Step into the dynamic world of Belgium, a crossroads of commerce and culture in the heart of Europe. Renowned for its research infrastructure, collaborative spirit and global connectivity, it has established itself a leading location for clinical trials and logistics for pharmaceutical products worldwide. The innovative healthcare industry offers many opportunities, particularly for app developers. Read our latest blog to find out more.


The small Kingdom of Belgium is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the south and the North Sea to the west. The constitutional monarchy, with the king as the head of state and the prime minister as the head of government, currently has a population of around 11.8 million. At the heart lies Brussels, the country’s capital, which is also one of the three official seats of the European institutions, together with Luxembourg and Strasbourg.

Belgians generally enjoy good health and live to a relatively old age. Following a substantial decline in 2020 due to the pandemic, life expectancy has rebounded significantly again and currently stands at around 82.3 years. These figures slightly surpass those of the United Kingdom (UK), which boasts a life expectancy of approximately 81.9 years (2024).

Behavioral risk factors have been the main cause of mortality. Despite a significant reduction in smoking rates over the last ten years, one in six of adults still smoked daily in 2018. While per capita alcohol consumption was slightly below the average found in countries of the European Union (EU), heavy drinking was comparatively more common. Around one in six Belgian adults are obese, a number that is significantly lower than in the UK, where the proportion is around one in four. Mental illness is also a major concern, with relatively high suicide rates compared to neighboring countries. One in four Belgians suffers from a chronic illness, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Health market

In Belgium, state and political decision-making powers are not organized centrally, but are divided between three levels of government: the federal government, the three language communities (Flemish or Belgian Dutch, French and German) and the three regions (Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia). While these communities enjoy equal legal status, their responsibilities cover different areas. For the healthcare system, this means that the federal level is responsible for legislative and regulatory processes, while the language communities are free to implement healthcare and nursing care independently. Decisions on investment budgets can then also be made individually at local level.

Belgium has a universal healthcare system, requiring anyone who is a legal resident of the country to register for either public or private health insurance. Public healthcare expenditure is primarily financed by social security contributions, and the financial resources are further supplemented by government funds. In 2023, the country invested around 10.9% of its GDP in healthcare, compared to 11.3% in the UK.

The health insurance funds are managed by the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance, or NIHDI (LIKIV in German, RIZIV in Dutch, INAMI in French). Many Belgians also take out additional private health insurance to cover out-of-pocket expenses. Especially co-payments for dental services tend to be high and amounted 65.8% in 2019.

The Ministry of Health is responsible for the general organization of the healthcare system. The federal units are in charge of primary care organizations, care for the elderly, mental health and rehabilitation as well as health promotion and prevention. Doctors in Belgium work independently in private practice. However, they can agree to follow the guidelines set by the government regarding fees for medical services and treatments. The proportion of contracted healthcare providers (médecins conventionnés) was 86.5 % in 2021. In contrast to the UK, GPs in Belgium don’t act as gatekeepers, which means patients can see a specialist directly, without the need for a referral.


Given the aging Belgian population, there is a growing emphasis on prevention and long-term health preservation. People don’t just want to live longer, they want to stay health and fit for as long as possible. Fitness apps are booming, as are coaching services aimed at promoting healthy eating habits. Dietary supplements intended for increasing vitality and performance, such as vitamins and sports nutrition products, have become very popular. The online market for health products has gained momentum in recent years, unveiling new market opportunities for British enterprises. In 2020, more than half of Belgian consumers ordered health or beauty products online.

The growing number of chronically ill citizens also leads to an increase in demand. For instance, there is a significant need for medications to manage conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, as well as for chemotherapeutics and psychoactive drugs. Belgium’s pharmaceutical sector, which is heavily focused on exports, stands as one of the foremost industries across all regions. And in the field of biotechnology, the country has firmly established itself as one of the leading European locations, owing to its strong university research community.

Like many countries in Europe, Belgium is also grappling with an escalating shortage of skilled workers. Fewer and fewer medical professionals are confronted with caring for an increasing number of patients. That is why Belgium is intensifying its focus on the streamlining of clinical processes and is investing in digital solutions. The electronic health record was introduced as early as 2016, and numerous digital platforms for telemedicine and remote monitoring have been created, including the eHealth platform for the secure and easy exchange of health data. The country wants to consistently expand its use of digital therapeutics (DTx), i.e. evidence-based, software-controlled therapeutic interventions for the prevention or management of a disease. In 2020, the highly developed information and communication technology sector in Belgium generated around 4.5% of the country’s value creation. Belgium is also well-equipped to harness the potential of big data using artificial intelligence (AI), which makes the country attractive for establishing business partnerships with international companies.

