Equity in (primary) health care

Presentation of unit

Our mission is twofold:

  • to contribute to the growing insight on equity in the context of access to health care, health care processes and the outcome of health care
  • to contribute to tackling social inequity in health. We devote to the development and implementation of an educational continuum on health equity and social diversity in diverse (para)medical courses within the faculty and advise health care and policy actors on social inequity in health & health care.

This interdisciplinary research unit is founded and supervised by prof. Sara Willems, Europe’s first professor holding a chair in equity in health care.


  • social inequity in health (care)
  • accessibility of health care
  • diversity
  • discrimination
  • social vulnerability
  • patient safety
  • health as a human right
  • community oriented primary care
  • interdisciplinary collaboration
  • quality of care

Main activities


  • “Gezondheid en Maatschappij I (Bach 1 geneeskunde)”
    • Lecture introduction medical anthropology
    • Lecture and workshop on professional competencies to deal with social diversity
    • Lecture introduction in medical sociology: social inequity in health – social determinants of health
    • Tutorial social inequity in health
    • Lecture human rights
    • Mini debate health & migration
  • “Gezondheid en Maatschappij II (Bach 3 geneeskunde)”
    • COPC (Community Oriented Primary Care) week: Interdisciplinary project week on community oriented primary care, focusing on interprofessional collaboration and culture sensitive care. The goal is to explore the care needs of the patient population within their local context.
  • “Samenleving & gezondheid (Master in Health Promotion & Master in Healthcare Management and Policy)
    • Lecture introduction medical anthropology
    • Lecture introduction in medical sociology: social inequity in health – social determinants of health


Ongoing research

  • PRICOV-19 study (2020-…): 'How did general practices organize care during the COVID-19 pandemic’. The PRICOV-19 study investigates how GP practices in 38 countries are organized during the COVID-19 pandemic to guarantee safe, effective, patient-centered, and equitable care. It also focuses on the shift in roles and tasks, the wellbeing of staff members and the association with practice- and health care system characteristics. More information: https://pricov19study.ugent.be/
  • ESSAG-trial (2021-2025): Efficacy of offering a self-sampling device by the GP to reach women underscreened in the routine cervical cancer screening programme compared to sending reminder letters by the screening organization.
    PhD-research project funded by Kom Op Tegen Kanker.
  • EDISTOOLS (2019-2023): Research project aiming to explore and reduce ethnic discrimination in the domains of health care, education, real estate and labour. https://edistools.org
    Funded by FWO.
  • Equity in primary care in Brazil (2019-2023)
    PhD-research exploring equity dimensions in primary healthcare in Brazil.
  • Access to preventive healthcare across migrant backgrounds
    PhD research (2022-2026) exploring disparities in uptake of cancer screening across migrant backgrounds in Flanders, with a focus on the role of neighborhoods in explaining observed disparities.
  • PACE (2023). This international study investigates General Practitioners’ (GPs) attitudes, facilitators and barriers with regard to Person-Centered Care (PCC). The study will be carried out in close collaboration with the European Association for Quality and Patient Safety in Primary Care (EQuiP) and the European General Practice Research Network (EGPRN). The study will be coordinated by the Department of Family Medicine, School of Medicine University of Zagreb (Croatia). The responsible for the Flemish part of the study is UGent.
  • Accessibility of primary health care (2021-2023)
    In Flanders, Belgium, there is a risk of shortage in accessible primary care delivered by general practitioners. In collaboration with the Flemish Government, Domus Medica VZW and VIVEL, a few pilot studies are running regarding the accessibility of general practitioners to maintain care needs of the Flemish population. Data are gathered in several pilot regions and interactive graphs are drafted with the ultimate aim of designing a methodology for broader implementation across the entire Flemish region. 

