Public health policies aim to improve and maintain the health of citizens. Relevant data and indicators are needed for a health policy that is based on factual information. After 14 years of work (1998–2012), the multi-phase action on European Community Health Indicators (ECHI) has created a health monitoring and reporting system. It has generated EU added value by defining the ECHI shortlist with 88 common and comparable key health indicators for Europe.
In the 2009-2012 Joint Action for ECHIM project the ECHI shortlist was updated through consultation with Member State representatives. Guidelines for implementation of the ECHI Indicators at national level were developed and a pilot data collection was carried out.
67 of the ECHI Indicators are already part of regular international data collections and thus available for a majority of Member States, 14 are close to ready and 13 still need development work. By mid-2012 half of the countries have incorporated ECHI indicators in their national health information systems and the process is ongoing in the majority of the countries. Twenty-five countries were able to provide data in a Pilot Data Collection for 20 ECHI Indicators that were not yet (fully) available in the international databases.
The EU needs a permanent health monitoring and reporting system. The Joint Action for ECHIM has set an example for the implementation of a system that can develop and maintain the ECHI indicators,, and promote and encourage the use of ECHI in health reporting and health policy making. The aim for sustainable public health monitoring is also supported by a Eurostat regulation on public health statistics requiring that health statistics shall be provided according to the ECHI methodology. Further efforts at DG SANCO and Eurostat are needed towards a permanent health monitoring system.
Public health indicators; Public health monitoring; Public health reporting
Vertebral fractures predict mortality, but little is known about their associations with the causes of death. We studied vertebral fractures for prediction of cause-specific mortality.
Material and methods
A nationally representative sample of 3,210 men and 3,730 women participated Mini-Finland health survey in 1978–1980. Vertebral fractures at the Th1–Th12 levels were identified from chest radiographs at baseline. Cox’s proportional hazard model was used to estimate the strength of association between vertebral fracture and mortality.
The relative risk (95% confidence interval) of death from natural causes was 1.49 (0.89–2.48) in men and 0.89 (0.60–1.31) in women with vertebral fractures (adjusted for age, body mass index, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, educational level, smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity and self-rated general health). Among women the adjusted relative risk of an injury death was 8.51 (3.48–20.77), whereas none of the men with vertebral fracture died due to an injury.
The patterns of mortality predicted by fracture in the thoracic spine differ between men and women.
Vertebral fracture; Osteoporosis; Hip fracture; Cause-specific mortality
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
Genetic effects contribute to individual differences in smoking behavior. Persistence to smoke despite known harmful health effects is mostly driven by nicotine addiction. As the physiological effects of nicotine are mediated by nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), we aimed at examining whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) residing in nAChR subunit (CHRN) genes, other than CHRNA3/CHRNA5/CHRNB4 gene cluster previously showing association in our sample, are associated with smoking quantity or serum cotinine levels.
The study sample consisted of 485 Finnish adult daily smokers (age 30–75 years, 59% men) assessed for the number of cigarettes smoked per day (CPD) and serum cotinine level. We first studied SNPs residing on selected nAChR subunit genes (CHRNA2, CHRNA4, CHRNA6/CHRNB3, CHRNA7, CHRNA9, CHRNA10, CHRNB2, CHRNG/CHRND) genotyped within a genome-wide association study for single SNP and multiple SNP associations by ordinal regression. Next, we explored individual haplotype associations using sliding window technique.
At one of the 8 loci studied, CHRNG/CHRND (chr2), single SNP (rs1190452), multiple SNP, and 2-SNP haplotype analyses (SNPs rs4973539–rs1190452) all showed statistically significant association with cotinine level. The median cotinine levels varied between the 2-SNP haplotypes from 220 ng/ml (AA haplotype) to 249 ng/ml (AG haplotype). We did not observe significant associations with CPD.
These results provide further evidence that the γ−δ nAChR subunit gene region is associated with cotinine levels but not with the number of CPD, illustrating the usefulness of biomarkers in genetic analyses.
Psychological stress is suggested to accelerate the rate of biological aging. We investigated whether work-related exhaustion, an indicator of prolonged work stress, is associated with accelerated biological aging, as indicated by shorter leukocyte telomeres, that is, the DNA-protein complexes that cap chromosomal ends in cells.
