Scientific Research Institutes > University Institutes > Ecomedicine

Institute of Ecomedicine

Head: Univ.-Doz. Dr. Arnulf Hartl

The Institute of Ecomedicine studies the effect of natural health resources, built environments and virtual reality scenarios on human immunology, physiology and psychology.

One of the Institute’s key activities is the independent conduct of clinical studies and basic research on the efficacy of natural health resources in the prevention and curing chronic diseases and civilization diseases; with a focus on green exercise in the Alpine countryside, climatotherapy, balneotherapy and aerosol therapy. The Institute of Ecomedicine thus addresses the unique positioning of Salzburg in terms of the regional economy and tourism within the Alpine Region. The Institute has an extensive range of methods, which provide a basis for scientifically sound statements, and thus medical evidence, regarding the mechanisms of regional health resources.

Why ecomedicine?

From a public health perspective, the migration from the rural to the urban area is one of humanity’s greatest environment changes and it is leading to increasing alienation from the natural environment in which humans evolved over millennia.

Not only is a higher risk of civilization diseases such as obesity, skeleto-muscular and cardiovascular diseases associated the nature loss, but so is a significantly greater prevalence of mental diseases such as depression and anxiety disorders. A high degree of urbanization is also associated with higher rates of asthma and allergies. People living in densely populated urban areas also have significantly lower levels of well-being, general satisfaction with life and happiness. At the same time, it could be shown that a stay in the countryside, particularly in combination with green exercise, has both preventive and therapeutic effects on diseases associated with urbanity.

What does ecomedicine do?

Ecomedicine generates understanding and knowledge of the impacts of both green & blue space and green & white exercise on humans. To this end, ecomedicine researches the physiological and psychological impacts of natural and built environments on humans. Virtual and augmented reality methods are also used for this purpose.

With evidence-based medicine and clinical studies, we develop nature-based preventive and therapeutic techniques and we study the efficacy thereof on relevant civilization diseases. In addition to the immunological, medical and psychological findings, we also develop public health strategies in the health promotion and prevention areas. Ecomedicine is also dedicated to the re-evaluation and re-interpretation of traditional nature-based therapy forms (e.g., balneotherapy, speleotherapy, climatotherapy, terrain therapy) on the basis of modern molecular and medical methods.

How does ecomedicine do research?

The Institute of Ecomedicine has a molecular medical wet lab for analyzing blood and saliva parameters, a virtual reality physiology eye tracking lab for the space- and time-resolved characterization of virtual and real environmental stimuli, and also a well-equipped mobile medical laboratory for use in field studies.

Here is a brief overview of the “method fleet” of the Institute:  

  • Measurement of environmental parameters such as radioactivity, particulate matter, aerosols, air ions and allergens.
  • Measurement of hormones such as cortisone or oxytocin from saliva or blood obtained in a painless manner
  • Analysis of blood parameters of inflammation, bone immunology, metabolism, etc. Psychological measurement of stress, work ability, health-related life quality, relationship quality and sleep quality using sophisticated online tools and apps of our own design (intercultural Quality of Life Comic iQOLC)
  • Medical and orthopedic measurements and analytical methods such as bioimpedance analysis, Medimouse/back health, static and dynamic balance, cardiorespiratory fitness, dermatological parameters, etc.
  • Genetic analysis of a human gene for specific stimuli, analysis of the cellular components of blood with a view of strengthening the immune system or potential “rejuvenation”.
  • Pulmonary function analyses and analyses of the functionality of the upper respiratory passages; ranging from respiratory gas analyses to rhinomanometry and breath condensate analyses
  • (Neuro)physiological measurement methods such as EKG, EEG, SC, EMG, breathing rate, spirometry
  • State-of-the-art statistical analyses

Evidence-based Health Tourism

With its natural landscape conditions and regional medicinal resources, the Alpine Region has enormous potential for nature-based health tourism. The Institute of Ecomedicine is producing medical evidence for these Alpine resources and is supporting regions and businesses in everything from science-driven product development to target group-specific marketing techniques.

The Institute is thus assuming a key role within the Alpine health region of Salzburg Province. As a leader in cross-border EU projects (EU Interreg BY-AT Trail for Health Nord; EU Interreg IT-AT WINHEALTH) and transnational EU projects (EU Alpine Space HEALPS II), the Institute is also working on positioning evidence-based health tourism as a strategic development field in the macroregional strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP).

