Predoctoral Fellowships



tel: ++32 9 2644776

Predoctoral Fellowship in statistics - ‘Relative contribution of excess weight status as risk factor for non-communicable disease, disability and multimorbidity’


Brecht Devleesschauwer,


Stijn Vansteelandt,

Department of Applied Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics, Faculty of Science, Ghent University, Belgium

and Department of Medical Statistics, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, U.K.

Tel: +32 (0) 9-2644776

Function description

You will be responsible for the organization, implementation and reporting of the research project ‘Relative contribution of excess weight status as risk factor for non-communicable disease, disability and multimorbidity’. Your research results contribute to the preparation and defense of a PhD in Statistical Data Analysis. The research project will be conducted in collaboration with Sciensano and Ghent University, and is part of the WaIST project – ‘Contribution of excessive weight status to the social impact of non-communicable diseases, multimorbidity and disability in Belgium: past, present, and future’.

Excess weight status is one of the primary metabolic risk factors for non-communicable diseases. In Belgium, as in many high-income countries, average BMI has continuously increased over the past decades among both children and adults. Despite the increasing attention at the international level, there is currently no national nutrition and physical activity health plan in Belgium. More than ever, the further development and implementation of evidence-based health policies for the prevention of excessive weight gain therefore requires proactive policy support.

The overall objective of WaIST is to valorise available Sciensano data sources in an integrated framework to assess the past, present and future contribution of excess weight status to the societal impact of non-communicable diseases, multimorbidity and disability in Belgium.

In the context of this project, the following PhD project will be funded: Relative contribution of excess weight status as risk factor for non-communicable disease, disability and multimorbidity.

The relative health impact of excess weight status among a set of simultaneous (non-modifiable, lifestyle, metabolic, and environmental) exposures and health determinants will be assessed using attribution models. Outcome indicators will include disability, multimorbidity and cause specific mortality. Microdata from different waves of the Belgian Health Interview Survey (HIS) will allow to assess the evolution of the relative contribution of excess weight status over time. To support this activity, 1) HIS data will be enriched with environmental exposure data, and 2) a statistical approach will be developed to assess the contribution of risk factors to health outcomes using complex, cross-sectional data and taking account of mediation and interaction.


•Master in biostatistics, statistical data analysis, epidemiology, demography, geography, or equivalent.

•A motivation for conducting scientific research with a view to defending a PhD.

•Demonstrable quantitative skills and interest in public health and public health policy. Knowledge of environmental                 health and geographical information systems is an asset.

•Experience with programming in a statistical package, eg R, Stata, SAS.

•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 and UGent (conditional upon positive evaluation after 1 year).

•A socially relevant and challenging research project.

•A dynamic environment with young people and opportunities for development and training (both via Sciensano and via the Ghent University Doctoral Training Programme).

•Supervision of experienced scientists.

•Start date from 01/09/2019 (flexible).

•Place of employment: Sciensano (satellite location Eurostation, near Brussels-South station) and UGent (Department of Applied Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics)

•Advantages: free commuting to and from work with public transport.

To apply for this position, please see