We used data from a representative sample of the Finnish working-age population, the Health 2000 Study. Our sample consisted of 2911 men and women aged 30–64. Work-related exhaustion was assessed using the Maslach Burnout Inventory - General Survey. We determined relative leukocyte telomere length using a quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) -based method.
After adjustment for age and sex, individuals with severe exhaustion had leukocyte telomeres on average 0.043 relative units shorter (standard error of the mean 0.016) than those with no exhaustion (p = 0.009). The association between exhaustion and relative telomere length remained significant after additional adjustment for marital and socioeconomic status, smoking, body mass index, and morbidities (adjusted difference 0.044 relative units, standard error of the mean 0.017, p = 0.008).
These data suggest that work-related exhaustion is related to the acceleration of the rate of biological aging. This hypothesis awaits confirmation in a prospective study measuring changes in relative telomere length over time.
To address the need for standardization of osteoarthritis (OA) phenotypes by examining the effect of heterogeneity among symptomatic (SOA) and radiographic osteoarthritis (ROA) phenotypes.
Descriptions of OA phenotypes of the 28 studies involved in the TREAT-OA consortium were collected. To investigate whether different OA definitions result in different association results, we created hip OA definitions used within the consortium in the Rotterdam Study-I and tested the association of hip OA with gender, age and BMI using one-way ANOVA. For radiographic OA, we standardized the hip, knee and hand ROA definitions and calculated prevalence's of ROA before and after standardization in 9 cohort studies. This procedure could only be performed in cohort studies and standardization of SOA definitions was not feasible at this moment.
In this consortium, all studies with symptomatic OA phenotypes (knee, hip and hand) used a different definition and/or assessment of OA status. For knee, hip and hand radiographic OA 5, 4 and 7 different definitions were used, respectively. Different hip OA definitions do lead to different association results. For example, we showed in the Rotterdam Study-I that hip OA defined as “at least definite JSN and one definite osteophyte” was not associated with gender (p=0.22), but defined as “at least one definite osteophyte” was significantly associated with gender (p=3×10−9). Therefore, a standardization process was undertaken for radiographic OA definitions. Before standardization a wide range of ROA prevalence's was observed in the 9 cohorts studied. After standardization the range in prevalence of knee and hip ROA was small. Standardization of SOA phenotypes was not possible due to the case-control design of the studies.
Phenotype definitions influence the prevalence of OA and association with clinical variables. ROA phenotypes within the TREAT-OA consortium were standardized to reduce heterogeneity and improve power in future genetics studies.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the coronal alignment of the thoracic spine in persons with dextrocardia. Generally, the thoracic spine is slightly curved to the right. It has been suggested that the curve could be triggered by pulsation forces from the descending aorta. Since no population study has focused on the alignment of the thoracic spine in persons with situs inversus, dextrocardia, and right-sided descending aorta, we compared the radiographs of the thoracic spine in persons with dextrocardia to those having normal levocardia. Among 57,440 persons in a health survey, 11 cases of dextrocardia were identified through standard radiological screening. The miniature chest radiographs of eight persons were eligible for the present study. The study was carried out as a nested case–control study. Four individually matched (age, gender, and municipality) controls with levocardia were chosen for each case. Coronal alignment of the thoracic spine was analyzed without knowledge of whether the person had levo- or dextrocardia. A mild convexity to the left was found in all persons with dextrocardia and right-sided descending aorta (mean Cobb angle 6.6° to the left, SD 2.9). Of the 32 normal levocardia persons, 29 displayed a convexity to the right, and the remaining three had a straight spine (mean Cobb angle 5.2° to the right, SD 2.3). The difference (mean 11.8°, SD 3.5) differed significantly from unity (P = 0.00003). In conclusion, it seems that a slight left convexity of the thoracic spine is frequent in dextrocardia. We assume that the effect of the repetitive pulsatile pressure of the descending thoracic aorta, and the mass effect of the heart may cause the direction of the convexity to develop opposite to the side of the aortic arch.
