Master (MSc) in Public Health

Introduction and general objectives

What? The Master in Public Health (MPH) is an international programme for students interested in improving health by addressing health problems and strengthening health systems in resource-constrained settings, with particular attention for vulnerable populations. The MPH at the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp provides students with the opportunity to study international health, health policy, systems, disease control programmes and health services, as well as evaluation and research applied to these topics.

The MPH is a master programme aiming at the acquisition of both academic and professional competencies. It contributes to the development of evidence-based and context-specific health programmes, policies and strategies for public health and health systems strengthening. The MPH offers insight into public health related disciplines, and allows for the acquisition of analytical and problem-solving skills, research and evaluation competencies and the ability to deal with complexity. It fosters students’ reflexivity and public health professionalism.

The MPH combines evidence-informed insights and real-life applications in diverse contexts. The course is the result of more than 50 years of experience in adjusting teaching content and format to evolving needs in a changing world. The right to health, equity, gender equality and solidarity are central to the master programme.

For whom? The MPH targets a variety of students: early or mid-career health professionals or researchers with an academic (university) degree in health (medicine, pharmacy, nursing, midwifery), biomedical sciences, health-related bio-engineering or other health-related domains, such as medical sociology & anthropology, health economics, etc). Candidates from a non-health-related discipline, can still apply to the programme under certain conditions (e.g. sufficient experience in the health sector).

How? Public Health at ITM is taught in a stimulating academic environment, taking a multidisciplinary perspective, and nurturing a culture of reflexivity. The wide range of backgrounds of the international student group allows for a rich exchange, comparative analysis and confrontation of ideas, while the teaching staff is highly involved in research in low- and middle-income countries and has intimate “field knowledge”.

According to their interest, background and career goals, students can choose between the orientation ‘Health Systems & Disease Control’ (HS&DC) and ‘Tropical Medicine and International Health’ (TM&IH). The structure of the MPH allows students to follow a coherent tailored-made programme. They can opt for a full-time one-year-study track or spread their course work over a period of maximum 5 years in the part-time study track. 


Did you know?

The MPH was rated excellent and re-accredited by the Dutch Flemish Accreditation Organisation (NVAO). Over 80% of former students report that the course had a high-to-very high impact on their career and that they took up more strategic positions at regional, national or international level after graduation.

MPH Learning objectives

Upon completion, students should be able to:              

  • Demonstrate insight into and knowledge of public/international health related disciplines.
  • Critically reflect on public/international health issues and their underlying values                  
  • Critically analyse a health system                 
  • Retrieve, appraise, summarise and report scientific and tacit evidence                  
  • Define an appropriate research and/or evaluation question, collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data, and draw conclusions                  
  • Master quantitative and qualitative research methods relevant for their public health practice                 
  • Formulate evidence-based and context-specific health interventions and programmes                 
  • Adapt global strategies and policies to the national and local context, and inversely inform policymaking in a bottom-up sense                 
  • Communicate clearly orally and in writing to professional and scientific audiences                 
  • Function responsibly and independently in a professional and multidisciplinary team, demonstrating analytical and problem solving skills as well as communication and negotiation skills
  • Develop a lifelong learning attitude

MPH programme structure

The MPH programme consists of:

  • A core course (introduction of 20 ECTS credits)
  • Advanced course components (25 ECTS credits)
  • A master thesis (15 ECTS credits)

Different tracks for different student profiles

The figure below explains how students can structure their MPH programme according to their profile, depending on two elements:

  • Work experience: students with at least 6 months of work experience in Public/International Health follow the Introduction to International Health core course. Students with at least 2 years of work experience in Public/International Health are advised to choose the Introduction to Health Systems & Disease control. Before graduation all students are expected to have acquired at least 2 years of work experience in Public/International Health. 
  • Career goals: depending on their career goals students choose between two orientations: the ‘Health Systems & Disease Control’ (HS&DC) orientation and the ‘Tropical Medicine and International Health’ (TM&IH) orientation.

Different core courses for different student profiles

What is the difference between the core courses ‘Introduction to Health Systems & Disease Control’ and the ‘Introduction to International Health’? While the introductions are equivalent, the general approach and course structure are different.


