Welcome to the site of i-CHER/VUB.

The Interuniversity Centre for Health Economics Research (I-CHER) is a joint research group comprising of researchers at the University of Ghent and researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).

Within the VUB, i-CHER is embedded in the research cluster Public Health (GEWE). There are currently 6 PhD-students active on a variety of health-economic related topics.

Coordinator of i-CHER



Prof Koen Putman

Koen Putman is associate professor and chair of the Interuniversity Centre for Health Economics Research (I-CHER) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He holds the following degrees: MSc in Physiotherapy and Motor rehabilitation (KULeuven, 1993), Specialised postgraduate degree in Neurorehabilitation (KULeuven, 1994), MSc in Social health Sciences (VUB, 1998) Postgraduate degree in Management (VUB, 1999), PhD in social Health Sciences (VUB, 2006) and an MSc in Health Technology Assessment (University of York, UK, 2017). He was a Fulbright Scholar and BAEF Fellow at the National Rehabilitation Hospital (Washington DC) and was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham and the University of Central Lancashire. End 2008, he became part of the faculty staff at the VUB. His areas of expertise are health services research, health economics and international comparative research. Most recent research projects he is involved in are in the fields of perinatal care, traffic injuries, stroke, back pain and prevention strategies.


Link PURE 






Nick Verhaeghe

Dr. Nick Verhaeghe is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Public Health of Ghent University and at the Department of Public Health of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium). In 2005, he obtained a MSc in ‘Health Care Management and Policy’ and in 2013 a PhD in Social Health Sciences. He has been and is also currently involved in several research projects in the domain of health economic evaluations (e.g. cost-effectiveness of health promotion in mental health care; health and economic consequences of a BMI decrease in the overweight and obese population in Belgium),  research projects on the financing and organization of health care for several patient populations (e.g. financing of youth mental health care, financial incentives and innovative financing mechanisms for integrated care), and research projects evaluating the economic impact of diseases to society (e.g. Social costs of addictive substances in Belgium). 







Maaike Fobelets

… obtained a bachelor midwifery (2007) and a master in nursing and midwifery (2010). She is a PhD-researcher focusing on health economic questions in women’s health. Her main research activities are related to the European project OptiBIRTH. OptiBIRTH is an innovative programme to encourage VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) based on different evidence based strategies.



Griet Van Belleghem

With her degrees in nursing, health promotion and statistical data analysis Griet has a strong interest in applied research in public health. Griet started working in our research department in February 2014 and obtained an IWT-grant. Since January 2015 she’s working on her PhD concerning care prediction after a road traffic accident. The current focus is on making prediction models on length of stay in acute hospitalization, predicting health care utilization with a focus on rehabilitation and pain after road traffic injuries.


Link Pure

Alexis Valenzuela

With his background in economics (Solvay Business School at the VUB), Alexis has developed an interest in the valorisation of research. He has coordinated the PreSSUB-research project, resulting in the development of in-ambulance telemedicine solutions for acute stroke patients. The project has led to the creation of an academic spin-off company: Zebra Academy (http://zebra-telemedicine.com/). Currently he his coordinating the OPTIMUS-consortium, which aims to further leverage telemedicine for the improvement of stroke care, both in the acute and chronic phases. He is doing a PhD in health economics (Promotores: Prof. Putman Koen & Prof. Dr. Brouns Raf), creating models to calculate the cost-effectiveness of the developed telemedicine solutions within the OPTIMUS-consortium. 


Link Pure

Eva Huysmans

… graduated in 2015 as a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In November 2015, Eva started as a doctoral researcher at both the department of Public Health and the department of Physiotherapy, Human Physiology and Anatomy. She is working on the B²aSic project, which investigates the effect of perioperative pain neuroscience education in patients undergoing surgery for lumbar radiculopathy. Within this project Eva is working on data concerning healthcare utilization and costs, return to work and pain cognitions.


Link Pure

Masja Schmidt

Masja Schmidt joined the Interuniversity Center for Health Economics Research (I-CHER) in April 2017. She carries out her doctoral research on health economic evaluations of preventive health policy, commissioned by the Flemish Agency for Care and Health. Her current subject of research is the cost-effectiveness of newborn screening programmes for cystic fibrosis. Masja holds a degree in Biomedical Sciences, and received a MSc in European Public Health from Maastricht University.



Helena Van Deynse

Helena Van Deynse graduated as an audiologist, followed by a master degree in Management and Policy in Healthcare (UGent, 2017). She is affiliated with I-CHER as a pre-doctoral researcher since 2017. Her PhD is focused on medical costs after traffic injuries.