Situs inversus; Dextrocardia; Left thoracic curve; Aorta
Saccular intracranial aneurysms (IAs) are balloon-like dilations of the intracranial arterial wall; their hemorrhage commonly results in severe neurologic impairment and death. We report a second genome-wide association study with discovery and replication cohorts from Europe and Japan comprising 5,891 cases and 14,181 controls with ∼832,000 genotyped and imputed SNPs across discovery cohorts. We identified three new loci showing strong evidence for association with IA in the combined data set, including intervals near RBBP8 on 18q11.2 (OR=1.22, P=1.1×10-12), STARD13/KL on 13q13.1 (OR=1.20, P=2.5×10-9) and a gene-rich region on 10q24.32 (OR=1.29, P=1.2×10-9). We also confirmed prior associations near SOX17 (8q11.23-q12.1; OR=1.28, P=1.3×10-12) and CDKN2A/B (9p21.3; OR=1.31, P=1.5×10-22). It is noteworthy that several putative risk genes play a role in cell-cycle progression, potentially affecting proliferation and senescence of progenitor cell populations that are responsible for vascular formation and repair.
A cluster of three nicotinic acetylcholine receptor genes on chromosome 15 (CHRNA5/CHRNA3/CHRNB4) has been shown to be associated with nicotine dependence and smoking quantity. The aim of this study was to clarify whether the variation at this locus regulates nicotine intake among smokers by using the level of a metabolite of nicotine, cotinine, as an outcome. The number of cigarettes smoked per day (CPD) and immune-reactive serum cotinine level were determined in 516 daily smokers (age 30–75 years, 303 males) from the population-based Health2000 study. Association of 21 SNPs from a 100 kb region of chromosome 15 with cotinine and CPD was examined. SNP rs1051730 showed the strongest association to both measures. However, this SNP accounted for nearly a five-fold larger proportion of variance in cotinine levels than in CPD (R2 4.3% versus 0.9%). The effect size of the SNP was 0.30 for cotinine level, whereas it was 0.13 for CPD. Variation at CHRNA5/CHRNA3/CHRNB4 cluster influences nicotine level, measured as cotinine, more strongly than smoking quantity, measured by CPD, and appears thus to be involved in regulation of nicotine levels among smokers.
We performed a second-generation genome wide association study of 4,533 celiac disease cases and 10,750 controls. We genotyped 113 selected SNPs with PGWAS<10−4, and 18 SNPs from 14 known loci, in a further 4,918 cases and 5,684 controls. Variants from 13 new regions reached genome wide significance (Pcombined<5×10−8), most contain immune function genes (BACH2, CCR4, CD80, CIITA/SOCS1/CLEC16A, ICOSLG, ZMIZ1) with ETS1, RUNX3, THEMIS and TNFRSF14 playing key roles in thymic T cell selection. A further 13 regions had suggestive association evidence. In an expression quantitative trait meta-analysis of 1,469 whole blood samples, 20 of 38 (52.6%) tested loci had celiac risk variants correlated (P<0.0028, FDR 5%) with cis gene expression.
The prevalence of diabetes is increasing in all industrialized countries and its prevention has become a public health priority. However, the predictors of diabetes risk are insufficiently understood. We evaluated, whether 31 novel biomarkers could help to predict the risk of incident diabetes.
Methods and Findings
The biomarkers were evaluated primarily in the FINRISK97 cohort (n = 7,827; 417 cases of clinically incident diabetes during the follow-up). The findings were replicated in the Health 2000 cohort (n = 4,977; 179 cases of clinically incident diabetes during the follow-up). We used Cox proportional hazards models to calculate the relative risk of diabetes, after adjusting for the classic risk factors, separately for each biomarker. Next, we assessed the discriminatory ability of single biomarkers using receiver operating characteristic curves and C-statistics, integrated discrimination improvement (IDI) and net reclassification improvement (NRI). Finally, we derived a biomarker score in the FINRISK97 cohort and validated it in the Health 2000 cohort. A score consisting of adiponectin, apolipoprotein B, C-reactive protein and ferritin almost doubled the relative risk of diabetes in the validation cohort (HR per one standard deviation increase 1.88, p = 2.8 e-5). It also improved discrimination of the model (IDI = 0.0149, p<0.0001) and reclassification of diabetes risk (NRI = 11.8%, p = 0.006). Gender-specific analyses suggested that the best score differed between men and women. Among men, the best results were obtained with the score of four biomarkers: adiponectin, apolipoprotein B, ferritin and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, which gave an NRI of 25.4% (p<0.0001). Among women, the best score included adiponectin, apolipoprotein B, C-reactive protein and insulin. It gave an NRI of 13.6% (p = 0.041).
