Activities Report 2020
Public Health Rotterdam


ALEX BURDORF | Head of department

Apart together, science from home

The year 2020 was a defining year I will remember for ever. The unprecedented outbreak in modern times of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has severely disrupted societies and personal lives. Public health as population health science received more attention than ever before with its focus on the social and environmental origins of disease. The societal response, however, illustrated how difficult it is to apply the principles of public health: collective action is required in the total population to prevent that some individuals will become ill or even die. It is the art of seeking the right balance between mitigation measures with profound economic and social consequences and individuals’ right to control their life and destiny.

The pandemic has also severely disrupted working in a scientific department. We have hired new staff, that I have only met through a video call. Working from home has increased flexibility and reduced travel time, but this may be offset by strenuous working conditions. Prolonged work hours at the kitchen table is not particularly good for your musculoskeletal system. Teaching children at home has increased odd working hours, and stress to get enough done. Working at home alone has increased loneliness. Online meetings and teaching have created technostress: which screen to share; where is the chat in this programme; why does the camera not work? I experienced also some unexpected advantages, such as the ability to multitask during meetings and the ability as organizer to better manage panel discussions. My main concern is the long-term consequence for mental health of our personnel. Working from home has tested the resilience of us all. Science is team work. I cannot wait for the day that the department is busy again.


Alex Burdorf | Public Health Rotterdam

Alex Burdorf