Promoting healthy behaviors: current research evidence and practice


PhD students of the Doctoral Schools of Social and Behavioural Sciences and Life Sciences and Medicine

Organising & Scientific Committe

Research unit ‘Physical Activity and Health’ and research unit ‘Sports Pedagogy’, Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University.

Contact person: Drs. Sofie Compernolle : (09/264 63 21)

Topic and theme

The course will consist of lectures, short presentations, and interactive sessions, in which the most innovative information on the determinants of healthy behaviors, and on the development, evaluation and implementation of interventions to increase healthy behaviors will be disseminated by reputable investigators from all over the world (Australia, USA, Norway etc.).

In this way, the course provides an optimal opportunity

1) to learn more about recent findings regarding healthy behaviors,

2) to gain insight into innovative methods and techniques to analyze/measure determinants of healthy behaviors, and healthy behaviors itself and

3) to get new ideas for further research. As two public PhD defenses are included in the  course, participants will also experience how 3-6 years of PhD research results in a ‘final product’.


The specialist course consists of four sessions. The first session is an international meeting with scientific researchers from three different universities (Ghent University, VU Medical Center Amsterdam and Norwegian School of Sport Sciences). The meeting will start with three parallel workshops. In the first workshop an overview will be provided of different models (longitudinal analyzes, repeated cross-sectional designs, cross-classified data…) to analyze multilevel data in health promotion research. This workshop will be as interactive as possible, as participants will get the chance to explain which statistical techniques they use, or which issues they face. The second workshop will guide the participants through the key decision making for designing, conducting and reporting a process evaluation of health interventions. The final workshop handles the harmonization of data in health sciences. The second part of the meeting will include short presentations by junior and senior researchers, all focusing on different aspects of (determinants of) healthy behaviors. The short presentations will be 10 minutes for the speaker, and 5 minutes for questions. The meeting will be concluded with interactive sessions where research issues are discussed in smaller groups. In this way, PhD students will get the chance to present themselves to other researchers from Norway and The Netherlands and to share ideas and experiences. The second session consists of (1) a lecture given by an international expert who is one of the world’s foremost researchers in the field of sedentary behavior, and (2) a public PhD defense on active transport in children. The third session includes a public PhD defense on (motivation towards) physical activity in children. The final session consists of two lectures from international experts in the field of motor skills and physical activity in children and youth. Both presenters will give a one-hour presentation followed by a 30-mintes question and answer session.


Dr. Jelle Van Cauwenberg is a postdoctoral researcher at the department of Public Health (Ghent University). He completed several courses of the Master in Quantitative Analysis in Social Sciences and the Master of Statistics at the KULeuven. These courses included ‘Statistical software’, ‘Statistical modelling’, ‘Multilevel analysis’, ‘Mixed and multilevel models’ and ‘Longitudinal data analysis’. During these courses dr. van Cauwenberg learnt to apply generalized linear (mixed) models (including hurdle and zero-inflated models) in R. He also applied these models in his own research. Dr. Van Cauwenberg previously taught statistics to bachelor and master students physical education and physiotherapy at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and he lectured several courses on multilevel modelling and generalized linear models for PhD students.  

Dr. Ellen Deschepper and Roos Colman, both members of the Biostatistics Unit at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, provide statistical consulting and support to researchers of the faculty and UZ Gent. They are both experts in the design and analyses of clinical research in various software packages such as R, SPSS, SAS, etc. Dr. Ellen Deschepper graduated in 2000 as a Master of Science in Biostatistics at Hasselt University and obtained her PhD in Statistics in 2007 at Ghent University. She has over 15 years of experience in the field of biostatistics and was involved in several expert courses in statistics and in the practical use of statistical software. Roos Colman graduated in 2006 as a Master in Biomedical Sciences, and obtained the degree of Master of statistical data analysis at Ghent University in 2010.

Dr. Femke Van Nassau is a Post Doc at the Department of Public and Occupational Health of the EMGO+ Institute at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She holds a PhD (2015) from the VU University Amsterdam and a Msc degree in Health Sciences (major in Human Movement Science) from Maastricht University, both in the Netherlands.
Her main research topics are: Implementation research, process and effect evaluation, determinants of implementation, measurement of sedentary and physical activity behavior, intervention development following the Intervention Mapping protocol, prevention of overweight, qualitative research (focus group, interview). As part of her PhD research, Femke developed an implementation index score to measure program delivery by combining measures of quality, dosage and fidelity.

Prof. dr. Ulf Ekelund is Senior Investigator Scientist in the Physical Activity Programme, and Professor in Physical Activity and Health at the Department of Sport Medicine, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway. His main research interests are related to measurement and population levels of physical activity; the role of physical activity and sedentary behaviour for preventing non-communicable diseases especially obesity and metabolic diseases; and to understand the biological basis for physical activity and sedentary behaviour with a special focus on young people. He obtained his PhD from the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm Sweden in 2002 and joined the MRC Epidemiology Unit in January 2003. Ulf Ekelund has published more than 200 peer-review original scientific publications including articles in The Lancet, JAMA, PLOS Medicine and Nature Genetics. His current H-index is 51 (Web of Science).

