The completion of the Human Genome Project triggered a whole new field of genomic research which is likely to lead to new opportunities for the promotion of population health. As a result, the distinction between genetic and environmental diseases has faded. Presently, genomics and knowledge deriving from systems biology, epigenomics, integrative genomics or genome-environmental interactions give a better insight on the pathophysiology of common diseases. However, it is barely used in the prevention and management of diseases. Together with the boost in the amount of genetic association studies, this demands for appropriate public health actions. The field of Public Health Genomics analyses how genome-based knowledge and technologies can responsibly and effectively be integrated into health services and public policy for the benefit of population health. Environmental exposures interact with the genome to produce health information which may help explain inter-individual differences in health, or disease risk. However today, prospects for concrete applications remain distant. In addition, this information has not been translated into health practice yet. Therefore, evidence-based recommendations are few. The lack of population-based research hampers the evaluation of the impact of genomic applications. Public Health Genomics also evaluates the benefits and risks on a larger scale, including normative, legal, economic and social issues. These new developments are likely to affect all domains of public health and require rethinking the role of genomics in every condition of public health interest. This article aims at providing an introduction to the field of and the ideas behind Public Health Genomics.
Epidemiology; Genomics; Epigenomics; Prevention; Public Health; Public Health Genomics; Translational Research; Policymaking; Personalised Healthcare
Microbiology reference laboratories are critical in the development of high-quality clinical and public health services. In Belgium, the reference laboratories performed their activities on a voluntary basis and lacked a legal status.
Pathogens or groups of pathogens necessitating a national reference center (NRC) were prioritized based on diagnostic and epidemiologic relevance. Terms of reference for each of these pathogens were developed.
Recently, 40 NRCs for different pathogens or groups of pathogens have been installed in Belgium to fulfill the following core functions: offering reference diagnostics, collecting reference materials, sharing information and scientific advice, participating in national and international networks, collaborating with research workgroups, and contributing to surveillance activities.
These NRCs are important focal points of the national and international network in public health microbiology.
National reference centers; Public health microbiology
Cancer is a major European public health issue and represents the second most important cause of death and morbidity in Europe. Moreover, as a result of constant advances in medicine, medical technology and other sciences, and due to improvements in economic circumstances, cancer survival rates are increasing in Europe and prevalent cases (i.e. number of subjects who have experienced cancer) represent a growing proportion of the population. In order to tackle cancer efficiently throughout the European Member states, the European Commission launched the Joint Action (JA) ‘European Partnership for Action Against Cancer’ (EPAAC) facilitated by the Community Health Programme, in September 2009. EPAAC is designed to fill a gap in cooperation, collaboration and shared experiences for countries with similar needs and diverse experience in the area of their national cancer control policies. Activities and studies are tackling the main challenges of cancer control in Europe as a whole and in the Member states, including the provision of services and health system responses, human resources and research. In contrast with previous European actions in the field of cancer, EPAAC joins different partners and stakeholders at various levels ranging from Member states (including Iceland and Norway) and Regions to patient representatives.
EPAAC; Cancer; Health policy; Public health; Joint Action
Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias are public health priorities in the European Union due to their prevalence, cost and profound impact on society. Because of these pressing implications, the European Union decided to create a Joint Action to share knowledge about dementia and health policy in order to preserve the health, quality of life, autonomy and dignity of people living with dementia and their carers in Europe.
ALCOVE is a European Community-funded Joint Action coordinated by the HAS (French National Authority for Health) with a 24-month duration. The project’s life cycle has been divided into the following four steps: (1) collection of existing information, (2) analysis of existing information and making comparisons across Member States, (3) identifying Evidence, Needs, and Priorities, (4) drafting recommendations and disseminating them.
19 countries are participating in the ALCOVE initiative. The project will publish its final findings in 2013. The project’s objectives, participants, method, on-going procedures and work plans are already available on the ALCOVE website:
http://www.alcove-project.eu/. Preliminary results show that recommendations will need to focus on clinical and epidemiological data collection, diagnostic system assessment, outstanding approaches for treating behavioural disorders, limiting antipsychotic use, and competence assessment in this vulnerable population.
The European Member States involved are mobilized to share best health policy practices in order to tackle the challenge of dementia’s threat on European health and social systems and to improve the quality of life and care for individuals and their family carers.
