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Professor of Health Innovation, at the School of Health and Welfare. Appointed in 2016.
Health promoting innovations supported by digital services have a great potential to improve the health of children and young people. In Jens Nygren’s research, the children participate in the entire innovation process – from problem formulation, development and design to evaluation and application.
“I think that children and young people are society’s most important citizens. We must utilise their knowledge and capabilities.”
Although Jens Nygren is Professor of Health Innovation, his research interest has not always been within this field. His academic career started at Lund University’s Faculty of Medicine, where he obtained a Master’s (60 credits) degree in Molecular Biology, and as a doctoral student he concentrated on blood-forming stem cells and what makes them change into cancer-forming cells.
The studies focused on children with cancer, and the research issue concerned how cancer-forming cells can elude treatment and lie dormant in children with the risk that several years later they cause the cancer to come back.
After gaining his PhD, Jens Nygren became more interested in children with cancer and their life situation. An interest in cells shifted to the children themselves and their health and quality of life during and after treatment.
“For ten years, I had been interested in basic medical research, which is often far removed from application. I missed researching in a more applied way, close to the target group. I wanted to see the benefits of research and pose research questions formulated around “why?” instead of being limited to questions of “what?” and “how?”.
“I wanted to see the benefit of research and ask why instead of what and how.”
Jens Nygren decided to change his scientific direction, from science to health sciences, and wrote an application for funding to the Swedish Research Council. His application was approved and he was granted funding for a five-year research fellowship and in 2009 became Senior Lecturer in Medical Science at Halmstad University.
Since then, Jens Nygren has conducted several research projects, all with an aim to cooperate with children and young people to develop innovations that promote the health of children.
“Children are important and must be given the chance to take part in the development of society. Adults who relate to children do so based on their own childhood experiences, but of course the only ones who know how it is to be young today are the children themselves. It’s very important that they are involved in the development of innovations.”
Jens Nygren emphasises it is important for him that the research is application-oriented and he strives to drive change and make a difference.
“Research projects should not end when the research issue has been resolved. They are to continue beyond the University, and if that’s going to work it’s crucial to develop implementation plans and business models during the research process.”
One example of how his research is used in practice is the Sisom app. The app helps children to be more involved in their own healthcare and is now used at Halland Hospital in Halmstad, Skåne University Hospital and Karolinska University Hospital.
“Sisom helps sick children in a healthcare context to express how they feel and how they experience different situations. Sisom can be described as an animated and interactive communication tool that allows children to make a virtual journey and answers any questions that arise. The success of Sisom has contributed to new projects and collaborations to develop digital aids for children’s participation in healthcare, school and care situations.”
Jens Nygren is Halmstad University’s first Professor of Health Innovation. He sees the appointment as recognition that his work is important.
“I think we have come a long way in developing research about children and young people at Halmstad University. We have considerable opportunities to establish a national position in the field. Such a position creates possibilities to increase our influence on what current research about children’s health should focus on, and to take part in the definition of future challenges and how they should be addressed.”
Text: HANNA CARMVALL
Jens Nygren was born in1976 in Torekov. His academic career started at Lund University’s Faculty of Medicine, where he obtained a Master’s (60 credits) degree in Molecular Biology. His degree project then led to a doctoral thesis on stem cell biology. In 2005, Jens Nygren gained a PhD with the thesis “Identification of Unique Hematopoietic Stem Cell Properties” and subsequently worked as a postdoc at Lund University. After a few years, his scientific interest and focus shifted from science to health sciences and Jens Nygren was appointed as Senior Lecturer in Medical Science at Halmstad University. In 2011, he became an Associate Professor and in 2016 Professor of Health Innovation at Halmstad University, the first within this subject area.