Introduction to International Health (IIH)

This short course gives a broad introduction to international health with a strong health systems vision. The focus is on determinants of health of human populations with special attention for poverty-related diseases in low-and middle-income societies. It encompasses health promotion, disease prevention and control.
The knowledge, techniques and skills for research, critical analysis and decision making with regard to important endemic diseases are essential in the course objectives, as well as a clear view on health systems and policy and a thorough introduction in the organisation of health services.
This course targets (junior) health professionals with a concrete interest and/or career perspective in international health. Professionals with significant experience in low- and middle-income countries are advised to explore courses which go beyond the introductory level (e.g. master degrees or more specialized short courses).

Mode of study

This course (component) is organized :
- Face-to-face (Antwerpen)

Learning Objectives

By the end of the short course, students should be able to:
  • identify and analyse interrelated determinants of health and major health problems of populations in a cross-disciplinary perspective in low- and middle income societies
    • discuss determinants of health in general and of health care seeking behaviour in particular
    • explain the ‘Health in all Policies approach”, its cross-sectors organization and its possible impact
  • critically collect, analyse and appraise qualitative and quantitative data relevant for the improvement of health and health care in low and middle income societies
    • analyse the main biomedical, clinical and epidemiological aspects of the major health problems in low and middle income countries in order to manage their prevention and control at population and individual level
    • critically analyse disease control programmes, applying scientific tools and methods
  • plan sustainable improvements of health systems considering the diverse intercultural settings as well as social and ethical responsibilities
    • organise primary health care services taking into account local priorities and resource availability as well as the perspective of communities and patients
    • explain the major issues in international health policy and development cooperation
  • clearly communicate and work professionally in a multi-disciplinary team 
    • manage communication in a multi-disciplinary setting
    • play a positive role in the strengthening of teamwork in sometimes stressful situations


The course structure, consisting of 8 blocks, one introductory and 7 thematic, enhances integration of different disciplines central to international health.
The introductory block introduces concepts and tools of public health, epidemiology and statistics. The first three thematic blocks focus on major health problems (vector-borne diseases, HIV/Aids, TB), the next three on important social groups (motherhood, childhood, emergencies). The last block makes the participants responsible for organising health care for a defined (health district) population.
In all blocks clinical aspects of major health problems are combined in a balanced way with a public health approach to disease control, health service organisation and management. It thereby integrates quantitative and qualitative methods and highlights topical issues in international health.

Teaching and learning methods

The course uses a combination of state of the art lectures, interactive classes, individual study and exercises, coached team work, practical laboratory work and problem-based learning. The lecturers have extensive experience overseas and come from all departments of ITM. Their field experience and scientific work feeds extensively into the course. Distinguished external lecturers complement specific areas of expertise.
  • Contact hours (61% of Student Investment Time) are a combination of state of the art lectures and interactive classes often as discussions on cases and on articles or book chapters read during self-study time
  • Group work / assignments are done outside formal contact hours in groups of 5-6 students (6,5% of SIT). Plenary sessions with presentations by students and comments by expert panels conclude these assignments. Examples of group assignments:
    • Vertical analysis: systematic analysis of a disease problem, developing an epidemiological model and control interventions.
    • General exercise on emergency settings, developing an action plan for an emergency situation in conflict area and/or epidemic
    • Case study to illustrate the need of different perspectives of different actors and stakeholders in a health care delivery process
  • Problem-based learning tasks: 2 cases are analysed individually and discussed in team, following different steps: define the problem, brainstorm on knowledge and ideas, discuss learning objectives and process, identify literature and sources, propose a strategy leading to solutions
  • Critical reading skills are developed during discussion of scientific papers
  • Laboratory skills are taught through practical sessions


Participants are assessed through 7 tests (2 hours /test) with equal weight for the final result
    • 1 open-book test on Epidemiology and Statistics (in week 5)
    • 6 closed-book tests related to 6 blocks: vector-borne diseases, TB, HIV/Aids, motherhood, childhood, health systems (in week 15 & 16)
Each closed-book test consists of 2 components: essay questions (60% of mark) and a set of multiple-choice questions (40% of mark)
Students pass when they succeed for all 7 tests with at least 50%
Students who fail a test are entitled to a re-sit exam

Admission requirements

A degree in medicine or a university (master) degree (min 240 ECTS credits) in health (e.g. biomedical or pharmaceutical) sciences.  Other health professionals, such as health economists and sociologists, are welcome to apply on condition that they are holder of a university degree (min 240 ECTS credits) and have a minimum of 2 years relevant professional experience in international health in low- or middle income countries. Nurses and midwives with a university (master) degree can also be admitted provided they have minimum 1 year of professional experience.
Students for whom English is not their first language must provide evidence of a 6.5 IELTS score (or 580 TOEFL score) or equivalent.  Exemption from this requirement may be granted to those who successfully completed higher education in English or at a Flemish higher education institution.
Note: documents requiered at application: copies of academic degrees, copies of transcripts of academic records (scores), curriculum vitae, proof of English language proficiency, passport size photograph, motivation letter. (Specific forms can be downloaded during the application procedure).

Selection criteria

For organizational purposes, a maximum of 60 students is admitted.
Admission is on a first-come first-served basis among applicants which belong to the target group of the course.


This short course is equivalent to the core course of the Master of Science in Public Health - orientation International Health (MPH-IH) at ITM. Note: the MPH-IH is equivalent to the tropEd MIH (see


This course (component) is accredited by :


Course Leader: Bruno Marchal
Secretary: Marianne Hilgert
Tel: +32(0)32476471


The course study load is equivalent to 20 ECTS credits (European Credit Transfer and accumulation System credits). The Student Investment Time (SIT) is approximately 596 hours. (376 Lecture contact hours / 220 Self-study).