Belgium also serves as a logistics hub and regional distribution center for many medtech companies, with nearly half of them focusing partially or exclusively on software or digital solutions. Notably, health apps to help patients with rehabilitation exercises at home after knee surgery, for example, may even qualify for reimbursement by the Belgium’s health insurance funds, simplifying access for developers. Industry observers expect the market for medical devices to grow by 5.1% between 2021 and 2026. Heightened demand is also generated by hospital modernization projects, the government’s digital strategy and EU support from the Recovery and Resilience Fund.

Legal and regulatory conditions

In Belgium, the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products, or FAMHP (FAGG in German and Dutch, AFMPS in French), is in charge of the authorization of medicines. The agency verifies whether the manufacturer has provided evidence of the drug’s safety and efficacy through clinical studies, which informs the decision for marketing authorization. Under Belgian social legislation, the NIHDI manages healthcare and disability insurance and oversees health insurance companies and healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses. The NIHDI also determines reimbursement, with around 75% of medicines covered by statutory health insurance. The prices are negotiated between the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the manufacturers.

In order to market medical devices, such as wheelchairs, surgical instruments, but also blood glucose sensors or health apps, in Belgium, they must undergo a conformity assessment to ensure compliance with the relevant EU regulations. The products must then bear the CE marking, and the manufacturer must be registered with both the FAMHP and EUDAMED.

EU-wide and international health market

In the EU, the member states are responsible for developing and implementing their national health policies. The EU provides an overarching framework with directives and regulations that must be transposed into national laws. A frequently cited example is the MDR, the Medical Devices Regulation (EU) 2017/745. It specifies the requirements medical devices must fulfill to be sold in the European internal market.

In Belgium, medicinal products can obtain authorization at national level, with the process facilitated through the FAMHP. As an alternative to the national pathway, there is also the centralized authorization procedure provided by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This method allows for authorization across all member states of the European Economic Area (EU, Iceland and Norway) by filing a single application.


Internationalization plays a decisive role in the healthcare sector. It ensures that experts can exchange ideas and share best practices. Important research findings can be disseminated quickly to make sure they benefit the general public as soon as possible. Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries also stand to benefit: they can present their services to their target audience and position themselves as an attractive healthcare provider for international patients.

Be it a medical device, a drug product, a dietary supplement or a fitness and lifestyle product: language is not just a tool, but a gateway to success, and translations play a central role in the entire product life cycle. There are various linguistic conventions and goals that differ depending on the target group (experts vs. laypersons), the type of text (regulatory filings vs. app user interface) and the communication channel (social media vs. glossy brochure). Specialist translators can help companies navigate these requirements and provide significant added value.

Particularly when communicating directly with consumers and patients, such as on information websites or patient portals, it is crucial to present complex scientific content in a clear and accessible manner. After all, the information is intended to educate and create trust. When localizing apps, for example, it is vital to ensure that menu texts remain concise to prevent truncation, meaning they will no longer be understood. Moreover, elements should be tailored to suit the preferences of the target market to ensure the app is relevant and effective for its intended users.

The most relevant languages for the Belgian market include the country’s official languages, Dutch or Flemish (around 60%), French (around 40%) and German (around 0.67%). Luxembourgish, Lorrain, Champenois, Ripuarian, Picardy and Walloon also received regional language status in 1990.


Belgium presents an exciting market for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, with promising opportunities emerging in digital health, big data and AI. The health and fitness industry holds great potential, especially considering the purchasing power of the country’s golden-ager population. Health apps, in particular, benefit from the possibility of cost coverage by health insurance companies, providing developers with a significant advantage.

Yet the country is also characterized by notable regional distinctions: the three regions – Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia – not only vary in language, but also in consumer preferences. Therefore, it is advisable to adapt the marketing and sales strategy to each region.

This is where an experienced language service provider can provide invaluable support and guidance. Skilled specialist translators help you to tailor your content to the unique cultural characteristics and requirements of each regional market, ensuring effective communication with your target audience.



autor_eurotext_100Author: Eurotext Editorial Team

We explain how internationalization works, provide tips for your translation projects and outline some of the technology and processes used. We also report on current e-commerce developments and cover a range of language-related topics.