis process.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail (for you and your team)?

Our team has built up strong expertise in NLP, including speech assessment/processing and has been involved in several interdisciplinary NLP projects. We value interdisciplinary collaboration and exchange, and are happy to share our insights with other PRC members on their NLP initiatives.


eHealth in Reconstructive Dentistry
Prof. Tim Joda (Center for Dental Medicine, Clinic of Reconstructive Dentistry)

Digitalization has become an integral part of daily life. In the same way, it plays an essential role in the development of dentistry. Dental medicine of the future will focus on innovations built on AI that will impact (1) dental e-health data management, (2) clinical and technical health applications, and (3) services and operations. Thus, dental research must adapt to this change and move away from the shadowy existence of the oral cavity alone towards interdisciplinary networking of oral and systemic health. With the Center for eHealth in Reconstructive Dentistry at the UZH is breaking new ground in personalized solutions, patient participation, prediction and prevention.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

The linkage of systemic and oral health data offers new opportunities for personalized medicine. Economically, it makes no sense to develop isolated projects; rather, synergistic effects could be used much more efficiently – especially in epidemiological ehealth data collection.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail (for you and your team)?

The Center for eHealth in Reconstructive Dentistry is open to any collaboration for the generation of health data in the sense of an open research platform. There is particular interest in establishing a PPI group with a sub-focus on dentistry, and in investigating the relationship between oral and mental health in old age.


Enhancing the care for individuals experiencing mental health distress, illustrated through the CoLiPri project
Mariia Weber, M.Sc. (Department of Psychology, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy Research)

In Switzerland, the prevalence of at least moderate, treatment-relevant mental health problems is estimated at 12-17% in the general population, but only 5% receive treatment. Barriers include poor early detection and diagnosis, inadequate treatment selection, limited access, and long wait lists for specialist treatment. In this talk we present a project that aims to enhance care for individuals with mental health issues by improving detection, diagnosis, and treatment selection in primary care. We will introduce the rationale for a new low-threshold service designed to improve access to mental health care, present preliminary findings from its implementation, and discuss the challenges faced.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

The presentation offers insights into how knowledge from population-based research (e.g. epidemiology) can be translated to mental healthcare through the implementation of model projects. By identifying barriers and challenges in primary care such as limited access to mental health care, the presentation highlights areas where interdisciplinary research can focus on finding effective solutions.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail (for you and your team)?

The challenges identified in our project call for stronger interdisciplinary collaboration to improve the translation of findings from population mental health research to clinical practice. Joint efforts from various disciplines ranging from psychology and medicine to health care administration and policy are essential to address the complexities of mental health care delivery effectively.


Mental Health Surveillance in Ukraine
Dr. Viktoriia Yasenok and Prof. Milo Puhan (Department of Epidemiology, Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute)

Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine as well as in the post-war period the monitoring of the mental health of the population becomes even more important as an actionable foundation for public mental health and mental health care.

The Mental Health Assessment of the Population (MAP) is a research program that includes prospective, population-based, digital cohort studies, implemented by a team of researchers from EBPI and Sumy State University (Ukrainian) and focuses on mental health monitoring of adults living in different parts of Ukraine, Ukrainians currently residing in the Canton of Zurich and people from the Zurich general population as a control group.

Today we will talk about the recruitment process and all the barriers and challenges that have arisen and continue to arise in recruitment as well as ways to solve them.


  • Provide an opportunity for researchers to learn about the cutting-edge work being conducted within the PRC.
  • Offer a platform for researchers to receive feedback on their work from an interdisciplinary audience.
  • Encourage interdisciplinary dialogue and the exchange of ideas.
  • Enhance knowledge and expertise in the field of population-based research.
  • Foster a strong sense of community and collaboration among PRC members.

Program fall semester 2023

PRC Lunch Colloquium Program 2023 (PDF, 202 KB)


DigiVox - The Swiss Panel Survey on Digitalization
Prof. Karsten Donnay (Department of Political Science)

DigiVox is a national survey panel specifically dedicated to the study of the social, economic, cultural, political and policy implications of digital media and their interplay with technological developments in Switzerland. The project is supported by infrastructure funding of the Digitalisierungsinitiative der Zürcher Hochschulen (DIZH), the UZH Digital Society Initiative (DSI), and the University of Zurich. This presentation gives an overview of the work that went into building the panel, technical and methodological questions, and results from the first wave run in late 2022. It also briefly covers the upcoming second wave and discusses broader next steps in the project.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

 The idea of DigiVox is to establish a permanent panel infrastructure that enables research on the impact of digitalization. The focus here is explicitly meant to be broad in terms of subject and the project will invite other researchers to contribute their own questions specific to their subject domain. With that it hopes to establish a basis for a broad range of (representative and longitudinal) population-based research projects.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail?