 

 

Cooperations with Businesses

The Institute of Ecomedicine runs an interdisciplinary research laboratory and interinstitutional core facility for medical-scientific development and validation of the effects of products and services on human health and well-being. This lab focuses on research and development in two application fields:

Evidence-based design: Healthy construction and living by VR prototyping of built environments People spend a large portion of their lives in built environments. Built environments have massive impacts on the life quality and productivity of their users. The influence of architecture and spatial concepts is measurable with the aid of physiological and psychological parameters. Health-relevant factors of built environments can be evaluated scientifically in a virtual simulation. On the basis of these results, structures can then be optimized accordingly in the planning process. Virtual Reality Exergames: Medically validated gamification of natural environments “Green Virtual Reality” The Institute of Ecomedicine develops and validates indication-specific exergames based on health-promoting natural environments. The focus is on pulmonary diseases such as asthma and COPD, which put heavy psychological strain on the persons inflicted. Professional breathing exercises can be learned and practiced in an ecomedicine virtual reality respiratory physiotherapy exergame. The psycho-acoustic effect of the Krimml Waterfalls is used in the VR so that patients whose disease prevents them from actually going to the waterfalls can benefit from it.

Examples of current projects

Gesundheitstourismus Wald AB291 Network: Establishment of a cooperative network for the development of sustainable business models for the use of Austrian and Bavarian forests for health tourism. Funded by the European Fund for Regional Development.

In the scope of this cross-borders pilot project, the project partners European Campus Rottal-Inn (ECRI), FH Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences (FH OÖ), Austrian Research Center for Forests (BFW) and Paracelsus Medical University (PMU), in collaboration with the project participants Bavarian State Institute of Forestry (LWF), Office of Nutrition, Agriculture and Forestry (AELF), Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism (BMNT), Upper Austria Tourism (OÖT) and Tourism Association of Eastern Bavaria (TVO) as well as the five pilot regions Bad Birnbach, Braunau-Simbach, Traunsee-Almtal, Tennengau and Neureichenau/Bayer. Wald, want to study the current “forest-tourism-health” thematic complex and then jointly develop the foundations of a sustainable health tourism use of local forests and the natural landscape resources associated therewith. On the basis of a detailed resource & potential analysis of the pilot regions, sound cooperation and business models will be developed for the sustainable health tourism use of local forest and natural environments in the respective pilot regions (e.g., forest-based preventive measures). With the analysis of current (educational) offerings and education needs for so-called “forest therapists” (who play a key role as facilitators and intermediaries in such destinations) taken into account, transferable sustainable implementation strategies will be developed (in the form of a guide) for health forests. In addition to the specific development of sustainable implementation strategies, the collaborative project implementation will in particular result in the establishment of a long-term, cross-borders cooperative partnership on various levels (science, tourism, forestry, medicine) and the simultaneous development of a region-specific “forest, tourism & health” strength & research area, which shall form the foundation for further thematic networking as well as for important successor projects.

 

 

HEALPS 2 Healing Alps ASP815

HEALPS2 started in October 2019 and will run until June 2022. It is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg Alpine Space programme. (Total budget: 2.335.952,65 € - ERDF grant: 1.844.459,75 €)

Tourism based on natural health resources as strategic innovation for the development of alpine regions Tourism is a major engine for job creation and a driving force for economic growth and development in the Alpine program area. Global trends like aspiration towards nature-based experiences and health hold considerable opportunities for Alpine tourism innovation. To fully benefit from this potential, access to innovation knowledge has to be improved and implementation tools have to be developed for policy-makers, Alpine regions and SMEs. Building on the ARPAF project HEALPS, the project aims at the improvement of framework conditions for innovative utilization of Alpine natural health resources through the development of tourism products and service chains. Lessons learned from innovative, but fragmented approaches to the valorization of these resources will be elevated to a transnational level. Combined with latest research results and supported by digital solutions, they will be tested in pilot regions and translated into applicable tools for Alpine regional development. The quadruple helix stakeholder engagement fosters cross fertilisation of tourism & health and mutual learning on a transnational level. The resulting mutual knowledge facilitates framework conditions for value generation based on location-bound Alpine assets. Recommendations for different policy levels as well as guidelines & implementation toolkits for product and service chain development reflect the purpose of a broad implementation of hands-on knowledge for the stimulation of SME- and destination driven innovation. Transnational & transversal knowledge transfer from academia to regions and SMEs is further supported by two international conferences on Alpine health tourism. Digital visualization of health benefits of Alpine health resources will further contribute to the positioning of the Alpine space as a globally attractive health promoting place. Total project budget: 2.5 million euros.

