In a Health Examination Survey (HES), we collect objective health information from a representative sample of the total population, including individuals who have no contact with health services. Collecting objective population-level health measurements is especially important for:
- items that are often not accurately reported in a health survey, (such as height and weight) and
- diseases and risk factors that may be present without any symptoms but have important effects on health, such as high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol.
The data from a HES help align health policy with population needs.
In 2018, the sixth Belgian Health Survey (HIS) was organised. Information on health status, lifestyle, health care and socio-demographic characteristics was collected from a representative sample of 11,611 residents of Belgium.
In a subset of 1184 people aged 18 years and above a health examination survey (HES) was conducted. Participants were visited by a trained nurse who conducted the survey in their homes.
The HES 2018 included a physical examination, blood sample collection and urine collection. The physical examination consisted of the measurement of height, weight, waist circumference and blood pressure. In individuals aged 50 years and older, handgrip was also measured. Blood analyses included determination of blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Sciensano obtained the results in a coded manner so that participants could not be identified. With a unique identifier, the HES data could be linked to information from the same people in the HIS.
The HES 2018 results are an important complement to the HIS 2018 results and allow us to more accurately estimate the order of magnitude of the diabetes and obesity epidemic in Belgium. They also show that a lot of people have high blood pressure and excessive cholesterol without knowing it. They indicate that it remains important to put risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes high on the agenda when implementing preventive health policy measures. From the age of 40, these risk factors are more common and preventive health screening to detect them is recommended. Detailed results of the HES are available in the final report.