Administrative support



Tom Janssen

Tom Janssen is head of the administrative support and management assistent. He is responsible for the administrative and logistical support of the research groups.

Iris Van Opstal

Iris Van Opstal is management assistent whitin the central secretariat of Building K. She is responsible for the administrative and logistical support of the research groups. 

Petra Van den Borre

Petra Van den Borre is management assistent whitin the central secretariat of Building K. She is responsible for the administrative and logistical support of the research groups. 

Current projects



Health-economic evaluations of prevention policies in Flanders.

Public health professionals are increasingly confronted with rising healthcare costs, constrained budgets and shrinking funds. By comparing expected health gains and implementation costs, economic evaluations can help to explicate which potential investments could be made to optimize the health and wellbeing of the population within the available budget.

The ‘health economic evaluations of preventive healthcare’  - project (preliminary project title) focuses on the cost-effectiveness of different preventive strategies in the Flanders community and region of Belgium. Using both systematic literature reviews and decision analytic modelling techniques we will investigate which specific preventive strategies are most cost-effective and should receive priority in health policy development. The four-year research project is funded by the Flemish Agency for Care and Health (Vlaams Agentschap voor Zorg en Gezondheid) and carried out at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in conjunction with the Universiteit Gent and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Contact person(s) of the project: Masja Schmidt

Cost-effectiveness of interventions preventing falls: systematic review protocol (Dutch)

B²aSic Project

The B²aSic project is a randomized controlled trial investigating perioperative back school and brain school (pain neuroscience education) in patients undergoing surgery for lumbar radiculopathy. Patients are recruited from three Flemish hospitals, one tertiary and two secondary care hospitals. Main outcome measures are pain and endogenous pain inhibition. Secondary outcome measures comprise healthcare utilization and related costs, return to work, surgical experience and pain cognitions.

Within this project researchers of i-CHER aim to provide an overview of the inhospital healthcare utilization and costs of patients undergoing surgery for lumbar radiculopathy. Furthermore, they will investigate the treatment effects on healthcare expenditure and return to work, and the influence of pain cognitions on these variables.

The B²aSic project is funded by the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology (IWT) – Applied Biomedical Research Program (TBM), Belgium.

Contact person(s) of the project: Eva Huysmans


The REKOVER-project focusses on the registration and societal costs of traffic accidents. The project is carried out at I-CHER in cooperation with the Belgian Road Safety Institute (BRSI). The aim of I-CHER in the project is to invest the societal cost of injuries obtained from a road traffic injury and to focus on health service use after a road traffic injury.

Stefanie Devos has worked on the project and currently Griet Van Belleghem and Helena Van Deynse are working on predictions of health service use after a road traffic accident and detailed cost calculations by roadway user and injury type.

Previous projects


Cancer screening

Health economic evaluation of screening programmes of breast-, colorectal- and cervical cancer including a systematic review and health economic modelling of screening programmes. (Flemish Agency for Care and Health, Partner:UGent)

Contact person(s) of the project: Maaike Fobelets


Health economic evaluation of the European 'OptiBIRTH' project, an innovative programme to increase VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean section) using evidence based prenatal strategies, including a health economic evaluation, international comparisons of health related quality of life, healthcare utilisation, and perinatal care in general. (7th Framework programme www.optibirth.eu (partners: Trinity College Dublin, University of Gothenburg, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, University of Ulster, Queen's University Belfast, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, National University of Ireland Galway, Università degli Studi di Genova), Wetenschappelijk Fonds Willy Gepts UZ Brussel - VUB).

Contact person(s) of the project: Maaike Fobelets


Our mission is to generate new knowledge that leads to the optimization of stroke care in the most cost-effective way. OPTIMUS is focused on three main pillars of fundamental research: (1) develop new diagnostic and therapeutic methods for pre-and in-hospital acute stroke care, (2) develop new approaches to enhance patient empowerment and medication safety in secondary prevention and (3) develop accurate models to predict stroke outcome. Additionally, (4) objective quantification of the added value of the novel diagnostic (1), therapeutic (1 and 2) and prognostic (3) approaches incorporated in OPTIMUS will be obtained using health economic evaluation and Comparative Effectiveness Research analyses of novel care trajectories after stroke. 

Contact person(s) of the project: Alexis Valenzuela

Administrative support
Tom Janssen

Phone number
+32 (0)2 477 47 20