The exchange of approaches, best practices or data is currently still quite limited across disciplinary boundaries. We hope to benefit from the expertise regarding population studies that exists at UZH but also contribute our own (methodological) experience with running large-scale representative studies. This could result in collaborations in research but also, perhaps, in teaching.


Assessing the course of mental disorders - An introduction to the Longitudinal Interval Follow-Up Evaluation
Dr. Markus Wolf (Department of Psychology, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy Research)

Mental health problems or disorders are episodic conditions that often take a recurrent or chronic course. This can include healthy episodes, phases with subthreshold symptoms to full episodes of a diagnosed mental disorder. While this requires a longitudinal perspective, research is often cross-sectional which disregards the dynamic nature of these conditions. The Longitudinal Interval Follow-Up Evaluation (LIFE) is a well-established semistructured interview system originally developed in the US by Martin Keller (Keller et al., 1987) which assesses the longterm course of mental health conditions based on psychosocial, symptom and treatment-related information. In this talk, we will briefly introduce the LIFE and present research examples that illustrate data that can be collected with it.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

 Mental health is playing a crucial role for population health, as well as for individual well-being and quality of life. In longterm surveys, interviews such as the LIFE can complement self-report questionnaires to gather valid, time-dependent information about the onset, duration and consequences of mental health conditions.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail?

In future collaborations population studies might benefit from adopting a longitudinal perspective on mental health by using these approaches which will allow to make inferences about the prevalence, burden, and consequences of mental health issues in the general population or in at-risk populations.


Innovation in travel medicine: using the TOURIST smartphone application to track travelers and health on the move
Dr. Andrea Farnham (Department of Public and Global Health, Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute)

Health during travel has long remained a black box for clinicians. Travelers come to our clinics (including at EBPI, which hosts the largest travel medicine clinic in Switzerland) and receive vaccines and behavioral advice based on destination risks. However, there was no way to follow-up on health outcomes once they left. The TOURIST studies were the first to use a smartphone application to track location, administer daily health questionnaires, and store environmental data continuously during travel, creating a large database of traveler health outcomes. I will present the most interesting findings and discuss future research directions.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

 Travel medicine, global mobility, and migration studies are inherently interdisciplinary, touching on topics ranging from infectious disease to psychology to sexual health to politics. In addition, the analytical methods of the TOURIST studies included innovative machine learning approaches to identify patterns in population-level data.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail?

In future iterations of the TOURIST study, we would like to broaden the study to include other mobile populations, and more heavily involve social scientists and implementation scientists.


Talk2UZH: Developing the next generation of population-based health research studies
Prof. Viktor von Wyl (Institute for Implementation Science in Health Care)

The Talk2UZH Lab aims to create a collaborative network to explore the application of speech recognition in a secure setting. The basis for this is a UZH-based, multilingual speech recognition software, which is integrated into a survey platform and will be made more easily accessible for UZH researchers. As part of an interdisciplinary pilot project, the usefulness of speech recognition for observational studies, as well as ethical and data protection challenges, will be examined.


Mental Health Surveillance in Ukraine
Dr. Viktoriia Yasenok and Prof. Milo Puhan (Department of Epidemiology, Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute)

While the long-term, population-level mental health impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine cannot yet be fully predicted, high demand for mental health and psychosocial support is anticipated in a post-war context. Because no longitudinal mental health surveillance program in Ukraine is in place, neither the public nor health authorities are informed in a timely manner about the Ukranian population’s mental health needs. Our project will establish  a robust, longitudinal mental health surveillance that will provide policy- and decision-makers with essential, high-quality data to make informed and timely decisions on mental health care and support in Ukraine. In this talk I will present a detailed  study plan and discuss possible research directions


Preschool Children with Development Delay - A Registry with Targeted Recruiting Opportunities for Research Projects
PD Dr. med. Michael von Rhein (University Children’s Hospital Zürich, Child Development Center)

Early identification of developmental delay (DD) in preschool children is crucial for parental counseling regarding diagnostics and initiation of early intervention (EI). If children with DD are detected and treated early, they show better health and educational outcomes, and parents also benefit from support and guidance in their difficult situation. In the Canton of Zurich, a registry of all preschool children referred for early interventions allows to describe the preschool population in need of special education. In the last years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of registrations for educational support – both in preschool, as well as in school-age children in the Canton of Zurich. The number of children who need to be evaluated per year by school psychologists has almost doubled in the last 10 years (source: VSA Canton ZH).