We identified novel biomarkers that were associated with the risk of clinically incident diabetes over and above the classic risk factors. This gives new insights into the pathogenesis of diabetes and may help with targeting prevention and treatment.
Circadian clocks guide the metabolic, cell-division, sleep-wake, circadian and seasonal cycles. Abnormalities in these clocks may be a health hazard. Circadian clock gene polymorphisms have been linked to sleep, mood and metabolic disorders. Our study aimed to examine polymorphisms in four key circadian clock genes in relation to seasonal variation, reproduction and well-being in a sample that was representative of the general population, aged 30 and over, living in Finland.
Single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the ARNTL, ARNTL2, CLOCK and NPAS2 genes were genotyped in 511 individuals. 19 variants were analyzed in relation to 31 phenotypes that were assessed in a health interview and examination study. With respect to reproduction, women with ARNTL rs2278749 TT genotype had more miscarriages and pregnancies, while NPAS2 rs11673746 T carriers had fewer miscarriages. NPAS2 rs2305160 A allele carriers had lower Global Seasonality Scores, a sum score of six items i.e. seasonal variation of sleep length, social activity, mood, weight, appetite and energy level. Furthermore, carriers of A allele at NPAS2 rs6725296 had greater loadings on the metabolic factor (weight and appetite) of the global seasonality score, whereas individuals with ARNTL rs6290035 TT genotype experienced less seasonal variation of energy level.
ARNTL and NPAS2 gene variants were associated with reproduction and with seasonal variation. Earlier findings have linked ARNTL to infertility in mice, but this is the first time when any polymorphism of these genes is linked to fertility in humans.
The aim of the study was to describe the body composition of Finnish adults, especially by education, and to investigate whether fat-free mass (FFM) can explain educational gradients relating to body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR).
Data for this cross-sectional study were based on data collected in 2000-2001 for the Health 2000 Survey. Of the nationally representative sample of 8,028 Finnish men and women aged 30 years and older, 6,300 (78.5%) were included in the study. Body composition measurements were carried out in the health examination, where FFM was assessed with eight-polar bioelectrical impedance analysis. Questions on education were included in the health interview.
The mean FFM varied by education in older (≥ 65 y.) men only. In the middle-aged group (30-64 y.), highly educated men were less likely to belong to the lowest quintile of FFM (OR 0.67, 95%CI 0.48-0.93) compared with the least educated subjects. The level of education was inversely associated with the prevalence of high BMI and WHR in middle-aged men. In women, the respective associations were found both in middle-aged women and their older counterparts. Adjustment for FFM slightly strengthened the associations of education with BMI and WHR.
The association between education and FFM is weak. Educational gradients of high BMI and high WHR cannot be explained by FFM.
We tested which environmental, social, lifestyle, and health related factors of the individual contribute to the seasonal variations in mood and behavior and whether these influence the risks of the metabolic syndrome and major depressive disorder, both conditions having a high prevalence in industrialized populations. 5480 individuals, representative of the general population aged 30 and over in Finland, were assessed for metabolic syndrome using the ATP-III criteria, gave a self-report of seasonal variations in mood and behavior, and were interviewed for mood, anxiety, and alcohol use disorders using the DSM-IV criteria. The seasonal variations in mood and behavior have a metabolic factor composed of weight and appetite, and greater loadings on this factor increased the risk of metabolic syndrome (odds ratio of 1.18, 95% confidence interval of 1.10 to 1.26). Self-reports of lighting experienced as poor at home contributed to scores on the metabolic factor (t = 4.20, P < .0001). Lighting conditions and their dynamics may serve as a measure for intervention in order to influence the seasonal metabolic signals and in the end to prevent the metabolic syndrome.
Mammalian circadian clocks control multiple physiological events. The principal circadian clock generates seasonal variations in behavior as well. Seasonality elevates the risk for metabolic syndrome, and evidence suggests that disruption of the clockwork can lead to alterations in metabolism. Our aim was to analyze whether circadian clock polymorphisms contribute to seasonal variations in behavior and to the metabolic syndrome.
