The network comprises about 120 general practices all over Belgium who weekly report data about 8 different health problems (infectious and non-infectious diseases). Therefore the impact and the characteristics of different health problems in Belgium can be monitored. By providing epidemiological information as well as information on care provided in general practice, the sentinel general practitioners (GPs) support the policymakers in defining priorities and evaluating health policy.
Almost all people in Belgium have a general practitioner and therefore they are a good source of information about the health of the population. The network of sentinel GPs exist since 1979. In 2019 around 120 practices participate over all Belgium. The coverage of the network is estimated at 1.1% — 1.5% of the Belgian population.
Data is reported on different health problems (infectious and non-infectious diseases). Therefore the impact of different health problems and their characteristics can be studied. Some of them are monitored continuously over time (e.g. acute respiratory infections and influenza-like illness). Other are monitored recurrently to gather data at regular intervals that can be compared and support the authorities in charge of health policies. Varicella, tick bites or suspicion of Lyme disease, and falls among patients ≥ 65 years are themes that have been studied in the past and are monitored again in 2019.
Health problems monitored in 2019 by the network:
- acute respiratory infections and influenza-like illness
- sexual transmitted infections
- tick bites or suspicion of Lyme disease
- problematic substance use
- falls among older patients ≥ 65 years
The registration is done on the website of the network of sentinel general practitioners.
Acute respiratory infections and influenza-like illness are covered by the network continuously since 2007. For each episode age group, vaccination status and hospitalization are recorded. There is also a close collaboration with the national reference center for Influenza in Belgium that collect a clinical sample in a subset of patients. More information is available on the influenza surveillance website of Sciensano.
For the other health problems specific questionnaires are recorded by the sentinel GPs in order to better describe the characteristics and risk factors. These questionnaires are anonymous (name, surname, age, postal code and date of consultation are not recorded) et can be consulted or filled in directly on the website of the network of sentinel general practitioners.
This network is only possible through close cooperation with our partners.