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Jes Bak Sørensen

Jes Bak Sørensen brings research to life

With a PhD in exercise physiology and a job at a municipal department of health, Jes Bak Sørensen bridges scientific research and public policy.

By Camilla Victoria Marcinkowski, journalist, MSA


If health research doesn’t have an effect on patients, there’s no point in doing it.


This is one of the reasons Jes Bak Sørensen, who holds a PhD in exercise physiology, works as a consultant at the department of health in the Municipality of Aarhus.


“My job is to help transfer the knowledge produced at universities to the public health sector, which I believe is extremely important. To me, this is more interesting than to produce knowledge in and of itself,” says Jes Bak Sørensen.


His manager, Otto Ohrt, who is the director of a development unit at the department of health, says municipalities increasingly need employees who can bridge the gap between academia and public health care.   


“Health policies should rest on evidence-based knowledge of what actually works. This can only be achieved if we as an authority have the capacity to work closely with researchers. And for that, we need people like Jes,” says Otto Ohrt.


Municipalities and universities cooperate

Danish municipalities increasingly need to develop and implement policies and services in health promotion, prevention and rehabilitation.


“In order to meet the current and future demands, municipalities need to gather knowledge in a host of health-related areas. With my background, I understand the challenges from a research as well as a political perspective,” says Jes Bak Sørensen.


Speaking the scientific language

Being able to speak the scientific language, Jes Bak Sørensen is an important link to partners such as from the Faculty of Health at the University of Aarhus.  


“I definitely seen the advantage of being able to translate scientific terms and methodologies to my colleagues – and vice versa,” says Jes Bak Sørensen.


He knows how researchers are weary of how their work is used for specific policy purposes.


“But when I explain how we strive to build policies that are backed by scientific data in order to best help our citizens, they relax. Perhaps because they feel I am one of them,” he says.


Aarhus pays for research on screening

Jes Bak Sørensen currently works on a research project with the University of Aarhus aimed at investigating the potential effects of early screening of people at risk of developing chronic disease. The project involves 10-15.000 citizens and is financed in large part by the municipality.


“When we pay for research projects like this, it is important that we are able to transfer the results to the actual health-care services, we offer citizens of Aarhus,” he says.


Doesn’t flash his PhD

Jes Bak Sørensen doesn’t typically use his PhD title. His business card and email signature read ‘health consultant’ - a strategic decision he made.


“I work with people, who don’t speak the academic language and are a bit suspicious of people who do. Not flashing my PhD makes it more likely that they’ll share things with me openly,” he says.   


CV: Jes Bak Sørensen, b. 1973

  • 2013- : Researcher at the CFK Public Health and Quality Improvement
  • 2011- : External Lecturer at the Department of Public Health at AU
  • 2007- : Health consultant at the Municipality of Aarhus
  • 2004-8: PhD in Exercise Physiology at the University of Southern Denmark
  • 2002-2004: High school teacher at Marselisborg Gymnasium, Aarhus
  • 2002-2004: Research assistant and teaching assistant at AU and SDU
  • 2001-2002: Sports Director with Team Denmark and the Danish Billiards Federation
  • 1994-2000: Cand. Scient. in exercise physiology at the University of Southern Denmark