Helping better thanks to research

For more than 150 years, we have managed to reinvent and improve ourselves over and over again. We can only do this by continuously questioning ourselves. Because little independent and high-quality research has been conducted on our activities worldwide, we are strongly committed to research and innovation ourselves. This allows us to provide better and more efficient assistance.

Because there has been little independent and quality research on our activities worldwide, we are strongly committed to research and innovation ourselves. This enables us to provide ever better and more efficient assistance.

Dr. Philippe Vandekerckhove

Chief executive officer, CEO Belgian Red Cross-Flanders

Proven effective approach

We are engaged daily in researching and scientifically substantiating the techniques and practices of our activities. Thus, we do not simply build on tradition, intuition or good will, but strive for proven effective approaches in everything we do.

Research helps us move forward

  • We want to critically evaluate our operations. We make adjustments where we can, including activities that have been little explored.
  • We want to help as efficiently as possible. We want to use our available resources optimally for maximum results. This is how we become even more performant.
  • We want to constantly improve our operation. We immediately put innovative insights into practice. Participating in this is extra motivating for our employees and volunteers.

Five key areas

We conduct research for all our activities, but we pay extra attention to five research areas: in each of these areas we strive to be seen as an expert worldwide. Given that Belgian Red Cross-Flanders can never match other aid organizations such as the German or American Red Cross in terms of (scale) size, this strategy allows us to nevertheless have global impact.

For our blood activities, we do research primarily in the areas of platelets and blood, plasma and platelet donors. For our other areas, we focus on first aid education and hygiene promotion, and first aid and disaster preparedness.

Belgian Red Cross-Flanders is now considered the reference in terms of evidence-based first aid guidelines and scientific research on platelets. It also recently launched the Third Pillar Research Center, which conducts scientific research on the importance of volunteering and social profit organizations for a functioning society.

These various initiatives, always based on scientific research, translated over the years into the slogan of Belgian Red Cross-Flanders "logical not ideological," which fits seamlessly with the basic principle of neutrality within the Red Cross movement. The most vulnerable people at home and abroad are thus helped in a quality and efficient manner by Belgian Red Cross-Flanders.

Our research centers

At Belgian Red Cross-Flanders we have several research centers, each with its own focus and methodology. We list them briefly.

Centre for Evidence-Based Practice

Providing quality assistance is very important to us. Thanks to our Centre for Evidence-Based Practice (CEBaP), we can scientifically underpin all our activities. CEBaP focuses primarily on four of the five topics of our research strategy:

  • platelets
  • blood, plasma and platelet donors
  • first aid instruction and hygiene promotion
  • first aid and disaster preparedness

What is Evidence-Based Practice?

There is not always a single answer to a lot of practical questions. Experts and manuals sometimes give different advice. Research into the effect of interventions led to the Evidence-Based Practice methodology. This is a method to support actions in practice with the best scientific evidence available. We supplement that with expert expertise and practical experience. We also consider the preferences and available resources of the target population. In this way, we can formulate informed answers to questions.

More efficient and effective assistance

We permanently apply the principles of Evidence-Based Practice within our operation. This enables us to optimize our assistance and make it ever more efficient and effective. In our research, we are committed to knowledge development and knowledge dissemination.

Developing knowledge

Our Center develops evidence-based guidelines that are updated every 5 years. In addition, through "systematic reviews," we bring together a review of all scientific studies relevant to answering a specific question. If we identify a lack of scientific evidence somewhere, we also conduct primary research.

Spreading knowledge

We disseminate our knowledge both nationally and internationally through publications in professional journals, participation in conferences and presentations at meetings and events. In addition, we have developed an e-learning module and conduct an annual "Evidence-Based Practice" workshop to teach staff from various departments at Belgian Red Cross-Flanders to deal critically with information and teach the basic principles of Evidence-Based Practice. This e-learning is also available to the general public and can be found here.

Core values of our Center

With our Centre for Evidence-Based Practice we want to support the policy-making of Belgian Red Cross-Flanders . We want to bridge the gap between science and practice, with an eye for the interests of the target group. We always inform objectively and transparently about our research. The methodological standards we set up to develop evidence-based guidelines and systematic reviews are based on the existing standards of the Cochrane organization and the AGREE II tool.

Read more about our Center

Transfusion Research Center

Throughout Flanders and Brussels, we collect blood and supply hospitals with safe blood products. We strive to provide optimal service. We can guarantee this by conducting research into the storage, quality, processing and safety of blood products. To this end, we take a critical and independent look at the scientific dilemmas in transfusion medicine. Thanks in part to our research, we can help patients even better.

Research on blood products

Our Transfusion Research Center (TReC) investigates biological, biochemical and biomedical questions about the collection, preparation, preservation, function and quality of blood products. For this purpose, we are equipped with a brand new modern laboratory that can examine blood cells and proteins at the molecular level. We publish the research results in authoritative international journals. Our translational scientific research contributes to the improvement of transfusion medicine. 

TReC focuses primarily on the platelet pillar of our research strategy. Why. There are still many unsolved questions around platelets: Why can't they be refrigerated or frozen? Why, unlike blood plasma and red blood cells, do they no longer function properly after 5 days of storage? What biochemical processes underlie this rapid "aging"? What new techniques can we incorporate into platelet preservation?

Therefore, our team of scientists focuses mainly on platelets, their function and their role in the treatment of bleeding.

Development and sale of platelet lysate (hPL)

Research was conducted within TReC to develop platelet lysate (or Human Platelet Lysate, hPL) from platelet concentrates. hPL contains a rich mix of growth factors, cytokines and other bioactive molecules that stimulate cell growth, regeneration and tissue repair. This makes it therefore ideally suited as a xeno-free supplement for (stem) cell culture in cell therapy production, among others. The development of our hPL allows the Belgian Red Cross-Flanders to make optimal use of all donations, thereby making an additional contribution to improved patient care. The research results made it possible to determine an optimal preparation procedure of hPL. In collaboration with the Transfusion Innovation Center (TInC), the research was translated into a product that will be made available to interested parties. Interested in testing? You can request the hPL on this page.


Third Pillar Research Center

Mintzberg (2015) defined the "third pillar" as "any association of people that is neither public nor private - neither owned by the state nor by private investors. Some are owned by their members; others are owned by no one." In other words, the third pillar includes much of society, including members of non-profits and non-governmental organizations, volunteers and volunteer leaders in our communities, and activists. Existing discussions focus on a more dominant role of government (public sector) and a more dominant role of markets (private sector), while the third pillar remains an undiscussed topic. 

Third pillar research

The Third Pillar Research Center (TPRC) at Belgian Red Cross-Flanders contributes to the development of empirical research on the third pillar, focusing on quantitative methodologies. The focus is on the fifth research pillar: "importance of volunteerism and social profit organizations. In particular, the TPRC uses publicly available datasets (e.g. EURO Stat and World Bank Data Catalog) that empirically test the theory that a larger third pillar is associated with better social outcomes. The Center has expertise in basic research, including literature review, data extraction, synthesis and analysis, and publishes articles in international, peer-reviewed journals.

In addition to research initiated by our research centers, there are also a number of services that are engaged in research. The most prominent is our the blood service where we focus primarily on the pillar of blood, plasma and platelet donors.