HCR.20.074 – Social and behavioural drivers of infectious disease transmission and control

Route: Health care research, sickness prevention and treatment

Cluster question: 097 How can we control micro-organisms in health care, livestock farming, and the environment?

The COVID-19 pandemic again reminds us of the complex interplay between disease epidemiology and health-related beliefs and behaviours: e.g. with successful control, the perceived risk of infection will decrease, leading to more high-risk behaviour that may result in resurgence, again increasing perceived risk. This is further complicated by the fact that the rewards of healthy behaviour (e.g. decreased infection risk due to physical distancing) typically arrive later than the satisfaction of more risky behaviours (e.g. intimacy and freedom of movement). Social networks are central to both the spread of infectious diseases and to how individuals’ beliefs and behaviours are influenced by peers, thus contributing to sustained or even widening social inequities in health. Besides the COVID-19 pandemic, similar challenges have plagued efforts to control major infectious diseases like measles, rubella, polio, and malaria. With a multidisciplinary team covering the fields of epidemiology, public health, implementation science, network sciences, social sciences, artificial intelligence, and mathematical modelling, we will develop and apply innovative methods to unravel the interconnected dynamics of infectious diseases and health-related beliefs and behaviours. A special focus will be to identify and test innovative strategies (e.g. tailored to specific social groups) to prevent, monitor, and control infectious diseases in the Dutch context. We will do this by developing a new generation of techniques that bring together models for infectious disease transmission and health-related beliefs and behaviours. We will further use iterative citizen consultation and immersive gaming experiences to assess population support for various strategies. The Ministry of Health, RIVM, municipal health services, and other end-users will be involved throughout the project to maximise support and dissemination of our findings. We further envisage an application of the developed methodologies to infectious diseases in developing countries, including malaria.


epidemiology, group-tailored strategies, implementation, infectious disease control, mathematical modelling, networks, Public Health, social sciences, system perspective

Other organisations

GGD Rijnmond, Radboud Medical Center (RUMC), Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM), TNO, UvA


Organisation Erasmus MC Rotterdam (EMC)
Name Dr. L.E. (Luc) Coffeng, MD
E-mail l.coffeng@erasmusmc.nl
Website https://www.publichealthrotterdam.com/research-line/infectious-disease-control/