The Scientific Institute of Public Health (WIV-ISP) celebrates its 110th anniversary

In 2014, the Scientific Institute of Public Health (WIV-ISP) celebrates its 110th anniversary. On this occasion, a special meeting has been organised on Thursday, January 30th.

Since its foundation in 1904, long before the creation of the Ministry of Public Health in 1936 and the implementation of the public health-care system in 1964, the WIV-ISP is the scientific backbone in support of Belgian healthcare policy. “The WIV-ISP has a long and rich history. The facts speak for themselves, ” says Laurette Onkelinx , Belgian Minister of Public Health. “One of the nicest examples is the Nobel Prize awarded to the Doctor Jules Bordet in 1919 for his researches in the field of immunology.”

Today, the WIV-ISP, located in Brussels, is a leading player in the field of public health, both among the Belgian federal and federated authorities and at a European and international level. Its partners are leading institutions such as WHO, OECD, EFSA, ECDC and OIE. At the WIV-ISP, more than 500 scientists, technicians and administrative staff work every day to protect and improve the health of the population. Minister Onkelinx  gives the following example: “The WIV-ISP has played a decisive role in developing the first HIV plan in Belgium. This plan has only one aim: efficiency. Its strategic pillars are as follows: prevention, screening, management of patients and quality of life for those suffering from the disease.” She goes on: “ Research in public health depends upon the availability and accessibility of reliable data. In the future, I therefore wish that the researches will be able to make the best use of all the clinical data available in Belgium in order to resolve some issues. In this context of ‘ehealth’, the WIV-ISP has embarked on an ambitious project, entitled ‘Healthdata.be’, with the aim to collect and manage these data in Belgium and to make these available to the researchers, the healthcare stakeholders and the policy-makers. Efforts to optimise the use of clinical data will benefit to society because research results will be available sooner to support healthcare policy.”

In the coming years, the WIV-ISP will continue to monitor, identify and analyse trends and risks to health, making every effort to provide the authorities and the population with impartial and transparent information. It is also ready to provide support and solutions to national and international authorities in case of crises or health incidents. According to Doctor Marc Sprenger of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), “the ECDC identifies, evaluates and communicates about risks to public health posed by infectious diseases and helps EU countries to prepare for and react to infectious threats. We wouldn’t be able to work without the dedicated and continuous support provided by national public health institutions  such as the WIV-ISP. We must continue to actively support the excellent work by these organisations.” “At the same time, the institutions must use their knowledge and expertise to help set up similar organisations in  low- and middle-income countries,” underlines Professor Arnaud Fontanet,  director of the Epidemiology of Emerging Diseases Unit at Institut Pasteur, Paris. “In the context of a global approach of health, this element is essential given the interconnection of threats to health and their effects and the growing interdependence  of solutions.”

Born more than a century ago, the WIV-ISP is today in a position to broaden its scope and serve as a reference Institute of Public Health at a domestic and international level.

Access the presentations of the meeting