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Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health

Together for more healthy years
Research Resilience


Originally the word resilience was used to describe the capacity of a material or system to return to equilibrium after displacement (Norris et al., 2008). Nowadays resilience is generally considered the ability of individuals, communities, organisations or governance structures (such as local governments and health aid organisations) to adapt to aversive events and return to their pre-event equilibrium.

Within the theme Resilience we focus on public health and distinguish the following levels of resilience which are also covered within public health research across various faculties at the University of Groningen:

  • Individual level resilience deals with concerns such as how individuals deal with traumatic life events (like the loss of a child). It also centres around ways of boosting or maintaining somatic and mental health and resilience across the lifespan.
  • Community level resilience: the ability of communities/social networks to adapt to aversive circumstances such as disasters (think of the earthquakes in Groningen and floods) or living in poor neighbourhoods.
  • Organisational level resilience: how organisations adapt to external challenges (like a financial crisis) and respond to changing markets and internal challenges such as financial setback and high levels of sick leave.
  • Resilience at the level of governance: the ability of governance structures to respond to societal challenges that often require interdisciplinary or coordinated approaches to aid individuals, communities and organisations. For example: the reorganisation of youth care, disaster response and communication about and responding to climate change.

Taking into account these levels, the following questions can be addressed within the Resilience theme of the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health:

  • What is resilience? How can resilience best be measured at the levels outlined above?
  • What makes some individuals, communities, organisations and governance structures more resilient than others?
  • What are potential ways of increasing resilience?

Obviously, these questions can be built on and expanded. The aim of this theme is to bring together researchers from different disciplines and departments who have an interest in resilience. We want to instigate interdepartmental collaboration in which new research ideas can be developed. In addition, the theme should provide a knowledge platform for those interested in resilience. At a practical level, theme members can organise activities in relation to the theme Resilience, such as expert meetings and teaching.

Click here for a video with Resilience coordinator Katherine Stroebe.

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