The Belgian Health Interview Survey (BHIS) is organised every 4 to 5 years and collects health information from around 10,000 individuals in a face-to-face setting. This manuscript describes the methodological choices made in the sampling design, the outcomes of the previous surveys in terms of participation rates and achieved targets and the factors to be accounted for in data-analysis.
The BHIS targets all persons residing in Belgium with no restrictions on age or nationality. Trimestral copies of the National Population Registry are used as the sampling frame. To select the respondents, a multistage sampling design is applied involving a geographical stratification, a selection of clusters, a selection of households within each cluster and a selection of respondents within each household. Using matched substitution of non-participating households assures the realisation of the predefined net-sample.
For each BHIS the required number of participants is achieved, including the years when an oversampling of provinces and of the elderly occurred. The sampling design guarantees that the survey is implemented in large cities as well as in small municipalities. A growing problem is related to the sampling frame: it is increasingly subject of deterioration, especially in the Brussels-Capital Region.
The methodological approach developed for the first BHIS proves to be accurate and was kept nearly unchanged throughout the following surveys. Fieldwork substitution contributes to a considerable extent to the success of the fieldwork but yields in higher percentages of non-participation. The sampling design requires special attention when analysing the data: the unequal selection probability, e.g. due to the non-proportional stratification at the regional level, necessitates the use of weights. The BHIS is progressively embedded in the European Health Survey, a process that doesn’t jeopardise the comparability of the Belgian results throughout time.