UNGER, Jean-Pierre

MD, DTM & H, MPH (Harvard, School of Public Health), diplômé épidémio-statistiques, PhD, professeur santé publique Institut de Médecine Tropicale (Anvers), honorary senior research fellow, Queen Mary, University of London.
Médecine (systèmes de santé); Amérique latine, Asie, Belgique.

As a physician and academic, I have practiced, researched and taught various aspects of clinical and public health medicine on 5 continents and for almost 40 years, while being attached to the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp. An annotated list of my research findings is available at: http://jeanpierreunger.be

The main categories of these researches were as follows:

  1. Professional medical and paramedical practice
  2. Medical knowledge: production and management
  3. Medical ethics
  4. Clinical and public health education
  5. Disease control
  6. Organisation and management of health services
  7. National health policies
  8. Development cooperation and international health policies
  9. Clinical research, public health and health policy methods
  10. Formulation of alternative policies in health, international aid, research and education.

A few principles guided my action and analysis:

  • Access to professional health care and a universal health system is a human right and a key to social justice. In medicine, whether clinical or public health, publicly funded academics should contribute to the exercise of this right.
  •  In order to encourage professionals to be ethical, reflective and involved in the transmission of professionalism, the mission of public services management and of public policies should be social and professional - not commercial and industrial.
  • For the sake of relevance to medical professionalism and public sector development, I relied on action research and action learning. Practice was part of my academic duty. And so, I used medical practice to conceptualize health management; health management practice to evaluate national health policies; and national and regional policy guidance to evaluate international health policies.
  • To consolidate my theories, I conducted my researches in a large array of countries, from developing to industrial.
  •  I always referred to explicit medical values and quality criteria of health care. This type of research was interdisciplinary and therefore inherently quite risky.

For 4 years I was director and for 6, co-director of the Master of Public Health course. I am now an Associate Professor Emeritus of the Institute of Tropical Medicine and a visiting professor at the Health and Society Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of Newcastle, UK. 

Key publications

Unger J.-P., De Paepe P., Green A. A code of best practice for disease control programmes to avoid damaging health care services in developing countries. Int J Health Planning and Management 2003, 18, S27-S39.

Unger J.-P., De Paepe P., Buitrón R., Soors W. Costa Rica: Achievements of a heterodox health policy. American Journal of Public Health 2008; 98(4), 636-643.

International Health and Aid Policies. Editors: J.-P.Unger, P.De Paepe, K.Sen, W.Soors. Cambridge University Press, 2010 (275 pages). http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521174268

Unger, J.-P., & De Paepe, P. (2019). Commercial Health Care Financing: The Cause of U.S., Dutch, and Swiss Health Systems Inefficiency? International Journal of Health Services, 49(3), 431–456. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020731419847113

Unger, JP., Morales, I., De Paepe, P. et al. A plea to merge clinical and public health practices: reasons and consequences. BMC Health Serv Res 20, 1068 (2020).