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Public Health & the Ecology of Disease


Admission requirements

This course is open for students of the MSc Governance of Sustainability.


It took humanity two million years to create a population of one billion people. The next billion lasted only 120 years and the next billion only 35 years. It is not surprising that this population explosion has had a huge impact on the environment and the ecology of the landscape. A hot topic for national and local governments is the promotion of a healthy living environment for people, defined as safe and attractive, inviting to interact with each other, promoting healthy behavior and pleasant to live in. In other words: a healthy landscape.

In this capita selecta we will introduce the concept of the so-called ‘pathogenic landscapes’ and focus on the interactions between land, people, disease vectors, and their animal hosts. With many people in one place, pathogens can easily and permanently circulate, and quickly jump between livestock, wildlife and humans.
Moreover, vectors and vermins, such as mosquitoes and rodents, can simply settle in the environments that humans create.

In this capita selecta we will address the topic of a healthy living environment and the choices that we need to make in spatial planning to achieve the best balance between the societal demands in housing, climate adaptation, biodiversity and well-being of the inhabitants and keeping. By using a specific aspect, namely vector borne diseases (such as Lyme disease, malaria, dengue), we will guide you along the pitfalls of this complicated, yet highly insightful problem. We will use insights from tropical countries to show that there is nothing simple about control of vector borne diseases.

Furthermore, we explore different theoretical perspectives to understand complex socio-ecological problems and how to tackle them through decision tools and governance strategies.

Course objectives

After this course students will be able to:

  • Understand how humans (often unwillingly) promote disease vectors in their own environment

  • Distinguish between complex and complicated issues

  • Identify categories of causal and functional relations underlying progress or achievement of goals and targets. Read: positive interactions (“enabling, reinforcing, indivisible, and interactions characterized by trade-offs (constraining, counteracting, canceling).

  • Understand and use the concepts of planetary health, and how this differs from One Health and EcoHealth

  • Report comprehensively, convincingly and critically;

  • Demonstrate skills working collaboratively with peers and planning.


You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable.

Assessment method

  • Duo paper on the disease ecology of an (emerging) vector borne disease of choice, and the societal handling perspective (50%)

  • Individual peer review of a duo paper (15%)

  • Group work on video or podcast + presentation (35%)


Every student of all years must enroll via MyStudyMap.

In this short video, you will see step by step how to enroll in courses in MyStudyMap. Note that your enrollment is only completed when you submit your course planning in the 'Ready for enrollment' tab by clicking 'submit'.

There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to register for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam. Keep in mind that there are enrollment deadlines, see this page for more information.

Extensive FAQ on MyStudymap can be found here.


Course coordinator: Marieta Braks