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PhD candidate: Integrating social practices in health-related interventions

  • Research & Education
  • 36 hours
  • Public Health

  • Closing date 06-12-2021
  • 47.07.21.TG

Job description

Is health-related behavior an individual choice, an outcome of socially constructed practices, or something in-between? How can we bridge perspectives in sociology, (health) psychology, behavioral economics and public health to better understand health behavior practices? And how do we use these transdisciplinary insights to inform sustainable behavioral interventions? If you get excited about these questions, we are looking for you: an ambitious PhD candidate to join our multidisciplinary project team.

Combining strengths across disciplines will allow us to better understand health-related behavior. For example, psychological theories of behavior, such as dual process theories, are often focused on individual-level characteristics. These theories are well suited to inform individually-tailored interventions, but often neglect the wider context in which behavior takes place, and lack sustained effects. This makes it unclear if and how such interventions can be scaled up to have a long-term impact at the population level. On the other hand, sociological theories, such as social practice theories, de-center the individual and look at behaviors from the perspective of the social practices being performed, the meanings they hold, and the contexts that shape them. From this viewpoint, a sustainable health behavior intervention would optimize the healthiness of various (combinations of) practices that people engage in, and thereby influence individual behavior in the long-term. However, the suitability of social practice theories to be used as the basis of health-related interventions is yet to be demonstrated. Our ambition is to integrate these different perspectives to develop more effective, sustainable and equitable health-related interventions.

This project aims to gain theory- and evidence-based insight into the design of impactful and sustainable behavioral interventions by taking an interdisciplinary perspective. Specifically, we will (1) integrate health psychology and behavioral economics frameworks of behavior with sociological theories, 2) empirically test how relevant needs and contexts affect (an individual’s likelihood to engage in) specific health-related practices, and 3) use evidence-based insights to (re-)design interventions that increase the healthiness of (an individual’s) behavioral practices.

The project will be conducted at the Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC under the supervision of dr. Joost Oude Groeniger, Lili Kókai, MSc., and prof. dr. Frank van Lenthe, in close collaboration with colleagues from EUR and various stakeholders (e.g., clinical departments, policymakers, municipal health services).

Erasmus initiative ‘Smarter Choices for Better Health’
The project is embedded within the interdisciplinary Erasmus initiative ‘Smarter Choices for Better Health’. You will join the action line Prevention: an active collaboration between the Department of Public Health (Erasmus MC), Erasmus School of Economics (EUR) and Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (EUR). The project team is diverse and includes experts with backgrounds in public health, sociology, health psychology and behavioral economics. The project takes a holistic approach, and utilizes a wide range of methodologies:

  • Sociological, psychological, economic, and public health theories to assess needs and contexts
  • Quantitative and qualitative studies to understand how people with different needs and contexts formulate possibly competing intentions
  • Surveys and observational field studies to identify the barriers between intentions and desired behavior • Laboratory and field experiments to test the effectiveness of interventions

Work environment

At the Department of Public Health, we are dedicated to improve population health at local, national, and international level through excellent research and education. Our research is characterised as highly multidisciplinary and is focused on the development and use of innovative methods. Collaboration with and direct impact on practice and policy are at the heart of our work.

Smarter Choices For Better Health is an interdisciplinary research initiative from Erasmus University Rotterdam and Erasmus MC Rotterdam. You will join the research line Prevention: an active collaboration between the Department of Public Health (Erasmus MC), Erasmus School of Economics (EUR) and Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (EUR).

Qualifications and skills

This project will allow you to gain experience in a broad range of research methods, to address a highly relevant societal challenge, and increase the well-being of many. We expect you to have and submit with your application package:

  • a (research) master’s degree in health sciences, sociology, psychology, economics, or a related field • a strong drive to conduct social-scientific research
  • experience with empirical studies and statistical software (Stata, R or SPSS) 
  • excellent communication and writing skills in English
  • strong motivation to contribute to the success of the project.

Depending on your qualifications and research interest the emphasis of your PhD can be on all parts or selected parts of the project mentioned above. We strongly encourage applicants to develop at least one research project themselves.

Before you apply please check our conditions for employment.

Terms of employment

  • You will receive a temporary position for 4 years. The gross monthly salary is € 2.495 ,- in the 1st year and increases to € 3.196,- in the 4th year (scale OIO).
  • Excellent fringe benefits, such as a 13th month that is already paid out in November and a individual travel expense package.
  • Pension insurance with ABP. We take care of approximately 2/3 of the monthly contribution.
  • Special benefits, such as a incompany physiotherapist and bicycle repairer. And there is also a gym where you can work on your fitness after work.

Information and application

For more information about this position, please contact Joost Oude Groeniger, senior researcher, phone number: +31(0)649111441 or e-mail:  For queries regarding your application, please contact Jerry Chandansingh, Recruiter, by phone number: +31 (0)6 500 310 06.

If you are excited by the thought of this position and would like to apply, please do so by using the application form on our website. Please submit your CV and a 1-page motivation letter explaining your interests in joining the project and a multi-disciplinary team. Please also provide the contact information of two references.

The final candidate will be selected on the basis of their CV, motivation letter, and interview(s) with the potential supervisor(s). The selection committee consists of supervisors from Erasmus MC and EUR. First round interviews are expected to take place between January 10 and January 14, 2022.

No agencies please.

Erasmus MC

Pioneering, pushing boundaries and leading: in healthcare, education and research

Erasmus MC is an international leading academic hospital in Rotterdam. We are recognized as a world-class scientific research organization aiming to improve our understanding of diseases and disorders and helps to predict, treat and prevent them. We have access to the latest equipment and techniques. A working environment that gets the best out of people.

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