Prof. dr. Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij (> 200 publications in Web of Science) and Prof. dr. Greet Cardon (> 100 publications in Web of Science) are both professors at the Department of Movement and Sports Sciences at Ghent University, leading the research group ‘Physical activity and health’. Their research topics are the promotion of healthy behavior, including research on determinants and on developing and evaluating interventions that focus on these behaviors. Research designs include literature reviews, validation studies, surveys on nutrition and sedentary and physical activity habits and their determinants, quasi-experimental designs in schools, and randomized controlled trials to test intervention effects. They are and have been involved as partner and/or work package leader in various European Commission funded projects including Pro Children, HOPE, ALPHA, TEENAGE, HELENA, IDEFICS, ENERGY, TOY BOX, SPOTLIGHT, DEDIPAC, and FEEL4DIABETES.

Prof. dr. Neville Owen (> 400 publications in Web of Science) is Professor of Health Behavior at the School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Australia and Professor of Behavioral Epidemiology at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia. His research relates to the primary prevention of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, and deals with the environmental, social and personal-level determinants of behavioral risk factors – primarily sedentary behaviors (television viewing, sitting in automobiles, desk- and screen-bound work) and lack of physical activity. His research program includes descriptive epidemiology studies, analyses of environmental determinants, the use of behavior-specific models, and trials of mass-reach interventions.

Prof. dr. David Stodden (> 70 publications in Web of Science) is the Doctoral Program Coordinator and one of the leading academics of the department of Physical Education & Athletic Training of the University of South Carolina. He is an internationally recognized expert in the motor development area whose research agenda focuses on promoting the acquisition and development of fundamental motor skills and the association of motor skill competence with physical activity, health-related physical fitness, perceived competence, and obesity across the lifespan. His research emphasizes the need to address and understand developmental mechanisms and casual pathways related to youth physical development and trajectories of physical activity and obesity. In addition, research addressing ballistic skills allows him to further explore the behavioral and mechanical nature of multi-joint ballistic motor skills and apply this knowledge to skill acquisition, youth physical development and assessment validation.

Dr. Lisa Barnett is a postdoctoral researcher at the faculty of  Health (Deakin University, Australia). Dr. Barnett was awarded her PhD through University of Sydney, Faculty of Medicine, School of Public Health in 2009. She investigated the relationship between early motor skill mastery and physical activity participation and fitness in adolescence. She has a Master in Public Health and over 10 years professional health promotion experience. Her research interests are in the development, implementation, evaluation and long term follow-up of physical activity interventions in children and adolescents. A key interest is the role actual and perceived fundamental movement skill ability has to physical activity behavior. Within this broad area she is also interested in the role of active video games in children's skill acquisition.

Dates and Venue

Dates: 22 March, 26 April, 8 May and 10 May 2017

Location: Session 1 and 4:
Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University , Campus HILO
Watersportlaan 2, 9000 Gent
Session 2 and 3:
Het Pand, Onderbergen 1, 9000 Gent
Session 3:
Campus Dunant, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Gent


  • Session 1: Wednesday March 22, 2017

10 am – 12 pm     Parallel workshops
1) Dr. Jelle Van Cauwenberg, Dr. Ellen Deschepper and Roos Colman: Theoretical, methodological and practical implications of multilevel modeling in health sciences
2) Dr. Femke Van Nassau: Do’s and Don’ts for conducting a structured process evaluation in the field of health promotion
3) Prof. dr. Ulf Ekelund: Data harmonization in health sciences
1 pm – 3 pm    Oral presentations of junior and senior health promotion researchers led by Prof. dr. Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij and Prof. dr. Greet Cardon
Junior and senior researchers from three different universities (Ghent University, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam and Norwegian School of Sport Sciences) will present their research during a short presentation (10 minutes/presentation). The topics of the presentations include determinants of health behavior, measuring health behavior and interventions to promote health behavior.
3 pm – 5 pm    Group interactive sessions
Participants need to sign up for one of the group sessions. Different sessions will be offered so that each participant can join the session that is most applicable on his or her research. Topics of the sessions still need to be determined, but will be related to a recently published debate paper regarding health promotion.  For example, “Reflections on physical activity intervention research in young people – dos, don’ts, and critical thoughts” from Esther Van Sluijs  and “Should we reframe how we think about physical activity and sedentary behaviour measurement? Validity and reliability reconsidered” from Paul Kelly will be used.

  • Session 2: Wednesday April 26, 2017

4 pm – 5.30 pm    Lecture of Prof. dr. Neville Owen: Current evidence on (environmental) determinants of sedentary behavior
5.30 pm – 7.30 pm    Public PhD defense of Griet Vanwolleghem: Assessing, understanding and changing active transport in children and adolescents.

  • Session 3: Monday May 8, 2017

5.30 pm – 7.30 pm    Public PhD defense of An De Meester: Motivating children and adolescents to develop a physically active lifestyle: the role of school-based sports and motor competence

  • Session 4: Wednesday May 10, 2017

1.30 pm – 3.00 pm    Lecture of Prof. dr. David Stodden: Dynamic relationships between motor skill competence and health-related fitness in children and youth
6.30 pm – 8 pm    Lecture of Dr. Lisa Barnett: Perceived motor competence in children: what is it, how should we measure it and what are the factors associated with it?

Registration fee

Free of charge for members of the Ghent University Doctoral Schools

Registration and Information

By e-mail to Drs. Sofie Compernolle : (09/264 63 21)

Number of participants

Maximum 25

Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

100% active participation in all sessions