Corona put a stop to it for eighteen months, but Wouter Beke - Flemish Minister for Welfare, Family, Public Health and Poverty Reduction - insisted on visiting the VITO health unit in the framework of Flanders' Care. On Monday 22 November, the Minister, together with experts from his cabinet and Carine Boonen, the coordinator of Flanders' Care, received - fully coronaproof - an extensive introduction and a guided tour of the VITO Health unit in Mol.

Flanders' Care is the programme of the Flemish government that focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship in healthcare. Through innovation, we can improve the provision of high-quality care and the minister understood very well that VITO can play a crucial role in this.

The minister had made it clear in advance that he especially wanted to 'see' a lot. We arranged that. He visited the mouth mask lab and in four boots he got an overview of everything VITO can do in the context of prevention and environment and health, more specifically the challenges of the indoor environment, the operation of the air liquid interface to monitor the effects of gases and aerosols on lung cells, and BiBopp.

From the many questions posed by the Minister, it became clear that VITO is of great added value in this story. The minister was clearly interested in human biomonitoring and the work of VITO in the PFAS dossier and its follow-up. When presenting the BiBopp project, he also immediately made the link with his 'zorgzame buurten' (caring neighbourhoods), an initiative that should allow people to grow old healthily and safely in their own neighbourhood. See also BIBOPP - Citizens on the move

At the start of the corona infections, it was VITO's expert who immediately pointed out the preventive importance of good indoor air quality. If that advice was not taken seriously at first, then one and a half years later we know how poor indoor air quality facilitates contamination by viruses - and thus also by Covid. The Minister also understood this and was therefore fascinated by the technology developed by VITO for this purpose. Just think of the indoor sensor boxes, the CO2 measuring house and the test lab.

The Minister stayed two hours to watch, listen and ask questions. At the end of his visit, the Minister explicitly thanked VITO for the work we do and the initiatives we take. After he left for another meeting, his experts continued to chat with the VITO experts, emphasising once again how much they rely on the advice and solutions provided and developed by VITO. Noted.

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