Isala wants to break the taboo around vaginal health. That’s why all our research kits contain great conversation starters  (also online available). Use these cards as inspiration for interesting chats with friends and family, and find out how much there is to say about vaginal health.

You can also start a conversation online by clicking on a question and adding your response. You can do it anonymously – your first name is fine. The Isala researchers will answer your question. This way, we can increase knowledge about the female microbiome and break the taboo together. That’s our dream at Isala. Feel free to add comments and ask questions – let’s start the conversation together! 

Scoop: Isala receives the very first grand EU citizen science prize  

Woohoo, Isala won a big prize! What an honor! Today the Isala team officially receives the ‘European Union Prize for Citizen Science’. No worries if you have never heard about it before. It is a brand-new prize awarded by the European Commission for the first time this year. The fact that Isala is the first to receive it makes it even more unique! Read on to discover why Isala was awarded this prize and what it entails. 😊 

As of this year, the European Commission will award an annual citizen science prize. This prize honors initiatives that have both great scientific merit and a large societal impact. Now it turns out that this prize perfectly fits our Isala project, also known as the largest citizen science project studying the female microbiome worldwide! 😊 The European Commission is recognizing the power and importance of citizen science for a pluralistic, sustainable, and inclusive society. By establishing the prize, she aims to strengthen the development of citizen science and to acknowledge initiatives that drive research, innovation, engagement, and creativity for the benefit of society. Of course, in a citizen science project like Isala, mainly the citizens are indispensable. After all, it would not have been possible to make Isala such a success story without our wonderful participants. Apart from that, we are also very grateful to our audience of loyal Isala followers. The combination of the powerful empowerment of women regarding vaginal health and our efforts in breaking taboos through scientific knowledge led to the achievement of this award. As a small present from the Isala team, we would like to show you our brand-new video. We would like to say a thousand thanks again to all of you, for contributing to a true Isala wave that is now awarded with this fantastic prize. 😊 

You might wonder what this prize entails? Besides the fact that we receive European recognition for the scientific and societal impact that we achieved with Isala, the prize includes a nice amount of money. A total of 60,000 euros (wow!) is now in the hands of our Isala team to continue our high-tech (and thus quite expensive!) research and to enable more science communication. After all, fulfilling Isala’s dreams also includes sharing research results with all participants and the large group of Isala followers. The budget received is therefore welcomed with open arms and forms an extra boost to continue to break taboos about women’s health. We will continue our work in the coming period to ensure that women can take their vaginal health into their own hands (in the longer term). Of course, we are not only referring to women in Flanders in this regard. In the meantime, Isala has become a great source of inspiration for various international sister projects, from Africa to America. 😉 Breaking taboos about vaginal health therefore extends far beyond our national and continental borders. Likewise in terms of gender, Isala knows no boundaries. We do not only envision women while working towards knowledge on vaginal health, but certainly also their partners, children… Here, the same rule applies as in the Isala team: Strong together! 

Maybe you remember that this is not the first time that Isala has been awarded? Yes, indeed! Isala was previously honored for her clear science communication with a KVAB (Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium) annual prize for science communication and the EOS public prize in 2021. Of course, at that time, we also provided a blog to keep you informed. Who knows what the bright future has to offer… But for now: THANK YOU to everyone for standing in front and behind our citizen science project. See you soon with more vaginal news! 😊 

Give endometriosis a face

You might have come across this statement in March. Endometriosis is a disease that affects 1 in 10 people, however it remains relatively unknown up to date. This is exactly what we, Vera Esmeralda Frederickx and Valerie Clinkemalie, are trying to change through our non-profit organisation Behind Endo (Stories)! Both of us are endometriosis patients who were diagnosed four years ago. Since we experienced first-hand how little knowledge exists about endometriosis, we decided to officially establish our organisation in 2021, which provides us with greater involvement in engaging with policymakers.

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Cancer care and sexual health: different for who is different?

As final part of my studies ‘Applied Psychology’, I (Mina) chose to zoom in on cancer care and sexual health. During my internship at ‘Kom op tegen Kanker’, my interest in this topic was sparked. I collaborated with a Brussels support group for (ex-)cancer patients with a migration background, named ‘Inak‘. I quickly noticed a lack of data on cancer care and sexual health among minorities. According to me, it was high time to make the voices of female (ex-)cancer patients with Moroccan and Turkish roots heard as well. I decided to conduct in-depth interviews with these women to map their care needs. The target group included women between 45 and 54 years old. For me, it was obvious to take into account the ‘layers’ of their identity. The fact that I am a Muslima and have Moroccan roots myself seemed to lower the threshold. As a native researcher, I tried to find out whether gender, culture, ethnicity and religion play a role for these women in discussing sexual health with healthcare providers. Follow me on a walk through some interesting findings of my research. 😊

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Spoiler alert: a wave of brand new Isala results

Get ready! New Isala results are available… NOW! Today is not just a random day of course. It is Isala’s third birthday! One big party! Last summer we already shared the first results of the second Isala phase with you. For this second phase, we selected almost 300 women and studied whether their vaginal microbiome had changed over a few months. But we also asked these women to sample other body areas. Today we have brand new results as a gift for them! We are extremely grateful for their participation and therefore they receive something in return! As of today, every participant of the second Isala phase can check an updated personal profile. In this blog we summarize more general highlights of what we have found. Read on! 😊

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Help eliminate STDs from the world!

Did you know that chlamydia is the most common STD (or sexually transmitted disease) in Belgium and is mainly diagnosed in young people under 25? It is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Because there are often no symptoms, this bacterium can spread easily, causing harmful effects. Indeed, without treatment, Chlamydia infections can cause fertility problems and chronic abdominal pain in women. In men, this infection can in turn cause epididymitis. So prevention is better than cure! Unfortunately, there is currently still no vaccine against chlamydia available and we want to change that with the Isala team… Chlamydia out of the world! How cool does that sound?

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