Introduction to Health Systems & Disease Control (20 ECTS)

This introduction targets students with at least 2 years of relevant professional experience in Public/International Health and explicitly builds on that experience through case-studies and peer learning. It consists of three course components:

This course component is an introduction to concepts, frameworks, methods and tools to describe and analyses local and national health systems and health policy.  The module on local health systems looks into different dimensions of care, including the interaction between demand, need and supply, access and utilisation, and quality of care. The local health system is analysed with special attention to integrated systems, stewardship, the interface with health programmes, community participation and the interaction with social services. The module on health policy broadens the scope to the national health system and its actors and focuses on principles and challenges in governance, financing, human resources, medicines policy, and service delivery. At the end of the course component, students apply the concepts and frameworks during field visits to first line health and social services and health policy actors in Belgium and reflect on lessons for their own context.

This course component is an introduction to research methods in public health from different research traditions and disciplines, including epidemiology & statistics, social sciences, and health policy & systems research. It prepares participants to apply these methods in public health decision-making scenarios, such as critical appraisal of research findings, reviewing the literature, routine data analysis, monitoring and evaluation, guideline development, research priority setting, participation in a research project and research proposal development. Attainment of the learning objectives of this introductory course component is a pre-requisite to follow advanced course components on research methods.

This course component is an introduction to concepts and methods to analyse health problems, interventions and programmes. Current operational challenges in the prevention and control of key health problems are discussed, with special attention to screening, surveillance, outbreak investigation, control versus elimination,  vaccination strategies, organisation of chronic care, involvement of communities and multisectoral approaches. The concepts, analytical frameworks, and implementation issues are illustrated through applications in a wide range of health problems: tuberculosis, malaria, dengue, cholera, human African trypanosomiasis, cysticercosis, hepatitis B,  mother-to-child-transmission of HIV and diabetes.

Introduction to International Health (20 ECTS)

The Introduction to International Health offers a broad and multidisciplinary introduction to international health to students with at least 6 months of professional experience in Public/ International Health. It consists of 8 blocks (one introductory, 6 thematic and 1 synthesis block) and has a focus on populations (public health), patients (clinical sciences ) and pathogens (biomedical sciences).

  • The introduction block provides concepts and tools of public health, epidemiology, research methods and statistics, laboratory techniques and biosafety
  • The first three thematic blocks focus on major health problems from an interdisciplinary perspective, including vector-borne diseases, HIV/AIDS and TB
  • The next three thematic blocks focus on specific social groups/situations (motherhood, childhood, vulnerable groups), or on interdisciplinary themes (zoonosis, antimicrobial resistance, one health and outbreaks)
  • The synthesis blockallows students to integrate their skills and knowledge and apply it in a specific exercise on health systems or outbreaks

A set of advanced course components for each orientation

Students can select 25 ECTS from orientation-specific advanced course components. 

For the orientation-specific information, please go to the webpages of MPH-Tropical Medicine & International Health and MPH-Health Systems & Disease Control.


The thesis writing process gives the students the opportunity to integrate knowledge, methods and skills acquired during the orientation. It allows them to collect, analyse and use primary and/or secondary, quantitative and/or qualitative data, carry out a review of the literature, and critically appraise their personal experiences and contextual issues to draw conclusions. The students will select a thesis topic in line with their study orientation, and personal interest and experience. The thesis document and oral defence allow the members of the examination board to assess the level of the participants’ attainment of the learning objectives.  For more information on the thesis, please go the specific webpage.

Teaching and Learning Methods

The Master in Public Health course explicitly uses methods for adult learning emphasising a participatory approach to learning: we believe that learning and teaching is co-created by students and staff. The programme consists of interactive lectures, exercises, critical reading, small group sessions followed by plenary presentations, debates, and coached individual or group assignments.

In addition to the contact hours, personal study time is required for preparatory and additional reading and for the assignments. All teaching material, including theme-specific readers, is available on an online learning platform.


The assessment procedures depend on the chosen course components and include the thesis and its defence. The Degree of Master of Science in Public Health is awarded to participants who have successfully completed each of the course components, the thesis and the defence.


For admission and selection criteria, please visit the orientation-specific information pages.


The course study load is equivalent to 60 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System).: 


ITM offers a number of scholarships with the financial support of different agencies. The Belgian Directorate General for Development is the main sponsor. For more information: please visit the webpage on scholarships.


For overall information on the MPH, contact Marianne Hilgert: