Belgian Healthcare Knowledge Centre (KCE)
Sector -
Health & Wellbeing
Approach -
Kim Becher
Philippe Vandenbroeck
Rachel Dechenne

Better mental health care for kids


In 2011 the Belgian federal government asked the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Center (KCE) to come up with proposals to reform the Belgian mental health services that cater specifically for children and adolescents. Up to that point most of the efforts to streamline mental health services had focused on the adult sector.


shiftN was contracted by KCE to carry out a participatory research study with the aim to develop proposals for reform of the mental health care system for children and adolescents. We used a ‘soft systems’ inspired approach to diagnose the key friction points in the existing system and to develop a conceptual model of an idealised children and adolescent mental health care system. A gap analysis resulted in a set of 10 recommendations for reform.

More than 50 key actors in the Belgian mental health care system were involved in a series of face-to-face interviews, roundtable discussions and technical workshops.

The whole process was finished against an extremely challenging timeline with the project window extending over a mere 7 months (July 2011-January 2012). The shiftN team was supported by Beth Stroul, one of the architects of the very influential System of Care approach in the US.


This project signaled the ambition of the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Center to adopt a more holistic approach to health services and health policy research. The methodology employed in this project was subsequently replicated in other KCE research projects. The study was well received by stakeholders.  

"What is special about this study is that its looks at the functioning of a complete system and does not limit itselves to a strictly defined aspect of health care. This resulted in a much more complex methodology and a deeper involvement of the stakeholders."
— Raf Mertens, General Director KCE