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia; Dementia; Public health; BPSD; Antipsychotics; Risk reduction; Prevalence; Diagnosis; Advanced declaration of will; Health care system
Life expectancy has been increasing during the last century within the European Union (EU). To measure progress in population health it is no longer sufficient to focus on the duration of life but quality of life should be considered. Healthy Life Years (HLY) allow estimating the quality of the remaining years that a person is expected to live, in terms of being free of long-standing activity limitation. The Joint Action on Healthy Life Years (JA: EHLEIS) is a joint action of European Member States (MS) and the European Union aiming at analysing trends, patterns and differences in HLY, as well as in other Summary Measures of Population Health (SMPH) indicators, across the European member states.
The JA: EHLEIS consolidates existing information on life and health expectancy by maximising the European comparability; by analysing trends in HLY within the EU; by analysing the evolution of the differences in HLY between Member States; and by identifying both macro-level as micro-level determinants of the inequalities in HLY. The JA: EHLEIS works in collaboration with the USA, Japan and OECD on the development of new SMPHs to be used globally. To strengthen the utility of the HLY for policy-making, annual meetings with policy-makers are planned.
The information system allows the estimation of a set of health indicators (morbidity and disability prevalence, life and health expectancies) for Europe, Member States and shortly their regional levels. An annual country report on HLY in the national languages is available. The JA: EHLEIS is developing statistical attribution and decomposition tools which will be helpful to determine the impact of specific diseases, life styles or other determinants on differences in HLY. Through a set of international workshops the JA: EHLEIS aims to develop a blueprint for an international harmonized Summary Measure of Population Health.
The JA: EHLEIS objectives are to monitor progress towards the headline target of the Europe 2020 strategy of increasing HLY by 2 years by 2020 and to support policy development by identifying the main determinants of active and healthy ageing in Europe.
Health status indicators; Gender; Socioeconomic status; Public health; Health expectancy; Healthy life years; EU
Aims of the study
This study wants to examine the availability of Belgian healthcare data in the three main international health databases: the World Health Organization European Health for All Database (WHO-HFA), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Health Data 2009 and EUROSTAT.
For the indicators present in the three databases, the availability of Belgian data and the source of these data were checked.
The most important problem concerning the availability of Belgian health-related data in the three major international databases is the lack of recent data. Recent data are available for 27% of the indicators of the WHO-HFA database, 73% of the OECD Health Data, and for half of the Eurostat indicators. Especially recent data about health status (including mortality-based indicators) are lacking.
Only the availability of the health-related data is studied in this article. The quality of the Belgian data is however also important to examine.
The main problem concerning the availability of health data is the timeliness. One of the causes of this lack of (especially mortality) data is the reform of the Belgian State. Nowadays mortality data are provided by the communities. This results in a delay in the delivery of national mortality data. However several efforts are made to catch up.
Belgium; databases; health status indicators; public health
The small but growing literature on socio-economic inequality in morbidity among older persons suggests that social inequalities in health persist into old age. A largely separate body of literature looks at the predictors of long-term care use, in particular of institutional care. Various measures of socio-economic status are often included as control variables in these studies. Review articles generally conclude that the evidence for such variables being a predictor for institutionalization is “inconclusive”. In this paper we look at the association among older persons in Belgium between one particular measure of socio-economic status – preferential status in public health care insurance – and first use of home long-term care and residential care. Preferential status entitles persons to higher reimbursement rates for health care from the public health care insurance system and is conditional on low income. We also study whether preferential status is related to the onset of five important chronic conditions and the time of death.
We use survival analysis; the source of the data is a large administrative panel of a sample representative for all older persons in Belgium (1,268,740 quarterly observations for 69,562 individuals).
We find a strong association between preferential status and the likelihood of home care use, but for residential care it is small for men and non-existent for women. We also find that preferential status is significantly related to the chance of getting two out five chronic conditions – COPD and diabetes, but not dementia, hip fracture and Parkinson’s disease – and to the probability of dying (not for women). For home care use and death, the association with preferential status declines with increasing age from age 65 onwards, such that it is near zero for those aged around 90 and older.
We find clear associations between an indicator of low income and home care use, some chronic conditions and death. The associations are stronger among men than among women. We also find that the association declines with age for home care use and death, which might be explained by selective survival.
Long-term care; Socio-economic status; Morbidity; Mortality; Preferential status
Three decades since the first HIV-1 infected patients in Rwanda were identified in 1983; the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome epidemic has had a devastating history and is still a major public health challenge in the country. This study was aimed at assessing socioeconomic, clinical and biological risk factors for mother – to – child transmission of HIV- in Muhima health centre (Kigali/Rwanda).
The prospective cohort study was conducted at Muhima Health centre (Kigali/Rwanda).
During the study period (May 2007 – April 2010), of 8,669 pregnant women who attended antenatal visits and screened for HIV-1, 736 tested HIV-1 positive and among them 700 were eligible study participants. Hemoglobin, CD4 count and viral load tests were performed for participant mothers and HIV-1 testing using DNA PCR technique for infants.
Follow up data for eligible mother-infant pairs were obtained from women themselves and log books in Muhima health centre and maternity, using a structured questionnaire.
Predictors of mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1 were assessed by multivariable logistic regression analysis.
Among the 679 exposed and followed-up infants, HIV-1 status was significantly associated with disclosure of HIV status to partner both at 6 weeks of age (non-disclosure of HIV status, adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 4.68, CI 1.39 to 15.77, p < 0.05; compared to disclosure) and at 6 months of age (non-disclosure of HIV status, AOR, 3.41, CI 1.09 to 10.65, p < 0.05, compared to disclosure).
A significant association between mother’s viral load (HIV-1 RNA) and infant HIV-1 status was found both at 6 weeks of age (> = 1000 copies/ml, AOR 7.30, CI 2.65 to 20.08, p < 0.01, compared to <1000 copies/ml) and at 6 months of age (> = 1000 copies/ml, AOR 4.60, CI 1.84 to 11.49, p < 0.01, compared to <1000 copies/ml).
In this study, the most relevant factors independently associated with increased risk of mother – to – child transmission of HIV-1 included non-disclosure of HIV status to partner and high HIV-1 RNA. Members of this cohort also showed socioeconomic inequalities, with unmarried status carrying higher risk of undisclosed HIV status. The monitoring of maternal HIV-1 RNA level might be considered as a routinely used test to assess the risk of transmission with the goal of achieving viral suppression as critical for elimination of pediatric HIV, particularly in breastfeeding populations.
Socioeconomic, Clinical and biological risk factors; HIV-1; Mother - to – child transmission; Cohort; Muhima/Rwanda
Many studies suggest that high salt intakes are related to high blood pressure and consequently cardiovascular diseases. In addition salt intake was found to be related with obesity, renal stones, osteoporosis and stomach cancer. Belgium, such as other European countries, is suffering from both salt intakes that are twice as high as the recommended intakes and mild iodine deficiency. No comprehensive strategy encompassing both public health problems has been developed. While specific salt reduction targets for processed foods are still under discussion using a consensus approach with industry, an agreement was signed between the bakery sector and the Ministry of Health in April 2009, to encourage and increase the use of iodised salt in the production of bread. Based on results of recent surveys on population iodine status it is advised not to currently revise iodine concentrations in salt in bread but to advocate for a higher percentage of bakers using iodised salt and to install a good monitoring system to control the percentage of bakers effectively using adequately iodised salt. With regard to salt reduction, it is of utmost importance that all companies contribute and harmonise the salt content of their products according to the lowest possible thresholds in a first step. In order to achieve this goal, it will be necessary, in addition to the consensus approach, to come up with at least some legislative tools such as a salt tax or mandatory labelling of foods exceeding a specific sodium concentration. Once salt reduction targets have been clearly defined in Belgium over the longer term, a legal framework should be set in place where iodine concentration in salt for the production of bread and household salt is strictly regulated by law, to avoid a large variability in the iodine content of salt brands consumed. In conclusion, it is possible to tackle salt reduction and iodine deficiency at the same time on the condition that the approach is coordinated and well monitored. All the interventions and measures taken should clearly include education and communication directed towards consumers, food producers, public health professionals, pharmacists, healthcare workers, and media representatives.
