Health Promotion

The mission of the research unit is to promote a healthy environment and lifestyle, with special attention to reducing health inequalities.

We mainly focus on primary prevention with special attention to:

  • physical, cognitive, mental and social health
  • sleep, physical activity, sedentary behaviour, substance use (smoking and alcohol)
  • adolescents/young adults and older adults



  • Identifying determinants of health (behaviour)
  • Monitoring health (behaviour) and its determinants
  • Studying social inequalities in health (behaviour) and its determinants
  • Developing and implementing 'theory- and evidence-based' health promotion interventions
  • Conducting effect and process evaluation of health promotion interventions


  • Research methods: equal attention to quantitative and qualitative methods, often mixed approach; participatory research; virtual reality; systematic reviews
  • Intervention planning methods: Intervention Mapping Protocol, with specific attention to integration of participatory approach with different stakeholders
  • Measurement methods: use of (focus group) interviews, questionnaires, observations, objective measuring instruments

Main activities

  • Research activities within health promotion
  • Teaching within the Master Health Promotion
  • Societal valorization (e.g. scientific communication, policy advice, provision of developed and evaluated interventions and tools)
  • Scientific services (e.g. editor/reviewer for scientific journals/projects) 

Most important projects

Current projects within the research group are:

  • HBSC Flanders

  • FWO research project aiming to identify critical environmental street characteristics influencing the safety and appeal for active transport by manipulations of virtual reality 3D walk/cycle through environments.

  • BOF participatory project that focuses on the development, implementation and evaluation of an intervention to promote healthy sleeping habits in adolescents. 

  • BOF doctoral project aiming to develop, implement and evaluate an intervention to reduce sedentary behaviour in adolescents at secondary schools using a participatory approach. The Intervention Mapping Protocol is used as a guideline. 

  • Doctoral project with the aim of investigating the determinants of alcohol consumption, the various prevention strategies and the relationship between alcohol consumption and leisure activities.

  • Research project that has the aim to develop an awareness campaign to promote palliative care in the general population in Flanders. 
    Project regarding timely initiation of palliative care. 

  • BOF doctoral project that focuses on identifying the crucial individual and environmental determinants of parental food choices by focus groups, and testing the usability and acceptability of innovative intervention strategies.

  • FWO funded PhD project with the aim to assess the implementation in routine practice of exercise interventions (e.g. clinical pathway) in prostate cancer patients receiving hormone treatment and other evidence-based guidelines (such as cardiometabolic and bone screening, nutrition, etc.) for the optimal management of hormone therapy-induced side effects. (collaboration with the Department of Human Structure and Repair) 

  • Doctoral project aiming at the development of a care pathway for bladder cancer patients. 

  • H2020 ITN project Health CASCADE ( with the aim of developing evidence-based co-creation for public health. PhD students at our research unit focus on (a) ethics within co-creation for public health and  (b) conducting a co-creation project in schools with the aim to develop, implement and evaluate a healthy sleep intervention among adolescents.

  • Kom Op Tegen Kanker project with the aim of developing, implementing and evaluating an intervention to prevent smoking initiation in vulnerable adolescents in the sport- and recreation setting using a participatory approach.

  • FWO research project examining the impact of physical activity on older adults’ daily cognitive performance.

  • BOF doctoral project testing the efficacy of an online intervention targeting daily step goals to improve older adults’ daily cognitive performance.

  • FWO research project using a participatory approach to optimize public parks for active and healthy ageing.

  • FWO and BOF funded research on the acute effects of environmental characteristics on mental health among older adults with a low socio-economic status.

  • FWO research project investigating the social well-being (primarily feelings of loneliness) of newly-arrived adolescent migrants in Flemish secondary schools providing reception programmes, and the role of school social capital

More information about the projects

Most important national and international partnerships

  • Collaborations with Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Flemish Institute Healthy Living
  • the Flemish expertise center for Alcohol and other Drugs (VAD)
  • Maastricht University
  • Amsterdam UMC
  • Deakin University
  • University of Agder
  • University of Oslo
  • University of Zaragoza
  • University of Porto

and many more.


  • Benedicte Deforche (Full Professor; head of the research group)
  • Maïté Verloigne (Assistant Professor)
  • Annelies Thienpondt (Assistant; PhD student)
  • Jasmine Mommen (Practice Assistant)
  • Elke Ghyllebert (Practice Assistant)

Postdoctoral researchers

  • Jelle Van Cauwenberg
  • Louise Poppe
  • Katrijn Delaruelle
  • Maxim Dierckens
  • Anneke Vandendriessche

Phd Students

  • Janneke de Boer

  • Lea Delfmann

  • Rabab Chrifou

  • Kenji Leta

  • Noortje Jacobs

  • Amber Van Puyvelde

  • Fien De Block

  • Karen Schrijvers

  • Sarah Devos

  • Babette Demeester
  • Elien Lebuf

Contact data

Prof. Benedicte Deforche

Prof. Maïté Verloigne