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Department of Public Health and Primary Care

About the Department

The Department of Public Health and Primary Care is a multidisciplinary department with a focus on community health, best practice and health policy. Its 8 research units conduct interdisciplinary research and provide high quality education in different domains. The department aims at supplying health care professionals and institutions with the insights, concepts and techniques that will enable them to respond optimally to the health needs and expectations of patient and society.


Research Interests

The department endorses the international research and policy priority of ‘Living well with chronic illness’ by building on existing, productive research programs among various disciplines of the DPH. Selected research lines are Health and Environment, Management of Chronic Illness, and Omics in Public Health. There are strong links to other departments of the faculty of medicine, the university hospitals, other faculties of KU Leuven and partner organizations.


The DPH is the home base for two initial masters and coordinates seven advanced masters. Education is coordinated by four Permanent Education Committees. In addition, the department takes part in other biomedical sciences training programs on specific non-clinical topics and it is also the coordinator of the educational line of "Man, Environment and Society” and the educational line of "Science" in the Master of Medicine. Next to the formal education program, the department is investing highly in continuing education. Since 2006 the DPH is coordinator of the Erasmus Mundus of bioethics and is currently involved in the launching of two new international educational programs. The department is in charge of the doctoral program of Patient related and Public Health Research within the Doctoral School for Biomedical Sciences.



Research Group Environment and Health

Prof. Dr. Karel Hoppenbrouwers


The Centre for Environmental health focuses on education and research in the domains of occupational medicine, insurance medicine, and health and environment. It organizes two master programs (occupational medicine and insurance medicine) and is involved in teaching social medicine and related topics at bachelor, master and doctoral level. The centre also has a strong tradition in the continuous education for occupational and insurance physicians and works closely together with the professional and scientific societies in these fields. Key research lines include biological effects of organic solvents and monomers, genetic and epigenetic effects of exposure to industrial and environmental pollution, mechanisms in pulmonary toxicology, clinical-epidemiological effects of occupational and environmental exposures and diseases and work disability and return-to-work.

Public Health Nutrition mainly focus on the relationship between nutrition, lifestyle and chronic diseases (obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, ...), especially starting from the aspect of prevention.  Central key in research for over 25 years is 'body weight regulation'. The last years, research projects in the field of nutrition and pregnancy were realised and are still ongoing (diet, physical activity, epigenetics, socio-economic status, eating behaviour). Public Health Nutrition has several duties in teaching different aspects of nutrition and dietetics for medical, dental, pharmaceutical students and for students from developing countries.

The Centre for Youth Health Care is the coordinator of the interuniversitary master training in Youth Health Care. The master degree is a preparation to professional involvement as youth doctor in well baby clinics and school health care. The centre is also involved in research with regard to different aspects of preventive health care for children and youngsters. Both fundamental and policy-oriented approaches are adopted, and most research is elaborated within a multidisciplinary context. Key research topics are: (i) the organisation and quality of care, (ii) growth and development, methodology of assessment of growth and development, determinants of growth and developmental problems, and prevention of obesity, (iii) the welbeing and health related behaviour, (iv) the integration of children with functional impairments (in accordance with the International Classification of Functioning, ICF), and (v) vaccination and infectious diseases: epidemiology, policy and the study of safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of new vaccines and new combinations.

Infection Prevention and Control focuses on education and research in the domain of hospital hygiene. Key research lines are the epidemiology and prevention of hospital infections.

Academic Centre for Nursing and Midwifery

Prof. Dr. Theo van Achterberg

The Academic Centre for Nursing and Midwifery (accentVV) aims to maximise the quality of nursing and midwifery care.

To achieve its mission, the Academic Centre for Nursing offers a Master’s programme for Nursing and Midwifery, thus facilitating nurses and midwives to take up their core role as academically trained carers, managers, educators or scientists in a fast-changing care climate. The centre also leverages its expertise to support Master’s courses for other professionals and scientists, and offers a robust annual programme for Continuing Education, during which new evidence is shared and hot topics in healthcare are tackled via study days, courses and debates.