Sodium; Iodine; Belgium
Low back pain (LBP) is a major public health problem and the identification of individuals at risk of persistent LBP poses substantial challenges to clinical management. The STarT Back questionnaire is a validated nine-item patient self-report questionnaire that classifies patients with LBP at low, medium or high-risk of poor prognosis for persistent non-specific LBP. The objective of this study was to translate and cross-culturally adapt the English version of the STarT Back questionnaire into French.
The translation was performed using best practice translation guidelines. The following phases were performed: contact with the STarT Back questionnaire developers, initial translations (English into French), synthesis, back translations, expert committee review, test of the pre-final version on 44 individuals with LBP, final version.
The linguistic translation required minor semantic alterations. The participants interviewed indicated that all items of the questionnaire were globally clear and comprehensible. However, 6 subjects (14%) wondered if two questions were related to back pain or general health. After discussion within the expert committee and with the developer of the STarT Back tool, it was decided to modify the questionnaire and to add a reference to back pain in these two questions.
The French version of the STarT Back questionnaire has been shown to be comprehensible and adapted to the French speaking general population. Investigations are now required to test the psychometric properties (reliability, internal and external validity, responsiveness) of this translated version of the questionnaire.
Low back pain; Questionnaire; Translation
The main objective of the joint action MODE is the transfer of best-practices in the field of organ donation and transplantation and the creation of positive synergies among participating European (EU) Member States (MS) apt to support authorities in possible decision-making and policy contexts.
The consortium has chosen to foster the exchange of best-practice through a series of exchange visits followed by the provision of a set of specialized trainings.
Each participating MS has presented its strengths and weaknesses through a questionnaire based on the Organ Action Plan. Once the situation was clearer, countries with the strongest program organized and hosted the on-site visits and each country had the opportunity to perform five exchange visits on five selected topics.
Specific courses for healthcare staff of organ coordinating and transplantation centres were organized. Based on evaluation of the results of the on-site visits and training needs indicated by the partners, the chosen topics were:
• reporting on adverse events and reactions
• quality assurance programme of the donation process in Spain
• quality assurance of the transplantation process
Results and conclusions
The outcome is that within the EU, even among MS with well-developed services, the organ donation and transplantation activity has substantial differences so that all participating countries would benefit from investigating foreign donation and transplant systems. Collaboration at EU level can be beneficial for all systems and the joint action MODE indicated that in some countries the sharing of expertise across the EU Member States has already proved to be useful in starting a virtuous circle in organization and training that would allow to increase organ donor rates and improve overall performance.
Children are not always recognized as being susceptible to stress, although childhood stressors may originate from multiple events in their everyday surroundings with negative effects on children’s health.
As there is a lack of large-scale, European prevalence data on childhood adversities, this study presents the prevalence of (1) negative life events and (2) familial and social adversities in 4637 European pre- and primary-school children (4–11 years old), using a parentally-reported questionnaire embedded in the IDEFICS project (‘Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health EFfects In Children and infantS’).
The following findings were observed: (1) Certain adversities occur only rarely, while others are very regular (i.e. parental divorce); (2) A large percentage of children is shielded from stressors, while a small group of children is exposed to multiple, accumulating adversities; (3) The prevalence of childhood adversity is influenced by geographical location (e.g. north versus south), age group and sex; (4) Childhood adversities are associated and co-occur, resulting in potential cumulative childhood stress.
This study demonstrated the importance of not only studying traumatic events but also of focusing on the early familial and social environment in childhood stress research and indicated the importance of recording or monitoring childhood adversities.
Child; Life events; Adversity; Prevalence; Stress; Epidemiology
A problem repeatedly reported in birth certificate data is the presence of missing data. In 2008, a Centre for Perinatal Epidemiology was created inter alia to assist the Health Departments of Brussels-Capital City Region to check birth certificates. The purpose of this study is to assess the changes brought by the Centre in terms of completeness of data registration for the entire population and according to immigration status.
Birth certificates from the birth registry of 2008 and 2009 of Brussels were considered. We evaluated the initial missing information in January 2008 (baseline situation) and the corresponding rate at the end of 2008 after oral and written information had been given to the city civil servants and health providers. The data were evaluated again at the end of 2009 where no reinforcement rules were adopted. We also measured residual missing data after correction in socio-economic and medical data, for the entire population and according to maternal nationality of origin. Changes in registration of stillbirths were estimated by comparison to 2007 baseline data, and all multiple births were checked for complete identification of pairs.
