Conducting surveys to study the health status of the population and inform health authorities
Our team organises the Health Interview Survey (HIS) in Belgium, which is one of the most important sources of health data at the national level. Every five years, more than 10,000 individuals are interviewed to assess the evolution of the population’s health status and to monitor trends in risk factors.
We conduct as well projects related to the health surveys, such as:
- A Health Examination Survey (HES) among a subset of the HIS participants to collect ‘objective’ health measures.
- A linkage of our survey data with health insurance data (HISLink project) to validate and enrich the HIS with information on health care consumption.
- The COVID-19 online health surveys, where we answer topical questions in the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic in order to monitor the indirect effects of the health crisis, such as mental and social health, lifestyle changes and vaccination status of the population.
With such information, we can determine the health needs of the population and identify groups that are likely to have more health challenges due to their socio-economic profile or region of residence, for example. Health authorities, researchers, experts and the press constantly refer to the results of our surveys in their search for reliable information on the health of the population. We also collaborate in many national and international projects that use our survey data.
Discover our interactive tool HISIA that allows you to conduct your own analyses with the HIS data.
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We publish information on a wide range of health-related topics: physical and mental health, health-related behaviors, use of social, health and prevention services, perception of the physical and social environment, etc. We focus on information that cannot be obtained from other sources (hospital registry, RIZIV-INAMI, etc.).
Our surveys allow us to study the time trends in various health domains. For instance, we have found that:
- psychological well-being and vital energy levels have declined over the past decade (2008-2018)
- the prevalence of overweight and obesity among adults has increased since the first HIS survey in 1997.
We also focus on the assessment and evolution of health disparities between social groups. Such information is essential to develop more targeted initiatives, programs and policies.
To study time trends, the methodology and the questions of the HIS must of course remain stable from one survey to another. However, some flexibility is required in our surveys over time. Thus:
- we include new questions to address novel issues or emerging health concerns. For example, in the 2018 survey, we added a series of questions on frailty among the elderly, on gambling and on the use of electronic cigarettes.
- we adapt our questions to the European requirements (EHIS) to allow comparison between Belgium and other EU Member States.
- we keep up with new survey technologies. For the HIS 2018, we have explored the possibility of asking participants to answer questions online.
- we work towards extending the HIS data with other data. For instance, in 2018, we supplemented the interviews with a health examination. HIS data have also been linked with insurance data.
Finally, we pay special attention to make our data as accessible as possible. Scientific institutions can apply for anonymized microdata. In addition, all survey results are available online, in detailed reports and via the interactive tool HISIA that allows users to perform their own analyses. We believe that the widespread use of our data encourages the development of evidence based health policies, which in turn improve the health of the population and reduce health disparities.