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PhD candidate: Social determinants of inequalities in health

Within the Erasmus Initiative “Smarter Choices for Better Health”
  • Research & Education
  • 36 hours
  • Public Health

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

Job description

Do you get excited about quantitative research with a strong societal focus? Would you like to contribute to reducing health inequalities? And do you like to cooperate with policymakers and health care professionals in setting up and evaluating high impact interventions? Then we are looking for you as our new PhD candidate at the Department of Public Health, within the Equity Line of the Erasmus Initiative “Smarter Choices for Better Health”.

Socioeconomic inequalities in health are large and persistent. In the Netherlands, the difference in life expectancy between the lowest and the highest educated is around 4.5 years, while the difference in (self-perceived) healthy life expectancy amounts to 13.5 years. Policies and interventions often focus on the health behavior of high-risk groups to reduce these inequalities. However, health behavior is just one of the many factors contributing to them. Where people are born, grow up, live, work and age, their access to financial and health resources, and the income protection against shocks (falling ill, employment loss) all contribute to inequalities in health. Often, these so-called social determinants of health interact with health behaviors and affect abilities to participate and benefit from health interventions in both preventive and curative care. It is likely that the inability of many interventions to reach a substantial part of the population is due to the fact that this broader social context is insufficiently take into account.

As PhD candidate you will contribute to unravelling the impact of different social determinants on inequalities in health. In particular you will focus on how these determinants impact inequalities in reach, uptake, adherence and effectiveness of interventions in curative care and prevention. You will combine the use of novel administrative data sources, which provide population wide information on a much wider range of societal determinants than previously possible, with econometric techniques, which allow the identification of causal effects through interventions and policy changes. You will collaborate with various stakeholders (e.g., clinical departments, policymakers, municipal health services) to identify most promising interventions and policies, introduced in social policy or in a clinical setting, targeting social determinants of health. This may include interventions to stimulate active transportation, treatment choice for trauma care, and the use and health effects of (cancer) screening programs.

The project is embedded within the “Smarter Choices for Better Health” initiative of Erasmus University and Erasmus Medical Center, and as such enables you to collaborate with a research team that includes a comprehensive mixture of relevant backgrounds, including public health, epidemiology, economics, sociology, and clinical practice. This project will allow you to gain experience with a broad range of quantitative research methods, scientific communication and a direct link to policy and practice.

Work environment

A healthy population and excellence in healthcare through research and education. That is what Erasmus MC stands for. Conducting groundbreaking work, pushing boundaries and leading the way. In research, education, and healthcare. We are practical people with a high level of expertise, working hard to improve and renew the healthcare of today and the public health of tomorrow.

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 characterized 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.

We are looking for a PhD candidate to join the interdisciplinary research initiative Smarter Choices For Better Health of Erasmus University Rotterdam and Erasmus MC. You will join the research line Health Equity: an active collaboration between the Department of Public Health (Erasmus MC), Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (EUR) and Erasmus School of Economics (EUR).

Qualifications and skills

We are looking for an ambitious and committed researcher with an analytical mind and strong quantitative skills, good communication skills, and a strong interest in inequality in health and health policy. The position is offered to someone with a university degree, preferably in Health Sciences, Epidemiology, Mathematics, Econometrics, Data Sciences or a related field.

We are especially interested in someone who has or wants to develop the following aspects:

  • An expert in Public Health Economics, with a focusing on the broader societal drivers of health inequalities. 
  • Quantitative research methods.
  • Scientific communication skills.
  • Multidisciplinary collaboration and result-oriented work.
  • Prior experience in either analyzing big datasets or setting up policy experiments is valued.
  • Prior experience with statistical software (such as R, Stata or SAS) is required.
  • Good command English language, in speech and writing, is required.

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 an 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

The position will be based at the Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC under the supervision of dr. Bram Wouterse, dr. Famke Mölenberg and prof. dr. Frank van Lenthe. For more information about this position, please contact dr. Bram Wouterse ( or dr. Famke Mölenberg (  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.

Find out more about Erasmus MC