We genotyped 39 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) from 19 genes which were either canonical circadian clock genes or genes related to the circadian clockwork from 517 individuals drawn from a nationwide population-based sample. Associations between these SNPs and seasonality, metabolic syndrome and its risk factors were analyzed using regression analysis. The p-values were corrected for multiple testing.
Our findings link circadian gene variants to the risk factors of the metabolic syndrome, since Npas2 was associated with hypertension (P-value corrected for multiple testing = 0.0024) and Per2 was associated with high fasting blood glucose (P-value corrected for multiple testing = 0.049).
Our findings support the view that relevant relationships between circadian clocks and the metabolic syndrome in humans exist.
Serious concern has arisen about the cardiovascular safety of selective cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors. However, recent studies have shown that the cardiovascular risks of regular use of traditional analgesics also deserve attention. We investigated the use of traditional analgesics for their prediction of major coronary events during 16 years of follow-up.
A population sample of 8000 Finns aged 30 years and over was invited to a comprehensive health examination in 1978–1980; 7217 (90%) complied, and 4824 of these had no diagnosed cardiovascular disease. The participants filled in a questionnaire eliciting information on the use of analgesics. Record linkage to the National Hospital Discharge Register and the mortality register of the Central Statistical Office of Finland identified 266 major coronary events (myocardial infarctions or coronary deaths) by the end of 1994.
The risk of a major coronary event was significantly elevated among those reporting regular use of analgesics at baseline. Compared with nonusers and adjusted for known risk factors for coronary heart disease, the relative risk of an event during the whole follow-up period was 1.51 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.08–2.10) among regular users of analgesics. The risk was as high as 5.27 (95% CI 2.13–13.11) during the first two years of the follow-up. Thereafter it leveled off.
Based on sales statistics almost all analgesics used in Finland at the end of the 1970’s were nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Therefore, the increased risk of major coronary events among regular users of analgesics is likely to be due to traditional NSAIDs.
acute myocardial infarction; coronary heart disease; cohort study; analgesics; pharmacology; risk factors
Seasonal changes in mood and behavior are common in a general population, being of relevance to public health. We wanted to analyze whether the HRQoL is associated with the seasonal changes in mood and behavior. Because the shortage of exposure to daylight or artificial bright light has been linked to the occurrence of the seasonal changes, we wanted to know whether illumination indoors contributes to the HRQoL.
Of the sample of 7979 individuals, being representative of the Finnish general population aged 30 and over, 88% were interviewed face to face, and 84% participated in the health status examination after which the self-report assessment of the HRQoL and the seasonal changes in mood and behavior took place. The illumination levels experienced indoors were asked during the interview and the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) was filled in before the health examination.
The HRQoL was influenced by both the seasonal changes in mood and behavior (P < 0.001) and the illumination experienced indoors (P < 0.001). Greater seasonal changes (P < 0.001) and poor illumination indoors (P = 0.0035) were associated with more severe mental ill-being.
The routinely emerging seasonal changes in mood and behavior are associated with the HRQoL and mental well-being. Better illumination indoors might alleviate the season-bound symptoms and thereby enhance the HRQoL and mental well-being.
Obesity is a major public health problem worldwide. Metabolic syndrome is a risk factor to the cardiovascular diseases. It has been reported that disruptions of the circadian clockwork are associated with and may predispose to metabolic syndrome.
Methodology and Principal Findings
8028 individuals attended a nationwide health examination survey in Finland. Data were collected with a face-to-face interview at home and during an individual health status examination. The waist circumference, height, weight and blood pressure were measured and samples were taken for laboratory tests. Participants were assessed using the ATP-III criteria for metabolic syndrome and with the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire for their seasonal changes in mood and behavior. Seasonal changes in weight in particular were a risk factor of metabolic syndrome, after controlling for a number of known risk and potential confounding factors.
Conclusions and Significance
Metabolic syndrome is associated with high global scores on the seasonal changes in mood and behavior, and with those in weight in particular. Assessment of these changes may serve as a useful indicator of metabolic syndrome, because of easy assessment. Abnormalities in the circadian clockwork which links seasonal fluctuations to metabolic cycles may predispose to seasonal changes in weight and to metabolic syndrome.