Missing information initially accounted for 64.0%, 20.8% and 19.5% of certificates in January 2008, December 2008, and 2009 respectively. After correction with lists sent back to the hospitals or city offices, the mean residual missing data rate was 2.1% in 2008 and 0.8% in 2009. Education level and employment status were missing more often in immigrant mothers compared to Belgian natives both in 2008 and 2009. Mothers from Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest missing rate of socio-economic data. The stillbirth rate increased from 4.6 ‰ in 2007 to 8.2 ‰ in 2009. All twin pairs were identified, but early loss of a co-twin before 22 weeks was rarely reported.
Reinforcement of data collection was associated with a decrease of missing information. The residual missing data rate was very low. The stillbirth rate was also improved but the early loss of a co-twin before 22 weeks seems to remain underreported.
Birth certificates; Validation studies; Bias; Epidemiologic
The objective of this paper is to provide analytical research that supported the European Commission in setting the global target of additional two healthy life years (HLY) at birth by 2020 in the EU on average, within the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (the EIP on AHA). It produces a straightforward analysis of HLY projections that helped the European Commission set a firm, politically sound, target. In order to reach that goal, policy makers need to commit to redefining health priorities and goals and developing and implementing relevant strategies and programmes.
The study computes a simple simulation of the HLY at birth based on three demographic scenarios: compression of morbidity, expansion of morbidity and an intermediary scenario, the dynamic equilibrium, given the expected 2.1 year gain in male and 1.6 in female life expectancy (LE) by 2020. Data on HLY and projections of life expectancy were obtained from Eurostat and 2008 was taken as a baseline. For consistency and given data gaps, EU27 average values of HLY were calculated.
In the EU27 as a whole, the difference between LE and HLY in 2008 was nearly 15 years for men and 20 years for women. The developments of healthy life expectancies across the EU Member States (MSs) are even more diverse that makes it difficult to model any robust EU level trends.
Under compression of morbidity, life expectancy and HLY would increase by 2020 on average by 2.1 and 2.0 years for men and by 1.6 and 1.4 years for women respectively. The expected years with disability would remain unchanged while the HLY/LE ratio would improve leading to a 0.5% gain for both genders. Under expansion of morbidity, life expectancy would increase by 2.1 years for men and 1.4 years for women by 2020, while HLY would remain unchanged and the expected years with disability would increase by 2.1 years and 1.6 years in women. This would imply the deterioration of the HLY/LE ratio for both men and women generating a 2.2% and 1.4% loss of health for men and women accordingly. Under dynamic equilibrium, the HLY would increase but to a lesser extent as the rise in life expectancy. The HLY would increase by 1.6 and 1.2 years for men and women respectively. HLY/LE ratio would remain unchanged for both men (+0.1%) and women. The study shows that the first scenario would reduce the HLY gap between the EU MSs by 1.4 years in men and 1.2 years in women, the second would generate no change, while the third one would reduce the gap by 0.9 years in men and increase it by 0.7 years in women.
The results of the study triggered the political decision of setting the global target of 2 additional HLY for the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing to be achieved by 2020. It is a ‘grand’ goal but can be achieved. Statistics clearly show that EU countries characterise very different levels of health progress, with a gap of 2 decades and diverging trends. With this in mind, the EU HLY target should be complemented by national HLY targets for men and women, set by MSs.
Healthy life years; Life expectancy; EU target; Compression; Expansion; Equilibrium; Disability; Morbidity; Mortality; Healthy ageing
The story of the implementation of the joint EU health indicators (ECHI indicators) began in the 1990s after the Amsterdam Treaty. The first concrete step in establishing a health monitoring capacity for EU was the Commission working group set up in 1997. Several consecutive and parallel projects, notably the health indicator projects ECHI-1 and ECHI-2 between the years 2000 and 2005 led to a preparedness to implement the jointly agreed health indicators (ECHI shortlist) in all European countries. ECHIM (2005 – 2008) and the Joint Action for ECHIM (2009 - ) laid the foundation for the implementation of health indicators, and initiated Europe wide implementation proper. After the European recession of 2008 the circumstances in different countries were not optimal. Also the collaboration with the Commission could have been better. Nevertheless, the implementation process of the ECHI indicators is now well underway in most countries. By June 2012 half of the Member States had incorporated the ECHI indicators into their national health information system, and, if work can continue, by 2014 most countries are likely to have done so. Unfortunately, a gap may occur between the current programme and the next public health programme. The current momentum must not be lost. Therefore, all those responsible need to urge that the Commission (DG SANCO) together with the Member States helps to bridge the gap from June 2012 to January 2014. The new Public Health Programme provides the necessary financial instruments for setting up a permanent EU health information and reporting system.