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

 With its broad expertise, the PRC offers the ideal platform to focus possible reasons (e.g., biological and environmental factors, social changes such as a trend towards professionalization, etc.) for this increase, in interdisciplinary collaborations. The registry offers the opportunity to approach families of children with special needs in order to specifically target them for study recruitment.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail?

1) Biological and environmental risks: analysis of potentially dangerous toxins, possibly including examination of biological material (hair, urine). 2) Attitudes and society: Interviews with affected families and a comparison group. 3) Greater awareness and trend towards professionalization: Quantitative and qualitative survey of affected families and a focus group.


Dynamics of Social Media and Alcohol Use among Adolescents
Prof. Thomas N. Friemel and Tobias Frey (Department of Communication and Media Research, Chair of Media Use & Effects)

Social media and alcohol use develop very dynamically in adolescents. In Switzerland, regular alcohol use increases from 24% among 15-year-olds to 68% at the age of 19. Due to intense social media use of adolescents and the high prevalence of alcohol related content, a potentially reinforcing influence of social media is often assumed. Based on multiple empirical studies, this “exposure” effect is tested and put into context with related dynamics such as selective exposure, selective sharing, and sharing effects.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

 Substance use in adolescents and young adulthood is decisive for future substance use and other topics of public health. Due to the relevance of the social context for these behaviors and the ubiquitousness of digital media in everyday interaction, complex social dynamics emerge. Interdisciplinary collaboration is crucial to advance the theoretical, methodological, and empirical innovations that are necessary to better understand these dynamics.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail?

New technological developments such as Bluetooth based proximity tracking, data donation of digital traces (e.g., social media use), and citizen science approaches will create new methodological avenues for population studies. Study design, field work, and analysis will profit from the combination of expertise from different disciplines in order to overcome limitations of previous approaches.


Risk and Resilience in Development
Prof. Lilly Shanahan (Department of Psychology, Clinical and Developmental Psychology)

Prof. Shanahan will provide an overview of her work on risk and resilience from childhood to young adulthood using community-representative prospective-longitudinal studies. For example, she will talk about the prevalence and developmental course of mental health problems during adolescence, and how these are associated with later well-being in adulthood.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

Much of this work is based on community-representative samples. The presentation will highlight how population-based prospective-longitudinal studies can serve as unique and promising platforms for conducting interdisciplinary research.


Ending the HIV-Epidemic in Switzerland: The SwissPrEPared Approach
Prof. Jan Fehr (Department of Public and Global Health, Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute)

HIV/AIDS was a death sentence when this new pandemic shocked the world 40 years ago. Thanks to the discovery of the highly active triple therapy it became a treatable chronic disease and many lives were saved since 1996. Ten years ago a new, very effective prevention tool, the so called ‘HIV-PrEP’, appeared on the horizon. In line with the WHO goal to end this pandemic by 2030 we started the SwissPrEPared platform in 2019 with vision that Switzerland could be the first country worldwide to achieve this ambitious goal.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

With this comprehensive population-based platform we do not only provide best prevention and care but can also answer many questions linked to e.g. infectious-diseases epidemiology, mental health, risk behavior. We follow the principle of surveillance-response using latest digital approaches to provide evidence for policy makers i.e. science-to-policy and also evidence to general practitioners i.e. science-to-practice.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail?

We welcome interested researchers from various fields to collaborate with a strong focus on implementation science, digital health approaches, mental health and behavior and also communication science.


Development of substance use from adolescence to young adulthood in the Zurich area: Implications for public mental health
Prof. Boris Quednow (Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Zurich)

Mortality due to  simultaneous polysubstance use has surged among young people, especially in the US but also in Switzerland. However, its prevalence and predictors are poorly understood. Our study addresses these gaps and investigates correlates of substance combinations that could result in fatal drug interactions such as respiratory depression, serotonin syndrome, or sympathomimetic toxidrome. Data came from two large community-based studies of three age-groups of adolescents (age 15 and 18) and young adults (age 24). Simultaneous polysubstance use and its risk correlates, including sociodemographic factors, poor mental health and well-being, adverse social experiences, risky behaviors, and attitudes toward illegal substance use, were self-reported.

How is the presented topic relevant for (interdisciplinary) population-based research?

Substance use is highly prevalent in the Zurich area affecting almost every population-based study. Thus, collaboration is needed to disentangle the effects of substance use and the target variables in any project investigating psychological, sociological, economical, or medical outcomes at large scale.

What might future collaboration opportunities or cooperation in the field of population studies with other disciplines entail?

We could deliver neuropsychopharmacological expertise on prevalence of substance use as well as on behavioral, cognitive, and emotional effects of acute, postacute, and chronic substance use to population-based studies, specifically in adolescents and young adults and other high risk groups were this behavior is highly prevalent.