Previous projects

  • IMPRODISE (2020) - DIvscan (2021-2022). In the IMPRODISE project, a tool was developed to respond to health-related challenges of a more diverse Europe by providing health professionals the skills to deliver diversity sensitive healthcare for all patients. https://eithealth.eu/project/improdise/. In the DIvscan project, the piloted tool is being rolled out in different faculties.
  • Gent Knapt Op  (2019-2022): Interuniversity project in which UGent evaluated the (health) impact of the renovation of vulnerable people’s houses in the city of Ghent, while candidates are unburdened and supported technically, financially, administratively and socially. This is done using a recurring fund, which enables the public budget to be used over and over again. https://stad.gent/nl/over-gent-stadsbestuur/stadsbestuur/wat-doet-het-bestuur/beleidsnotas-2014-2019-archived/beleidsplannen-wonen-verbouwen/gent-knapt-op/wat-gent-knapt-op
    Funded by UIA.  
  • Person and People Centered health care in Belgium and Bolivia (2012-2022): How to put the needs of people at the centre of health services through participatory consultation methods and participatory action research, as a foundation for equity driven universal health coverage.
  • Equity in access to primary health care for children
    Analyses in the health region of Bragança in the state of São Paulo.
    In collaboration with Universidade Federal de São Paulo.
    Funded by Fundação CAPES.
  • CATCH (Community sport for AT-risk youth: Innovative strategies for promoting personal development, health and social CoHesion) (2015-2019). This interuniversity research project focused on the influence of community sport initiatives for the social inclusion of at risk people.
    Website: https://www.lokaalsportbeleid.be/themas/sportparticipatie-buurtsport/catch/
  • Community coach Nieuw Gent (2019-2020)
    Scientific evaluation of the community coach project within vzw Voetbal in de Stad (KAA Gent Foundation) within the neighbourhood ‘Nieuw Gent – Steenakker’. Within the community coach project, a range of low-threshold, accessible activities were organized for young people in the neighbourhood.
  • Accessibility of preventive care
    In collaboration with Domus Medica VZW, several short research projects were set up, ranging from a literature review on the accessibility of e-health and a feasibility study using tablets to collect preventive health data from patients in a vulnerable position.  
    In collaboration  with CvKO (Centrum voor Kankeropsporing): qualitative research was performed on barriers to participation of cervix and colon cancer screening for vulnerable subpopulations.
  • Educating Health Professionals to address the social determinants of health
    Literature review to fortify the evidence-base regarding teaching social determinants of health to future health professionals.  
    Funded by IOM.
  • QUALICOPC (Quality and Costs of Primary Care in Europe) study
    Evaluation of primary care systems in Europe in terms of quality, costs and equity in 31 European countries, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
    Website: www.qualicopc.eu
    Funded by the European Commission (FP7).
  • Kans (Kwetsbaarheid Aanpakken in de Samenleving)
    Longitudinal exploration of care use, care trajectories and care satisfaction in welfare users in a socio-societal vulnerable position (psychological and/or financial vulnerability).
    Supported by the Flemish ministry of Welfare, Health and Family.
  • SWING: Social capital and Well-being in Neighbourhoods in Ghent.
    Research project on the moderating effect of socioeconomic factors on the association between social capital and health.
    Data collection on health and social capital at the level of inhabitants and neighbourhoods in 142 neighbourhoods in Ghent.
    Funded by FWO.


Team Leader

Independent academic Staff

Post doc


  • Esther Van Poel

Scientific staff

  • Eva Gezels
  • Robin Vandecasteele
  • Dorien Vanden Bossche
  • Sarah Derveeuw
  • Christine Leyns
  • Bianca di Silva
  • Ilka Jacobs (samenwerking met de unit Epidemiologie)
  • Kenji Leta (samenwerking met de unit Gezondheidsbevordering)
  • Babette De meester (samenwerking met de unit Gezondheidsbevordering)
  • Emmily Schaubroeck (samenwerking met het Academisch centrum Huisartsgeneeskunde)


Contact data