Health indicators; Health information; European Community Health Indicators (ECHI); EU Joint Action
Little work has been done to assess the quality of health care and the use of evidence-based methods by occupational physicians in Belgium. Therefore, the main objective is to describe one aspect of occupational health assessments, namely the common use of dipstick urinalysis, and to compare the current practice with international guidelines.
A self-administered questionnaire was mailed to 211 members of the Scientific Association of Occupational Medicine in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium.
A total of 120 occupational physicians responded, giving a response rate of 57%. Dipstick urinalysis was a routine investigation for the vast majority of physicians (69%). All test strips screened for protein and in 90% also for blood. Occupational health services offered clinical tests to satisfy customer wants as international guidelines do not recommend screening for haematuria and proteinuria in asymptomatic adults. A lack of knowledge concerning positive testing and referral criteria was demonstrated in almost half of the study participants.
Belgian occupational physicians still routinely perform dipstick testing although there is no evidence to support this screening in healthy workers. To practice evidence-based medicine, occupational physicians need more instruction and training. Development and implementation of more guidelines is not only of use for the individual practitioner, it may also enhance professionalization and efficiency of occupational health care.
Evidence-based practice; Occupational health; Guidelines; Health surveillance
Health Examination Surveys (HESs) can provide essential information on the health and health determinants of a population, which is not available from other data sources. Nevertheless, only some European countries have systems of national HESs. A study conducted in 2006–2008 concluded that it is feasible to organize national HESs using standardized measurement procedures in nearly all EU countries. The feasibility study also outlined a structure for a European Health Examination Survey (EHES), which is a collaboration to organize standardized HESs in countries across Europe.
To facilitate setting up national surveys and to gain experience in applying the EHES methods in different cultures, EHES Joint Action (2010–2011) planned and piloted standardized HESs in the working age population in 12 countries. This included countries with earlier national HESs and countries which were planning their first national HES. The core measurements included in all surveys were weight, height, waist circumference and blood pressure, and blood samples were taken to measure lipid profiles and glucose or glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c). These are modifiable determinants of major chronic diseases not identified in health interview surveys. There was a questionnaire to complement the data on the examination measurements.
Evaluation of the pilot surveys was based on review of national manuals and evaluation reports of survey organizers; observations and discussions of survey procedures during site visits and training seminars; and other communication with the survey organizers.
Despite unavoidable differences in the ways HESs are organized in the various countries, high quality and comparability of the data seems achievable. The biggest challenge in each country was obtaining high participation rate. Most of the pilot countries are now ready to start their full-size national HES, and six of them have already started.
The EHES Pilot Project has set up the structure for obtaining comparable high quality health indicators on health and important modifiable risk factors of major non-communicable diseases from the European countries. The European Union is now in a key position to make this structure sustainable. The EHES core survey can be expanded to cover other measurements.
Health surveys; Population health monitoring; Risk factors; Chronic diseases; EHES; Survey methods
In 1978, the Alma-Ata declaration on primary health care (PHC) recognized that the world’s health issues required more than just hospital-based and physician-centered policies. The declaration called for a paradigm change that would allow governments to provide essential care to their population in a universally acceptable manner. The figure of the community health worker (CHW) remains a central feature of participation within the PHC approach, and being a CHW is still considered to be an important way of participation within the health system.
This study explores how the values and personal motivation of community health workers influences their experience with this primary health care strategy in in the municipality of Palencia, Guatemala. To do this, we used an ethnographic approach and collected data in January-March of 2009 and 2010 by using participant observation and in-depth interviews.
We found that the CHWs in the municipality had a close working relationship with the mobile health team and with the community, and that their positions allowed them to develop leadership and teamwork skills that may prove useful in other community participation processes. The CHWs are motivated in their work and volunteerism is a key value in Palencia, but there is a lack of infrastructure and growth opportunities.
