• Digital Spatial Epidemiology:

    Leveraging geo-referenced social media in the context of urban health

    15th International Summer School: September 11-15 2023

    University of Zurich, Switzerland

    - registration is closed -

  • Venue

    University of Zurich

    Irchel Campus

    Zurich, Switzerland


  • Course Description


    The course is designed for researchers, public health professionals, epidemiologists, geographers, and clinicians familiar with solid knowledge of epidemiologic principles, and multivariable modeling.



    The course addresses spatial epidemiological approaches to social media data. We concentrate on state-of-the-art multivariable statistical and spatial statistical modeling to health outcomes as identified in geo-referenced Twitter data and associations with socio-ecological factors of urban contexts.


    We combine theoretical and lab work on statistical analysis and spatial-epidemiological modeling techniques in a vibrant international and interdisciplinary setting.


    The international summer school Digital Spatial Epidemiology attracting participants due to its interdisciplinary character. Combining the scientific approaches of the discipline of geography with its genuine focus on space with those of epidemiology, biostatistics, and the public health sciences makes it possible and fruitful for the participants to deal with the spatial dimensions of health. The summer school faculty has long-lasting cooperation demonstrated by joint publications in the field of urban and megacity health, geo-spatial, and social media analysis.


    Learning objectives

    After completing the course, you will be able to:


    Describe the relevance, potential, and challenges of spatial and digital epidemiological approaches to advance urban health research.


    Review concepts of geospatial data analysis and visualization.


    Apply robust spatial and digital epidemiological approaches towards addressing important urban health challenges:

    Analyse mental health outcomes as identified in social media

    Employ geo-processing (e.g., integrating geo-spatial social media information)

    Perform exploratory spatial data analysis (e.g., geo visualization and mapping)


    Apply spatial statistics (e.g., hotspot analysis, spatial regression)


    Develop a project with potential for real-world urban health impact using geospatial big data methods


    Extend your multidisciplinary network and work more effectively in collaboration with other disciplines for investigating multidisciplinary health problems.



    Basic Knowledge in epidemiology

    Familiarity with R statistical software (for example, see http://www.r-tutorial.nl/, and a new book on geo computation with R by Robin Lovelace, Jakub Nowosad, Jannes Muenchow: https://geocompr.robinlovelace.net/)


    Please bring your own laptop with statistical software R installed

    Please install the most recent version of R (https://cran.r-project.org/bin/windows/base/) and the most recent version of RStudio (https://www.rstudio.com/products/rstudio/download/, choose the free open source license). If you already have an older version installed please ensure to update it since there might be problems if an old version of R is used together with a new version of Rstudio and vice versa.


    Course language


    Course Fees

    Students and scientists from participating Universities and SSPH+: CHF 150.–

    External early career scientists*: CHF 450.–

    (*Master and PhD students, early PostDocs of up to three years after their PhD)

    External senior scientists: CHF 1200.–

    All others: CHF 1800.–


    3 ECTS



    Read scientific manuscripts (we will send this one week before or earlier)

    Work on a given group task in R together with other team members

    Present the findings of your group task as a team on the last course day



  • Course Instructors

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    Suzanne Elayan, PhD

    Research associate

    Loughborough University, UK

    Suzanne Elayan's work revolves around computational social media research and sentiment analysis within their various applications. Her expertise lies in utilising a mixed-methods approach to design and develop semantic models that are used to detect and measure emotional affects mostly in unstructured social media data. Suzanne teaches subjects related to social media analytics, cultural analytics, and information architecture and supervises PhD students who study social media discourse. Suzanne is a co-developer of the EMOTIVE advanced sentiment analysis system.

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    Dr. Marta Fadda

    Postdoctoral research fellow University of Lugano, Switzerland

    Marta Fadda holds a PhD in Health Communication from the Institute of Communication and Health of the University of Lugano and was previously a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Health Ethics and Policy Lab at ETH Zurich, where her research focused on the ethical, legal and social implications of genomic data sharing, participant-initiated research and international data sharing policies for personalised medicine.

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    Dr. Florian Fischer


    Bavarian Research Center for Digital Health and Social Care, Germany

    Florian Fischer is an expert in issues related to public health, health communication and digitalisation. For example, he is the editor of a book on eHealth. Originally he was trained as a paramedic. Afterwards, he studied consecutively in a bachelor, master and doctoral programme in public health at Bielefeld University.

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    Dr. Oliver Gruebner



    Senior researcher University of Zurich, Switzerland

    Oliver Gruebner leads the health geography group at UZH Geographic Information Visualization and Analysis GIVA. His research focuses on digital + spatial epidemiological approaches to health outcomes particularly in urban contexts.

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    MMH Khan, PhD


    East West University, Dhaka, Bangladesh

    Md. Mobarak Hossain Khan is Chairperson of the Department of Social Relations at East West University (EWU), Bangladesh. Before joining at EWU on January 2018, he occupied several faculty and research positions in Bangladesh, Germany, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. His total number of publication is around 130 including an edited book on urban health. He finished his habilitation (Bielefeld University, Germany, 2017), PhD (Sapporo Medical University, Japan, 2007), MSc (Heidelberg University, Germany, 2000), MSc and BSc (Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh, 1992, 1991) either in Statistics or Public Health and Epidemiology.

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    Alexander Krämer, PhD, MD


    University of Bielefeld, Germany

    Alexander Krämer is an expert in the field of Public Health and one of the founders of the first independent School of Public Health in Germany (Bielefeld University). Krämer is active in several research fields of global public health like urban health, refugee health, health and climate change and infectious disease epidemiology. As a senior professor he is the director of the Graduate Research Programme FlüGe together with 12 other PIs, the consortium coordinator and 13 doctoral students at the University of Bielefeld, Germany addressing refugee health from an inter- and transdisciplinary perspective. Krämer is author and editor of books on infectious disease epidemiology, urban health, climate change health effects, ehealth and health at the university setting. He is author and coauthor of more than 300 publications in international peer-reviewed scientific journals.

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    Dr. Tobia Lakes


    IRI THESys, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

    Tobia Lakes applies spatio-temporal analyses and modeling techniques to study urban health and land use change effects on health and the environment. The set of methods that Tobia and her team use, comprises spatial statistics, spatial modeling, machine learning, scenario-analyses and the triangulation of different techniques. By combining different datasets, such as remote-sensing data and surveys, she aims for exploring the highest potential of data to address a specific research question. She has supervised several PhD projects and has published various papers in international journals.

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    Dr. Sven Lautenbach

    Senior researcher University of Heidelberg, Germany

    Sven Lautenbach got his PhD in applied system science from the University of Osnabrück. He worked as a postdoc researcher at the department for Computational Landscape Ecology at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig, Germany, as an acting assistant professor for geomatics at the Department of Geography at the Humboldt University zu Berlin, Germany, adjunct faculty at the George Mason University, Fairfax, USA and as an assistant professor for land use modeling and ecosystem services at the University of Bonn, Germany. His research focuses on spatial data analysis in the domains of environmental management, land use science and public health.

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    Martin Sykora, PhD

    Assistant Professor

    Loughborough University, UK

    Martin Sykora has an extensive track record in computational social media research and sentiment analysis. Martin's focus is on investigating the role of social media in the communication of emotion and affect, and how it shapes human behaviours, including its’ impact on public health, as well as political discourse and civic culture. In his work, Martin leverages big data analytics including machine learning, natural language processing and semantic modelling in novel ways. Among a number of high profile research projects, Martin has also co-developed the EMOTIVE advanced sentiment analysis system.

  • Program


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