>> Further information

>> Project poster

ANKER Study: Postponed to 2021

Due to the current circumstances the Institute of Ecomedicine of the Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg is conducting this clinical study in the Community of Algund in South Tyrol in 2021.

Heilkraft der Alpen conference Bad Hofgastein: Postponed to 2021

Further information on the conference will be provided in autumn.

EU Interreg Italy-Austria Project "WinHealth" ITAT2015: Sustainable valorization of health tourism potentials in Alpine winter tourism Sponsored by the European Fund for Regional Development and Interreg V-A Italy-Austria 2014-2020.

In the WinHealth Project, the health-promoting potentials of the Alpine natural and cultural area will be sustainably valorized by evidence-based health tourism offerings in the winter. The Institute of Ecomedicine will assume the role of lead partner in the cross-borders project working group consisting of 13 project partners from Salzburg, Tyrol, South Tyrol and Friuli Venezia Giulia. Results: Medical-scientific assessment of Alpine resources and sports offerings in the winter and diversification of the winter tourism offering through new products and target groups.

EU Interreg Bavaria-Austria “Trail for Health Nord” AB40: Development of health tourism skills for regions and businesses.” Sponsored by the European Fund for Regional Development and Interreg V-A Italy-Bavaria 2014-2020.

In a cross-borders cooperation network consisting of research centers, transfer organizations and tourist regions, health tourism products are being developed on the basis of natural and cultural-traditional health resources, with a clear focus on medical evidence and the senior citizens target group. The Institute for Ecomedicine is assuming the lead partnership role and conducting a 4-arm randomized, controlled clinical study, which forms the basis for health tourism product development. Results: www.jungbrunnen-berg.com

Team and contact

Univ.-Doz. Dr. Arnulf Hartl
Institute of Ecomedicine
Head

Phone: +43 662 2420 80530
Mobile: +43 699 144 200 22
Mail: arnulf.hartl@pmu.ac.at
Publications
Johanna Freidl, PhD
Institute of Ecomedicine
Sensior Researcher

Phone: +43 662 2420-80531
Mobile: +43 699 14420011
Mail: johanna.freidl@pmu.ac.at
Publications
Christina Pichler, BA
Institute of Ecomedicine
EU-Project Management
Researcher Associate


Phone: +43 662 2420-80531
Mobile: +43 699 14420085
Mail: christina.pichler@pmu.ac.at
Publications
Mag. Renate Weisböck-Erdheim, MBA, MIB
Institute of Ecomedicine
Project Management and Coordination

Phone: +43 662 2420-80530
Mobile: +43 699 14420099
Mail: renate.erdheim@pmu.ac.at
Publications
Nathalie Gerner, MSc
Institute of Ecomedicine
Research Associate VR-Physiology Lab

Phone: +43 662 2420-80531
Mobile: +43 699 14420015
Mail: nathalie.gerner@pmu.ac.at
Dr. Michael Bischof
Institute of Ecomedicine
Senior Researcher
Health Tourism and Sustainability


Phone: +43 662 2420-80534
Mobile: +43 699 14420068
Mail: michael.bischof@pmu.ac.at
Publications
Markus Brandt, MA
Institute of Ecomedicine
Research Associate VR-Physiology Lab

Phone: +43 662 2420-80534
Mail: markus.brandt@pmu.ac.at
Mag. Michaela Mayr
Institute of Ecomedicine
Researcher VR-Physiology Lab
Ph.D. student


Phone: +43 662 2420-80534
Mail: michaela.mayr@pmu.ac.at
Publications
Daniela Huber, Ph.D., MA, MSc, BSc
Institute of Ecomedicine
Researche Associate VR-Physiology Lab

Phone: +43 662 2420-80534
Mail: daniela.huber@pmu.ac.at
Publications
Ing. Marcel Neberich, MA
Institute of Ecomedicine
Ph.D. student
VR-Physiology Lab
Technische Hochschule Nürnberg Georg Simon Ohm


Mail: marcel.neberich@stud.pmu.ac.at
Dr. med. univ. Viktoria Fenz
Institute of Ecomedicine
Ph.D. student

Mail: viktoria.fenz@stud.pmu.ac.at
Isabella Gitschthaler, MScN, BScN
Institute of Ecomedicine
Ph.D. student
Barmherzige Brüder St. Veit/Glan, Onkologie


Mail: i.gitschthaler@stud.pmu.ac.at
Mag. Lisa-Maria Pilotto, MSc
Institute of Ecomedicine
Ph.D. student (currently on maternity leave)

Mail: lisa.pilotto@pmu.ac.at