Health and disease monitoring

Sciensano is committed to guaranteeing a qualitative health for everyone. To meet the needs of citizens, our teams keep an eye on their health and its evolution over time.

Through nationwide surveys, we collect information on the health of the population, its limitations and disabilities, on its medication consumption, eating habits and well-being in general.

The Sciensano’s priority is to ensure that the ageing population remains healthy as long as possible, that is to say without disabilities or chronic illnesses. We study the life expectancy of citizens and assess if those years are lived in “good” or “bad health”.

Improving people’s health also involves the identification and monitoring of diseases that affect them.

Our monitoring work covers infectious diseases (AIDS, influenza, tuberculosis, salmonella, bronchitis, etc.), which are still widespread today. In this area, Sciensano’s activities are focused, firstly, on infectious diseases transmissible from one person to another (such as influenza) and, secondly, on infectious diseases related to food (such as salmonella), body secretions (such as HIV/AIDS and STI), the environment (such as allergies or animal diseases) and health care (hospital-acquired infections, MRSA, CPE, etc.).

Sciensano coordinates a vast network of laboratories, centres and platforms that monitor the infectious diseases in circulation. This network provides clear and reliable information about diseases, their causes, their incidence in the population, as well as on emerging pathogens (bacteria, germs, viruses) that cause these diseases.

Sciensano also strengthens the monitoring of chronic diseases, which have gradually overtaken infectious diseases. Cardiovascular, metabolic, cancer and rheumatic diseases have become the first cause of mortality worldwide. Beyond the field surveys, platforms and databases have been set up to reflect the socio-economic context and evaluate the healthcare experience of patients. The patient is therefore back at the heart of our concerns. We track people suffering from a defined disease through cohort studies. These statistical studies between two groups provide data on the natural history of the disease, its evolution under treatment, treatment safety and the impact of environmental and biological determinants on the disease.

It is on the basis of information gathered through its studies, surveys, analyses and research that Sciensano issues opinions for the attention of the Belgian authorities, who can then steer their actions and their policies according to the actual needs of citizens


Surveys, interviews and studies to gauge the health of Belgians

 While diseases are closely observed, the health status and habits of the population also come under close scrutiny. Do Belgians have a healthy diet? Do they live longer in good health than their European neighbours? How high is their alcohol or tobacco consumption? Do the Flemings feel healthier than the Walloons? Do Belgians consume a lot of medicines?

The authorities must be informed of the state of health and, more generally, the diseases, limitations and disabilities, healthcare consumption and living habits of citizens to assess whether policy measures currently in place meet their health requirements. Sciensano studies in particular life expectancy in good health in Belgium. The latest results of this study (2012) found that life expectancy in good health at birth in Belgium was higher by 2.7 years than the European average for men and 1.7 years for women. This puts Belgium among the top 10 countries of the European Union. With their partners, our experts also exchange with citizens to discover their eating habits, lifestyle, medical consumption, health status and a number of socio-economic parameters. The latest national health survey (2013) in particular highlighted that:

  • 8% of the population indulges in binge drinking at least once a week;
  • the population has 23% of smokers and this percentage has witnessed a steady decline for 15 years;
  • nearly half of adults (48%) and one in five young people are overweight;
  • 8% of households reported that they had to postpone health care over the past 12 months because of financial problems.

Over 80 Laboratories and National Reference Centres to monitor the evolution of human and animal diseases

The National Reference Laboratories (NRL) and National Reference Centres (NRC) that Sciensano hosts undertake a threefold mission: service delivery, research, and expertise. They analyse the samples sent by the peripheral laboratories and consolidate and list key information nationally: strain characterisation, number of cases, trends … The collection of microbiological data sets out to prevent and fight against emerging diseases. For some of them, such as epizootic diseases, we are also the only body to establish a diagnosis in Belgium. Monitoring laboratories also play a role internationally, as the national data collected is then sent to networks such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) or the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). These organisations use the data gathered by the National Reference Laboratories and Centres to map the situation in Europe and worldwide, measure the evolution of risks and monitor the spread on a larger scale.

The fight against antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a significant problem in human and veterinary medicine. Thanks to our laboratory research and monitoring activities, we help reduce nosocomial infections and antibiotic resistance in both human and animal medicine. In the event of outbreaks related to resistant bacteria, we provide the health authorities with our expertise and support in the field (hospitals and nursing homes in particular). Sciensano studies the resistance of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella and Escherichia coli, as well as the relationship between consumption of antibiotics and the emergence of antibiotic resistance.


Pollen allergy Diabetes Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) Antibiotic resistance Diphtheria Lyme disease Meningitis Tuberculose Poliomyelitis Hepatitis Flu Rabies Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) Rare diseases Obesity Salmonellose


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