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Admission requirements

Successfull completion of Health and Health Behaviour is advised.

If you are not enrolled in the MSc programme Population Health Management but you consider taking this course as an elective, please contact our study advisor.


In disadvantaged populations accumulations of risk factors interact with complex social problems leading to an increased and even excessive burdens of disease. Alternative approaches are needed that do not separate diseases from the contexts in which they develop. A syndemic refers to the clustering and synergistic adverse interaction (biological, social or behavioral) of two or more health-related problems increasing the health burden of affected populations. Contextual and social factors create the conditions in which two or more health conditions cluster. In syndemic research and interventions, structural factors such as poverty, stigmatization, and oppressive social relations are considered to be causally involved in the pathways to ill health. The identification of a syndemic necessarily leads to multifactorial interventions that also address such structural factors. Syndemic theory has been applied and further developed in public and global health for a wide diversity of topics. In this course students will gain knowledge of syndemic and related theories and how to operationalise these in research and interventions.

The programme has a solid structure consisting of various elements. It starts with a specialized online course in which students will work in groups in developing a mixed-method design to study a potential syndemic of their own choice. In the face-to-face week they will actively collect and/or analyse quantitative and qualitative data regarding a syndemic and they will translate findings to recommendations for policy and interventions.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, the student:

  • can describe the core characteristics of a syndemic and can explain the differences between a syndemic and a co-morbidity approach.

  • can identify disease clustering, mechanisms of interaction (disease-disease and disease-context) and core epidemiological data needed for a syndemic analysis

  • can understand how qualitative approaches may explain causal pathways to syndemic processes at the individual and population level.

  • can develop a design for a mixed methods research into syndemic processes

  • can write recommendations for further research into and for interventions to tackle syndemic processes


All course and group schedules are published on MyTimeTable.

The exam dates have been determined by the Education Board and are published in MyTimeTable.
It will be announced in MyTimeTable and/or Brightspace when and how the post-exam feedback will be organized.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Group work

  • Online education

Assessment method

Students are assessed according to the following three obligatory components:

Week 1-2 – Online: Peer review assignment (20%, no required minimum grade)

Week 3 – On Campus: Group presentation (30%, no required minimum grade)

Week 4 – Final week: Final assignment (50%, required minimum grade: 6,0)

All components combined make up the final grade for the course. It is compulsory to participate in each of the components in order to receive a grade.
Details on the assessment can be found in the assessment plan on Brightspace.

A final grade of 6,0 minimum is considered sufficient. If the result is less than 6,0 or if the student did not participate in one of the components, the student is given the opportunity to retake the assessment as one assignment that covers all the learning goals of the course.

Final grades between 5,0 and 6,0 will be rounded:

  • 5,0-5,4 → 5,0

  • 5,5-6,0 → 6,0

Reading list

The reading list can be found on Brightspace. The material consists of presentations and pdf files. There is no need to purchase literature, as the presented material is not commercialized.


Registration must be completed via MyStudyMap. Registration in MyStudyMap gives you automatic access to the course in Brightspace. For more information, please visit the Leiden University website for students.


Nienke Slagboom -


This course is a combination of online education and on campus education at the Leiden University Health Campus in The Hague.