The Academic Centre for Nursing and Midwifery’s research focuses on the development and testing of care interventions, the optimisation of the organisation of care, the implementation of effective interventions, the ethics of care, and person-oriented nursing and midwifery. By focusing on the improvement of care processes and outcomes for various target groups and within various different care sectors, the centre aims to transpose the results of the research into specific recommendations to improve clinical practice, and gives direction to the social debate on future care provision. The centre strongly invests in the expansion of leadership in care in this regard.

Regarding the provision of services to society, the Academic Centre for Nursing and Midwifery has a network for clinical leadership, and all its employees are actively involved in the operation of government institutions, patient organisations, care organisations, professional associations and relevant committees and advisory and management bodies, at regional, national and international level. The Centre also encourages its employees to be actively involved in the practice of care, in order to promote exchanges between research, education and practical application to the best possible extent.

Leuven Institute for Healthcare Policy

Prof. Dr. Dirk De Ridder


The uniqueness of the Leuven Institute for Healthcare Policy (LIHP) is the combination of research, education and services from faculty of medicine, economy, social sciences and law. The aim is to provide top research on healthcare policy in Flanders, Belgium and Europe. We want to do this in dialogue and collaboration with other actors in this field: governments, policy makers, healthcare stakeholders and other research centers. The LIHP focusses on 5 complementary domains in healthcare: Quality and Patient Safety, Health system policy and finance, Ethical aspects of healthcare, Legal aspects of healthcare and Communication in healthcare.

The Leuven Institute for Healthcare Policy envisions the quality and patient safety domain starting from the six dimensions of quality as defined by the Institute of Medicine: safety, effectiveness, efficiency, equity, timeliness and patient centeredness. Using the evidence-based quality indicators, the LIHP has specific expertise in the evaluation of pathology-specific care processes and care pathways. We develop and validate quality indicators at patient, health service, and government levels. Specific attention goes to implementation of guidelines, care pathways and decision-support systems. Research on the value of technological innovation on the quality of care will be expanded within and across the boundaries of the university. In the second domain the link between health system policy and finance is investigated. Within the legal and ethical domains the legal and ethical aspects of national and European healthcare policies are analyzed in order to formulate opinions (European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies) and prepare publications. The communication pillar focusses on the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes for an efficient patient-centered communication.

With the Master of Healthcare Management and Policy, we offer a high quality study program for students aiming for a leading career in healthcare. The program makes use of case studies, seminars and traineeships to bridge the gaps between the theory and practice of healthcare management and policy. Our Permanent Education is organized within the interuniversity co-operation ‘’: through the strategic collaboration between KU Leuven, UGent, UZLeuven en UZ Gent, we want to inspire and support the sector in her search for excellence.









Leuven Biostatistics and Statistical Bioinformatics Centre (L-BioStat)

Prof. Dr. Geert Verbeke


L-BioStat brings together research efforts in biostatistics, statistical bioinformatics, and statistical genetics. Key research lines include longitudinal and hierarchical data analysis, mixed models,  incomplete data analysis, correlated and censored survival data, multivariate data analysis, clinical trial methodology, methods for the design and analysis of microarrays, Bayesian statistics,  statistical genetics, functional data analysis, etc. The research has been internationally recognized through many awards, and scientific results have appeared in leading statistical journals as well as in several books published by major publishers.

L-BioStat has extensive duties in teaching statistics at bachelor, master and doctoral level, within KULeuven and elsewhere, in statistics programs but also in applied programs such as medicine, farmacy, nursing science, biomedical sciences, etc.  Short courses have been offered worldwide for academic partners, professional societies, the industry, and governmental agencies.

L-BioStat provides statistical consulting to the medical faculty and the university hospitals of KULeuven, but also to various regulatory agencies such as EMA and FDA. Furthermore, L-BioStat is involved in many external clinical trials through memberships in Data Monitoring Committees, as author of statistical analysis plans, or as primary statistician.

L-BioStat is one of the two entities of I-BioStat, the Interuniversity Institute for Biostatistics and statistical Bioinformatics, a joint initiative between KULeuven and UHasselt. 

Interfaculty Centre for Biomedial Ethics and Law

Prof. Dr. Herman Nys

The Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law has a threefold mission: education on (bio)-medical ethics and law, research and providing societal and scientific service to the community.