Attention should be paid to keeping the high levels of commitment and integration within the health team as well as keeping up supervision and economic funds for the program.
Community health workers; Community participation; Guatemala; Primary Health Care; Alma-Ata declaration
The last decades, the prevalence of childhood obesity has increased. Apart from other lifestyle factors, the effect of chronic psychosocial stress on the development of obesity has been recognized. However, more research is needed into the influence of chronic stress on appetite regulation, energy balance and body composition, as well as on the interaction with physical activity/sedentary behavior, diet and sleep in children. In this regard, the ChiBS study (Children’s Body composition and Stress) was designed at the Ghent University. Within this paper, we describe the aims, design, methods, participation and population characteristics of the ChiBS study.
The influence of chronic stress on changes in body composition is investigated over a two-year follow-up period (February-June 2010, 2011 and 2012) in primary-school children between 6 and 12 years old in the city Aalter (Flanders, Belgium).
Stress is measured by child- and parent-reported stress-questionnaires, as well as by objective stress biomarkers (serum, salivary and hair cortisol) and heart rate variability. Body composition is evaluated using basic anthropometric measurements and air displacement plethysmography. Additional information on socio-economic status, medical history, physical activity, dietary intake and sleep are obtained by questionnaires, and physical activity by accelerometers.
The participation percentage was 68.7% (N = 523/761), with 71.3% of the children willing to participate in the first follow-up survey. Drop-out proportions were highest for serum sampling (12.1%), salivary sampling (8.3%) and heart rate variability measurements (7.4%).
The ChiBS project is unique in its setting: its standardized and longitudinal approach provides valuable data and new insights into the relationship between stress and changes in body composition in a large cohort of young children. In addition, this study allows an in-depth investigation of the validity of the different methods that were used to assess stress levels in children.
Stress; Child; Body composition; Obesity; Cortisol; Heart rate variability; Questionnaire; Food habits; Physical activity; Sleep
Participation rate and response rate are key issues in a cross sectional large-scale epidemiological study. The objective of this paper is to describe the study population and to evaluate participation and response rate as well as the key nutritional status variables in male and female adolescents involved in the HELENA study.
A multi-stage random cluster sampling with a target sample of 3000 adolescents aged [12.5 to 17.5] years, stratified for geographical location and age, was carried out. Information for participants and non-participants (NP) was compared, and participation and response rates to specific questionnaires were discussed.
3,865 adolescents aged [12.5 to 17.5] years (1,845 females) participated in the HELENA study, of whom 1,076 (568 females) participated in the blood sampling. 3,528 (1,845 females) adolescents were finally kept for statistical analysis. Participation rates for the schools and classes differed importantly between countries. The participation rate of pupils within the participating classes also differed importantly between countries. Sex ratio, mean age and BMI were similar between NP and participating adolescents within each centre, and in the overall sample. For all the questionnaires included in the database, the response rate of questionnaires was high (more than 80% of questions were completed).
From this study it could be concluded that participation rate differed importantly between countries, though no bias could be identified when comparing the key study variables between participants and non-participants. Response rate for questionnaires was very high. Future studies investigating lifestyle and health in adolescents can optimize their methods when considering the opportunities and barriers observed in the HELENA study.
Industrial composting is a relatively new and expanding activity. Several studies indicate that compost workers are at risk to develop health symptoms. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of work-related health symptoms among compost workers compared with control subjects.
A questionnaire was distributed among 62 workers (31 exposed and 31 non-exposed workers). Data were analyzed using simple and multiple logistic regression analyses.
Workers exposed to organic dust reported significantly more often respiratory, irritation (e.g., eyes, nose and throat), gastrointestinal, and skin symptoms than the non-exposed group. Moreover, all work-related symptoms were significantly more often reported by exposed than non-exposed workers. After adjustment for smoking status and age, the associations between exposure and respiratory, gastrointestinal, and skin symptoms remained statistically significant, in particular if these symptoms were work-related.
This study confirms that workers at compost facilities are at risk to develop occupational health problems, most likely related to organic dust exposure.
Belgium; Compost; Industry; Occupational health; Organic dust; Workers