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PhD Position – Behavioral Interventions to Promote Better Health – Erasmus, Netherlands 2022

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), The Netherlands

Erasmus University invites applications for a Ph.D. student project is to gain deeper knowledge on how to design and scale behavioral health interventions that consider people’s unique needs and the context of their daily lives, the Erasmus School of Health Policy and Management, and the Public Health department, The Netherlands – Jan 2022

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General Info

Position: PhD Position
No. of Positions: 1
Research Field: , ,
Joining Date: ASAP
Contract Period: -
Salary: According to Standard Norms

Erasmus School of Health Policy and Management
Public Health department
Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

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Qualification Details

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 / submit with your application package:

  • A (research) master’s degree in Economics, Econometrics, or related quantitative field
  • A keen interest in behavioral economics and the psychology of decision making
  • Experience with empirical studies and statistical software (Stata or R)
  • Excellent communication and writing skills in English (excellent scores on a TOEFL-test or an IELTS-test)
  • Strong motivation to contribute to the success of the project
  • Excellent GMAT-test or GRE-test results (accepted candidates are typically among the top 10%).

We welcome PhD candidates who aspire a career in research. To become one of our PhD candidates, you will need to be admitted to Erasmus School of Economics' graduate schools, the Tinbergen Institute. The general requirements below are a general specification based on the admission requirements of both graduate schools. General information can be found at the website of the Doctoral Office at Erasmus School of Economics. Please contact the graduate school for more information about the specific admission requirements of the school.

Responsibilities/Job Description

Current health developments worldwide call for an increased focus on reducing risks and threats to health. But how should prevention efforts be organized and how can we make sure it fits individuals’ various needs and contexts?

The goal of this PhD project is to gain deeper knowledge on how to design and scale behavioral health interventions that consider people’s unique needs and the context of their daily lives (e.g., economic, social, cultural, or institutional). Specifically, we plan to investigate how different contexts influence the formation of goals and intentions, how they contribute to the barriers and facilitators people encounter to desired behavior, and how to use this knowledge to apply behavior change strategies that help people make smarter choices about their health.

How to Apply?

Online Application through "Apply Now" Button from this page

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Documents Required

Documents required to complete the online applications

About the Project

Current health developments worldwide call for an increased focus on prevention. Preventive measures are vital to tackle the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and increase the sustainability of health care systems. The benefits of effective prevention are widely acknowledged but how prevention efforts should be organized is hotly debated. At the core of the debate lies a trade-off between scale and scope. Large-scale interventions typically follow a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone is assumed to make suboptimal decisions about their health and they receive the exact same intervention. This leads to a narrow scope of these interventions as they cannot cater to the varying needs, preferences and contexts of individuals. Individually tailored interventions are optimized for each individual. They are complex, tackle many different behaviors, and typically involve personal coaching or guidance. However, it is unclear if and how they can be scaled up to large populations.

The objective of this project is to gain theory- and evidence-based insight into the design of impactful behavioral health interventions by considering the needs, preferences and contexts of individuals. We aim to advance scientific knowledge on the extent to which the effectiveness of behavioral health interventions can be improved by tailoring to (i) individual-level needs and preferences, including psychological traits and states, and to (ii) environmental-level contexts, such as economic, social, cultural, and institutional factors. Better prevention requires smarter choices about which health behavior change interventions to favor in which context.

We identify at least three channels to address context in behavioral interventions:

  1. interventions can alter the context itself,
  2. interventions can be adapted to varying contexts, and
  3. interventions can boost people’s decision-making capabilities to effectively manage their own context.

With our interventions, we aim to respect the importance of individual autonomy and recognize that the way context is addressed should be informed by individual needs and preferences. To achieve our objectives, we plan to investigate how different contexts influence the formation of (possibly conflicting or competing) intentions and goals, how they contribute to barriers and facilitators people encounter en route to desired behavior, and how to apply behavior change strategies to stimulate individual autonomy. We envision that in-depth knowledge about the interaction between health behavior and context, with individual needs and preferences in mind, will lead to sustainable interventions that are adaptive, scalable and portable.

This PhD project is part of the Erasmus University Initiative: Smarter Choice for Better Health. The initiative brings together academics from the disciplines of health economics, behavioural economics, public health care and international health care to make health care systems fairer and more effective with the existing financial resources. The PhD candidate is expected to join the Prevention action line, which focuses on the design of sustainable, cost-effective behavioral interventions to induce healthy behavior. The PhD candidate will also join the Erasmus School of Economics research program in Applied Economics. Currently, the research programme consists of three groups: Behavioural Economics, Health Economics and Organization, and Strategy and Entrepreneurship.

Potential supervisors include prof. Kirsten Rohde, dr. Georg Granic, dr. Stefan Lipman


The project takes a holistic approach to designing behavioral interventions and utilizes a wide range of methodologies. We will develop and use:

  • Economic, psychological, sociological, and public health theories to assess needs and contexts.
  • Qualitative and quantitative surveys to understand how people with different needs and contexts formulate possibly competing goals and intentions
  • Surveys and observational field studies to identify the barriers that stand between intentions and desired behavior
  • Laboratory and field experiments to test the effectiveness of interventions
  • Portable behavioral interventions customized to the needs and contexts of the target population to improve health

Expected output

The candidate is expected to write at least 3 academic papers to be submitted to journals in Economics and related fields. Preferably, at least 1 of the papers will be single-authored.

Academic relevance

The current project has considerable academic relevance, as it aims to fill at least the following gaps in the literature. First, little knowledge exists in how to best tailor behavioral health interventions and which implications this has on scaling up interventions. Second, most behavioral interventions are not necessarily sensitive to the context and needs of participants. There are particular challenges in aiming to promote smarter choices for better health in, for example, people of lower socio-economic status, people with comorbidities and people with conflicting goals and needs.

Societal relevance

Prevention of unhealthy behaviour is of continued societal relevance, as the occurrence of preventable mortality and morbidity is increasing worldwide. Promoting prevention requires multidisciplinary efforts, such as the ones in this Ph.D. project.

Literature references and data sources

  • Matjasko JL, Cawley JH, Baker-Goering MM, Yokum DV (2016). Applying behavioural economics to public health policy American Journal of Preventive Medicine 50(5S1):S13-S19.
  • Volpp, K. G., Troxel, A. B., Pauly, M. V, Glick, H. A., Puig, A., Asch, D. A., …Audrain-McGovern, J. (2009). A randomized, controlled trial of financial incentives for smoking cessation. New England Journal of Medicine360(7), 699–709.

About the Employer: Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)



This PhD position is part of the Erasmus Initiative “Smarter choices for better health”, which is a collaborative effort between Erasmus School of Economics, the Erasmus School of Health Policy and Management, and the Public Health department at Erasmus MC. The candidate will work closely with Joost Oude Groeniger (Erasmus MC) and Stefan Lipman (Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management), and with clinical and public health services in Rotterdam.

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Contact details

For more information regarding the project, please contact prof. Kirsten Rohde,, dr. Georg Granic,, dr Stefan Lipman


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