One of Sciensano’s key objectives is to monitor the health status of the population in Belgium. Therefore, Sciensano conducts health surveys to assess the occurrence (prevalence) of lifestyle risk factors in the general population. We also evaluate their impact on the health status of the population and we monitor the evolution of these risk factors over time. We also participate actively in national and international projects related to these topics. Sciensano also assesses the impact of our environment on healthy behaviour (for instance the availability of places for physical exercise or the compliance of food products with healthy diet recommendations).
Based on our surveys and projects, we produce policy-relevant information about lifestyle risk factors in Belgium and we develop tools to facilitate the use of this information by policy makers and the general public.
Sciensano is also the national focal point of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and European institutions (such as Eurostat and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction) for statistics on lifestyle risk factors topics. As such, Sciensano is responsible for gathering, validating and passing on lifestyle risk factor statistics to these international organisations.
Assess the occurence, their impact and evolution of lifestyle risk factors via surveys
Sciensano conducts a number of large scale population surveys :
- The Health Interview Survey (HIS) is the largest general health survey in the country. Every 5 years 10,000 individuals are interviewed to study the evolution of the population’s health status and the health risk factors (at population level). Lifestyle risk factors are monitored in great detail in the HIS. It is therefore the main source of information for such indicators at the population level in Belgium.
- The Food Consumption Survey (FCS) is taking place periodically and reports extensively on food consumption behaviour and nutrient intake in the Belgian population.
- These two surveys are mainly based on interviews and questionnaires to obtain information, but people may misreport some information. For example, people may not know that they suffer from high blood pressure or they may over or under report their height or weight. That is why we organise a complementary Health Examination Survey (HES) to collect objective information on the occurrence (prevalence) of some important chronic diseases and associated lifestyle risk factors in the Belgian population.
In addition to these large scale population surveys, Sciensano participates in a number of national and international projects related to life style, such as the VITADEK project on the intake of fat-soluble vitamins, or the RARHA project which aims at collecting information on alcohol intake via harmonised questionnaires. The HIS also complies with the guidelines developed at European level and is thus included in the framework of the European Health Interview Surveys.
Based on the results of its different surveys and projects, Sciensano supports evidence-based health policy-making. We also develop interactive web tools to facilitate the use of the available information by policy makers and the general public. For instance, an interactive website allows users with no statistical experience to conduct their own analysis of HIS data, or vital statistics.
Be the national focal point of WHO, OECD and European institutions
Sciensano is the Belgian focal point for the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and European institutions, such as Eurostat and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. We are therefore responsible for the transfer of lifestyle risk factor data to these international organisations. For instance, we gather, analyse and report information about illicit drug use in Belgium to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).