Doctoral scholarship for research project 'Environmental inequalities and burden of disease in Belgium'

Function description

You will be responsible for the organization, implementation and reporting of the research project ‘Environmental inequalities and burden of disease in Belgium’. Your research results will contribute to the preparation and defence of a PhD in Public Health. The research project will be conducted in collaboration with Sciensano and the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Centre de Recherche Santé Environnementale et Santé au Travail), and is part of the BELSPO-funded ELLIS project – ‘Monitoring and Mitigating Environmental Health Inequalities’.

Environmental stressors can increase the risk of illness and premature mortality. Governments worldwide aim to mitigate the negative health effects of environmental exposures and secure environmental health benefits. As exposures are not equal among all segments of the population, it is important to understand and mitigate inequalities in environmental health. In Belgium, however, there is currently no systematic monitoring of environmental health inequalities, nor are there tailored tools to assess the impact of policy measures on the extent of, and inequalities in, environmental burden of disease.

The overall objective of ELLIS is to develop policy-relevant tools to monitor and mitigate environmental health inequalities in Belgium. More information about the project is available via

In the context of this project, the following PhD project will be funded:

Environmental inequalities and burden of disease in Belgium. People are simultaneously exposed to chemical substances, biological or physical agents, and other environmental stressors. Exposure to environmental pollution tends to cluster in given neighbourhoods with a significantly higher number of inhabitants with a lower socioeconomic position. In a first step, ELLIS will map exposure to environmental stressors at the level of statistical sector in Belgium (i.e. the smallest administrative unit in Belgium), and analyse the spatial variability of environmental stressors in order to identify co-occurrence of specific environmental burdens and detect hotspots of environmental inequalities. In a next step, environmental exposure and health outcomes will be integrated into estimates of environmental burden of disease (EBD). By integrating these EBD estimates with the Index of Multiple Deprivation that will be developed in the other PhD project of ELLIS, it will furthermore become possible to quantify environmental health inequalities, i.e., socioeconomic inequalities in EBD. In a final step, the potential impact of various environmental and/or health policies will be determined. By modelling changes in environmental exposures, the ELLIS tool will allow propagating the consequent impact on environmental inequalities, environmental health, and environmental health inequalities. International literature will be used to model the potential change in environmental exposure associated with a certain policy measure.

The place of employment will be both Sciensano (satellite location Eurostation, near Brussels-South station) and Université Libre de Bruxelles (Centre de Recherche Santé Environnementale et Santé au Travail).


  • Master in geography, environmental sciences, epidemiology, public health, biostatistics, statistical data analysis, or equivalent.
  • A motivation for conducting scientific research with a view to defending a PhD.
  • Demonstrable quantitative skills and interest in environmental sciences and public health.
  • Experience with programming in a statistical package, preferably with R.
  • Language skills: excellent written and spoken English; a good command of Dutch and/or French is an asset.
  • Generic competences: proactive, communicative, accurate, able to work independently and in team.

We offer

  • A doctoral scholarship for 48 months offered by Sciensano.
  • A socially relevant and challenging research project.
  • A dynamic environment and opportunities for development and training (both via Sciensano and via the ULB Doctoral Training Programme).
  • Supervision of experienced scientists.
  • Start date possible from 01/04/2020 (flexible).
  • Advantages: free commuting to and from work with public transport.


Submit your application before the end of March via

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

COVID update

Due to the corona crisis, we have put the launch of the project on hold. We are therefore welcoming applications until 15 July 2020.


ELLIS is funded by the Belgian Federal Science Policy (BELSPO) through the BRAIN-be 2.0 (2018-2023) programme.

BRAIN-be logoBELSPO logo

Project coordinator

Prof. dr. Brecht Devleesschauwer

Sciensano, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Service Lifestyle and Chronic Diseases