Equity in Health Care - Research Projects

Current projects

This project looks at the added value that community sport initiatives have on the social inclusion of vulnerable populations and how this is best achieved. In other words, this project looks at what works, for whom and under what circumstances. Community sport initiatives are accessible projects that offer sport directed towards the most vulnerable populations. Community sport uses sport as a tool to work on other life aspects, such as social inclusion. Social inclusion is defined by three central themes within the project: personal development, social cohesion and health. The first two themes will be researched by our project partners, VUB (Sport & Society) and Ghent University (Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy) respectively, while our own research group of Equity in Healthcare is responsible for looking into health effects of community sport initiatives.

This study is performed in cooperation with and funded by the Centrum voor Kankeropsporing (CvKO). It consists of focus groups with Belgian residents who are not participating in screening programs for cervical cancer or colon cancer. Special attention is paid to two subgroups: vulnerable women and people with Turkish roots.

  • Researchers: Kaat Van Roy, Sara Willems

Finished projects

Between 2012 and 2016 our research group carried out several research project in the context of a contractual agreement with Domus Medica vzw. All projects were related to (medical) prevention for vulnerable groups. These included: a literature review on the use of (a prevention module) in patient portals and specific points of interest for vulnerable populations; a feasability study of the tablet version of a national prevention survey in a group of mainly vulnerable people; cooperation in the development of medical guidelines (adding attention to the social context in guidelines),…

  • Researchers: Kaat Van Roy [Link], Jens Detollenaere [Link], Sara Willems [Link]

In 2014, with the collaboration of the City of Ghent​, a study was initated to investigate the access to health care for Roma in Ghent. The main purpose of the study was to identify the different tresholds that the Roma-community experiences in their search for health care. To answer these questions 12 Roma an 13 (health)care-professionals from different disciplines were interviewed. The results from the study were aimed to inform policy makers and to give practical tips to professionals who work on a regular basis with the Roma-community. Both the information and the tips were presented at a conference and later on published in following brochure:  


We performed a SWOT analysis of the current organisation of health care within Belgian prisons, using available databases, qualitative interviews with prison doctors and a quantitative checklist. This was part of an overarching 2 year research project funded by KCE (Belgian Health Care Knowlegde Centre) to inform a reformation of health care in Belgian prisons.

  • Researcher: Sara Willems [Link]

The QUALICOPC (Quality and Costs of Primary Care in Europe) study is an EC funded project under the Seventh Framework Programme, and aims to evaluate primary care systems in Europe in terms of quality, costs and equity. The QUALICOPC project includes 31 European countries, being 26 European Union (EU) member states, and Iceland, Macedonia, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. Furthermore, Australia, Canada, New Zealand also participate in this study. The outcomes of the project aim to help decision makers to shape primary care systems optimally.

  • Website: www.qualicopc.eu
  • Researcher: Jens Detollenaere [Link], Lise Hanssens [Link]

The emergency department (ED) has become an increasingly attractive source of care. From 2009 to 2012, the number of ED visits in Belgium increased from 280 ED visits per 1000 population to 290 ED visits per 1000 population. With this number, the incidence in Belgium is substantially higher than that in neighbouring countries.
Using face-to-face questionnaires the reasons why self-referring patients attend the ED were explored.  These questionnaire were collected by trained interviewers at four ED’s in Flanders: Ghent, Kortrijk, Tielt and Knokke Heist.

  • Researcher: Jens Detollenaere [Link]

Inequity by disease refers to the phenomenon where the diagnostic label gives patients access to services that are not equally accessible for patients with the same functional status (the same need for care) but a different diagnostic label. These services comprise but are not limited to health care and rehabilitation services, welfare services, allowances, information, support, etc. Equal access refers to access to the same services at the same costs, with the same level of information and the same level of efforts to access the care.
This new research term has been developed by Ghent University (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences - Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care) in collaboration with NIVEL (Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research).

  • Researcher: Jens Detollenaere [Link]

This project consisted of the development of a questionnaire to measure the health status and health needs of Flemish Prisoners, in collaboration with . It was part of an assignment by the Flemish minister of Welfare, Public Health and Families to tailor the preventive health care in Flemish prisons.

  • Researchers: Veerle Vyncke [Link], Lise Hanssens [Link], Eva Steenberghs [Link]

The project studied the causes of the unequal distribution of health related outcomes, such as perceived health, the presence of chronic illnesses/conditions, the level of pain and minor health complaints, as well as mental well-being. To explain the relation between structural characteristics (e.g. personal income and education, neighbourhood poverty and unemployment) and health related outcomes, the project focussed on social determinants both at the individual and community level. At the individual level, social characteristics such as network resources (social capital), generalized trust, extent of social network, etc. will be distinguished. At the community level, social processes such as social trust, informal social control, etc. will be included. The focus on both individual and community level processes might result in a more detailed insight in the exact role these processes play in social inequity in health.

  • Researchers: Veerle Vyncke [Link], Sara Willems [Link], Wim Hardyns

The KANS project aims to support the Minister of Welfare, Health and Family with scientific research. KANS is a longitudinal study, which outlines the use and users of welfare and healthcare, the welfare and healthcare trajectories of care users and the determinants of quality of care, perceived profit and success of care trajectories

  • Researcher: Sara Willems

The POP-project aims to support local general practices in quality improvement, using a 3-year program containing measurement of practice performance, giving online feedback and a tailored practice-level coaching program

  • Website:
  • Researcher: Pierre Vandenbussche

Pay-for-performance schemes raise the concern for inequity in healthcare because providers might select patients for whom targets can easily be reached. This research project evaluates the advantages, disadvantages and feasibility of Pay-for-performance in the Belgian context.  In this evaluation a theory-based framework conceptualizing equity in terms of equal access, equal treatment and equal treatment outcomes for people in equal need, is used to guide the work.

Researcher: Sara Willems