Sciensano & Obesity

Last updated on 29-5-2019 by Admin Drupal

Obesity is associated with numerous chronic conditions diseases. A healthy lifestyle, with a balanced diet and the regular practice of a physical activity, help to prevent weight gain and the many related complications.

Health Survey

Sciensano carries out population surveys which provide a description of the state of health of the Belgian population as a whole, but also by region (Health Interview Survey).

Among other things, these surveys make it possible to study the correlation between a whole series of factors linked to health (for example: between obesity and socio-economic level).

The political decision-makers can then base themselves on solid information to guide their decisions. 

One of the report of the Health Interview Survey (HIS) is entitled «Lifestyle and prevention» summarises the different factors influencing health, such as the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, the undertaking of physical activities (French and Dutch), nutritional status, BMI (French and Dutch) and eating habits (French and Dutch). 

Those last three topics have also been investigated in further details in the Food Consumption Survey (FCS).

In the HIS the participants supply their information through a self-administered questionnaire.

Practice of physical activities

The Health Interview Survey assesses the practice of physical activities (French and Dutch) among people aged 15 years or more by means of a self completed questionnaire which consists of asking the respondent directly if he/she practises a physical activity.

This assessment is based on the declarations of the persons surveyed, with all the subjectivity that this may entail. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines physical activity as the set of body movements produced by skeletal muscles and entailing a significant increase in the expenditure of energy.

This concept includes both the physical activities practised during leisure as well as those practised at home during house work, or on route to or in the workplace.      

Nutritional Status 

The Health Interview Survey assesses the nutritional status (French and Dutch) by calculating the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the population by means of a questionnaire directly asking the respondent for his/her height and weight.

This estimation is based on the declarations of the persons surveyed, with all the subjectivity that this may entail. 

The BMI measurments in the population makes it possible to estimate the number of persons who are underweight (too thin) and overweight (too fat) according to their sex, age and socio-economic situation and to study trends oveetime. 

A high number of overweight people is then a signal alerting the authorities, advocating for the inclusion in the health policies of the promotion of healthy eating and physical activity. 

Eating habits

The Health Interview Survey assesses the eating habits (French and Dutch) of the population by means of a questionnaire in which  the respondent is directly asked about the frequency of his/her consumption of certain foodstuffs some of which are recommended and others advised against: fruit, vegetables, fruit and vegetable juices, water, sugary refreshing drinks, salty or sugary snacks, dairy products and vegetable-based substitutes enriched with calcium and breakfast. 

The Food Consumption Survey study eating habits in much greater detail.

Food Consumption Survey

The Food Consumption Survey studies in greater detail the eating habits in Belgium and makes it possible to:

  • objectively measure the weight, height and waist circumference (in French and Dutch)
  • objectively measure the level of physical activity among children and adolescents (by means of an accelerometer) (in French and Dutch)
  • to investigated eating habits during a face to face interview with a dietician (in French and Dutch). 


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