Our research group consists of experts with different backgrounds (Public Health, Epidemiology, Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine). We are part of various expert groups, regularly present our results at national and international conferences and act as consultants for scientific and public health projects for different organisations and institutions in the field of migration and refugee health.

We conduct research and public health projects within Switzerland and abroad in the field of migration and refugee health. Our research activities are in different working areas. We are engaged in public health projects investigating the health status of migrants and refugees, disease profiles and access to care in Switzerland and globally. This includes exploring and uncovering barriers in access to health care. 

Further investigations focus on the impact of the work on the mental health of refugee aid workers (RAWs). Studies have shown that their work contributes to elevated levels of psychological distress and can lead to various emotional disorders, like burnout, depression or PTSD. Strengthening the mental wellbeing of RAWs, in turn, can lead to better (health) care for refugees, as they can only provide adequate care if they maintain and promote their own physical and mental health. 

Selection of projects

The University Hospital of Bern (Inselspital) is one of the largest hospitals in Switzerland, with a catchment area of 1.8 million people. The Emergency Department is a Level 1 clinic, part of the «Swiss Hospitals for Equity» network and consists of an interdisciplinary team with round-the-clock access to all medical specialties. In total, we treat over 50,000 patients from 148 countries a year, of whom about half are self-referrals. An essential part of the emergency department is the integrated outpatient emergency clinic (Fast Track) for scheduled and unscheduled consultations, often of patients with less acute complaints. It also serves as primary care provider for patients who have difficulties to access the local health care system (e.g. due to language or socio-economic reasons), especially for patients with a migration background. At the ED, we conduct pro- and retrospective studies about health literacy, disease profiles/health problems and patient characteristics of patients with migration background, such as patient consultations of asylum seekers in comparison with Swiss Nationals. Additionally, we are investigating reasons for consultations and barriers in access to healthcare among others.

Direct link to our research group

The aim of this project was to assess the impacts of living in a refugee camp and of the Covid-19 pandemic on refugee´s health status and to explore and identify current physical and mental health problems and barriers to adequate healthcare for refugees in camps in Greece in general and during the Covid-19 pandemic. We conducted three different studies: an assessment of medical consultations in two different refugee camps in Lesbos, a survey among refugees and semi-structured interviews with local authorities, healthcare providers and refugees. Results were discussed with refugee representatives and local governmental and non-governmental organisations representatives and an action plan was established. The project was implemented in close collaboration with MSc “Global Health – Disaster Medicine” School of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA). refugee migration health camp-1 refugee migration health camp-2

We conducted an observational survey over the period of 8 months with 3 measurement points over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic with refugee aid workers, which assessed the impact of their work and of the pandemic on their mental health. Furthermore, we created a brief awareness and training program, in the form of an online mental health workshop week in December 2020 together with WHO Greece and the University of Athens. The program aimed to promote mental health and to support individuals, specifically frontline refugee aid workers. In addition, in collaboration with the TPH and the Universities of Athens and Zurich, we are planning an intervention to support and strengthen the mental health of refugee aid workers, and this will be implemented from 01/2022 until 06/2023.

refugee migrant health research2

refugee migrant health research3

Under the leadership of Professor Exadaktylos, a special edition of the “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health“ was published on the topic “Health of Refugees and Migrants“. There were 37 publications from all over Europe included in this special edition. The ECDC studies are particularly worth mentioning, as they were published as a European guideline. This open access and peer reviewed journal has an impact factor of 3.390.

migration refugee health research1

Research Cooperations

MSc programme “Global Health – Disaster Medicine”, Faculty of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece 

Trauma and Global Mental Health Lab, the New School for Social Research, New York, USA

IOM’s Research Partners Panel

Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute Basel

Third party funding

Our research and training projects are supported by

03/2022 – 12/2023 Grant from the „Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft“ (FAG) Basel

01/2022 – 06/2023 Grant from the R-Geigy Foundation

08/2022 – 09/2022 Grant from the Burgergemeinde Bern

05/2021 – 09/2022 Grant from the continuing education fund, University of Bern

09/2020 – 03/2021 Grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

09/2020 – 03/2021 Grant from the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (SEM)

List of publications

LECTURES at conferences

Regular lectures at national and international conferences

08/11/2023 16th European Public Health Conference – theme 2023: Our Food, Our Health, Our Earth: A Sustainable Future for Humanity, Pre-conference: Inclusion of refugee and migrant groups to address key health challenges for a sustainable future in Dublin, Ireland: Refugee aid work: impact on mental health & options for strengthening mental wellbeing

26/10/2023  36th IUSTI Europe Congress – theme 2023: Reaching out to the hard to reach, in Valletta, Malta: Caring For Refugees & Migrants: Implications For Volunteer & Professional Aid Workers

12/09/2023  Swiss Public Health Conference – theme 2023: Public Health and primary care: stronger together, in Lausanne, Switzerland: Provision of primary care to migrants and refugees: different models – lessons learned

11/11/2021 Round table: Strengthening refugee aid workers resilience during the pandemic and beyond – 14th European Public Health Conference 2021 “Public health futures in a changing world”, virtual event, 10 – 12 November 2021

12/12/2020 Why is it important to support mental health of refugee aid workers: Introduction and preliminary results of the Refugee Aid Worker Study. – Mental Health Week: Empower refugee aid workers in Greek Camps: How to advance their knowledge and skills and strengthen their psychosocial resilience, virtual event, 07 – 13 December 2020

15/10/2020 Round table discussion: Refugee Mental Health: Building Clinical and Research Capacity through Innovative Partnerships – 16th World Congress on Public Health 2020 “Public health for the future of humanity: analysis, advocacy and action”, online event, 12 – 16 October 2020

15/10/2019 Research, Standard Operating Procedures and Policy in Refugee Health – Conference on Equity in Healthcare, Bern, Switzerland

Thank you for your interest. You can find all of the selection criteria and pricing info here.


Migration & Refugee