Holger Pfaff

Prof. Dr. Holger Pfaff


Holger Pfaff studied social and administrative sciences at the Universities of Erlangen-Nuremberg and Constance and attended the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, USA) during a study visit. He then worked as a research associate at the University of Oldenburg and subsequently as a research fellow at TU Berlin. In 1995, he achieved habilitation in sociology. He then became a visiting professor at TU Berlin in the area of technical and industrial sociology. Since 1997, he has held the Medical Sociology professorship at the University of Cologne. Since 2002, Prof. Pfaff has been the spokesperson for the Center for Health Services Research Cologne (ZVFK). He was chairman of the German Society of Medical Sociology (DGMS) from 2002 to 2010 and spokesperson of the Clearing House Health Services Research North Rhine-Westphalia from 2004 to 2009. He has been chairman of the German Network Health Services Research (DNVF) e.V. since 2006 and director of the Institute of Medical Sociology, Health Services Research, and Rehabilitation Science (IMVR) of the University of Cologne since 2009. This “bridge institute” is a joint institution of the Faculties of Human Sciences and Medicine. Since 2009, he has held the professorship Quality Development and Evaluation in Rehabilitation, which is responsible for the teaching fields Medical Sociology (Faculty of Medicine) and Quality Development in Rehabilitation (Faculty of Human Sciences).

Prof. Pfaff’s research focuses on three interconnected areas: health services research, social epidemiology (sociology of health), and healthcare system design. Health services research centers on the analysis of the health services and healthcare system. The effectiveness of this system is measured by how well it contributes to healing, prolongs life, and/or improves the quality of life; therefore, it is important to determine to what degree the healthcare and health services system (health services structures and processes, health organizations) can contribute to these outcomes. These topics are relevant to social epidemiology and health services epidemiology and are therefore also an important part of the sociology of health. The third area of focus concerns the practical implementation of insights from health services research and social epidemiology. It centers on how interventions in healthcare organizations and healthcare networks (e.g., integrated health services) must be planned and designed to achieve a change in behavior of the stakeholders (e.g., physicians and patients) and an improvement in system outcomes (life expectancy, quality of life, patient satisfaction).

Focus area I: Health services research

  • Theoretical and methodological foundations of health services research
  • Sociology of the health services and healthcare system (organizational sociological and medical sociological foundations of health services research)
  • Physician-patient interaction: dimensions, causes, consequences
  • Health services structures and processes: design, determinants, impacts
  • Healthcare organizations: characteristics and effects on health
  • Behavior in the healthcare system: phenomena, determinants, consequences

Focus area II: Social and health services epidemiology

  • Sociological foundations of epidemiology (sociology of health)
  • Health services epidemiology (effects of health services structures and processes, organizational structures, and health technologies on health)
  • Work and health (effects of work life on health)

Focus area III: Social system design and interventions

  • Theoretical and methodological foundations of system design and intervention
  • Health services and health system design
  • Workplace health management, workplace health promotion and prevention
  • Influencing the behavior of patients, staff, and stakeholders in the healthcare system