The centre offers courses in medical ethics, health ethics, nursing ethics, medical law and health care organisation. The international dimension of this educational program is translated in the participation of the centre in the MA in applied Ethics and in the European MA in Bioethics.

Research in the Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law  relates to several subject matters, for example, reproductive  technology and the status of the embryo, the working of commissions for bioethics, and ethical consultation, care for patients with senile dementia, the relation between empiricism and ethics, the professionalisation of ethical consultation in the health care sector (professional codes, committee-ethics, and individual ethical consultation), … The researchers work in close collaboration with other European and international centres and participate in research projects of the EU Commission. In addition the centre operates as host centre for foreign researchers and visiting professors.

Hospitals, policy makers, patient organisations and pharmaceutical companies are welcome to consult the centre and its expert knowledge on all their questions concerning the ethical and legal aspects of medical and health care.


Academic Center for General Practice

Prof. Dr. Bert Aertgeerts & Prof. Dr. Frank Buntinx


The ACHG is a clinical unit that dedicates itself to carry out excellent and relevant research. We educate medical students and general practitioners and support all actors in the health care sector. This, we do so out of an interactive network as to play an innovative and leading role in the policy and organisation of health care in Flanders and in the world, and with the goal to offer patients a qualitative and respectful care in a healthy society.

Each year, the ACHG takes care of the instructing of more than 200 general practitioners in training during a two-year continuing education. The ACHG also plays an active role in the basic medical training and disposes of its own offer of continuing medical education. The programs offered reflect the unit’s own research as well as international accents. The research that is carried out by the ACHG makes use of different research design patterns, ranging from epidemiological, diagnostic to qualitative research and intervention studies.

Under the heading of its task of service to society and other academic tasks of research and education, the ACHG gives support to the development of general practitioner medicine into a fully-fledged specialisation in the health care area.


Emergency Medicine

Prof. Dr. Marc Sabbe


Emergency Medicine is a clinical unit that takes care of the organisation of the Emergency Department (ED) and takes care of critical ill patients within the ED.

In addition, one of our main focuses is the education of young emergency physicians as emergency medicine is one of the youngest basic specialties. The research topics of the unit focus on organizational topics of EMS systems, ED management and clinical topics specific to emergency medicine.

The unit provides services to society such as: collaboration with the Ministry of Health on EMS and ED registrations, organisation of the 112 centre, disaster management within the hospital and the community, membership of several policy councils and international scientific societies.


Epidemiology Research Group

Prof. Dr. Adelheid Soubry

 The Epidemiology Research Group is a interdisciplinary research unit that combines biomedical research with clinical and population sciences. One of our goals is to define risk factors for diseases, including occupational and environmental exposures, life-style factors, nutrition, etc. Understanding the molecular mechanisms how these exposures during development and throughout a life course increase the risk for certain disorders may help to intervene where needed; and hence, prevent the disorder or disease in the susceptible or exposed population. One aspect of our research is to provide insights on the complex interplay between environmental exposures at different stages of development and the genetic susceptibility for diseases. Another aspect is the understanding of cancer development by (epi)genetic alterations. Understanding the role of epigenetics in the etiology of diseases is in its infancy and needs epidemiological studies to translate the mechanistic findings from the lab to the human population, and vice versa. Our research group provides support in developing new study designs, statistics, strategies for clinical treatments, diagnostics, defining new biomarkers, etc. We collaborate with other units, departments, the UZ Leuven Hospital and set-up or joined international projects in epidemiology.





Biomedical Quality Assurance Research Unit

Prof. Dr. Els Dequeker


Quality assurance in biomedical laboratory is an essential component for assuring good service. For medical doctors and patients it is almost self-evident that research performed in the lab must be of good quality.

The research unit ‘Biomedical Quality Assurance’ focuses on the longitudinal study of various quality aspects of molecular (genetical) lab research. The research group was at the basis of the elaboration of highly important quality assessement programs for genetic diseases and oncobiomarker tests. The results of several research projects have demonstrated the importance of introducing a quality management system in diagnostic laboratories and of the elaboration of directives and guidelines.

The research of the unit is mainly internationally oriented, with a focus on Europe but within a global context thanks to good cooperation with research groups in the US, Australia, Canada and international coordinating organisations such as ISO, CLSI, WHO, CDC and EA.