Home » Ghent researchers start “unprecedented” health research with 20,000 participants (Ghent)

Ghent researchers start “unprecedented” health research with 20,000 participants (Ghent)

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“By 2050, one in three Flemish people will be 65 years and older,” says Ghent University researcher Marthe De Boevre. The large-scale study, called the Health Monitor, should provide interesting information about the genetic and environmental factors that influence our health.

By understanding this better, researchers will be able to better predict diseases and learn lessons about how we can age healthily. Research of this magnitude is unprecedented in our country, only similar initiatives have been started in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.


The research team consists of specialists from Ghent University Hospital, Ghent University, the city of Ghent and the Imec research center. A total of 400,000 questionnaires will be completed. That data will be combined with 180,000 samples of blood, urine, hair, skin, stool and saliva.

“The study is unique because it provides an in-depth insight into the complex interactions between hereditary and environmental factors in the development of age-related diseases,” Boevre explains. “Thanks to advancing technology, we can record and analyze these factors using advanced methods.”


The enormous dataset should enable researchers to learn important lessons. “The healthcare of the future is undergoing a significant transformation towards a more personalized and customized model,” it said. “Thanks to technological advances, we can measure more and better, but analyzing and integrating all this data to improve care is a challenge that we want to tackle.”

The 20,000 participants are at least 45 years old at the start of the study and live in sub-municipalities of Ghent: Wondelgem, Sint-Amandsberg, Gentbrugge, Zwijnaarde, Sint-Denijs-Westrem and Afsnee. The city center of Ghent does not participate because it is not sufficiently representative of the average Western European citizen.

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This month the researchers will start with the first 200 participants, but they are still looking for 19,800 other participants. Anyone who belongs to the target group will receive an explanation booklet next month. Participants will then be visited by a researcher who will provide further explanation.

After consent, participants complete an initial questionnaire. This takes a total of 70 minutes, possibly spread over two weeks.

The researchers guarantee that the information collected will be properly stored. Identity data is encrypted. The data from questionnaires, physical tests and biological samples are securely stored in the biobank of Ghent University Hospital and on the Ghent University server.

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