Critical assessment of the research outcomes of European birth cohorts: linking environmental factors with non-communicable diseases

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Year of publication 2017
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Public Health
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords European birth cohorts; Study design; Research outcomes; Non-communicable diseases
Description Objectives: The objective of this review paper was to stimulate collaborative discussions toward the development of a general concept of an open source protocol for a feasible and efficient longitudinal birth cohort study exploring non-communicable diseases (NCDs), their multifactorial etiology and relations between various risk factors. Study design: The present paper systematically reviews the design of existing birth cohorts in Europe containing environmental exposure data, and assesses a quantity and quality of their research outcomes as their potential to be an effective tool for studying non communicable diseases and their risk factors. Methods: European birth cohorts with more than 3000 participants have been included in the study. A total number of scientific papers published in the internationally recognized journals and their impact factors and citation records were evaluated for all cohorts as surrogates for their efficiency to contribute to NCDs understanding and thus their prevention. Results: The birth cohorts contributing most significantly to the NCD understanding shared common features: (i) study size between 10,000 and 15,000 mother-child pairs; (ii) repeated assessment of children from prenatal into adulthood; and (iii) availability of biological samples. Smaller cohorts and cohorts with a specific focus generated a lower number of publications; however, these often received considerably a higher number of citations. Conclusions: General cohort studies with 10,000-15,000 mother child pairs allow a broader context interpretation, publish a higher number of articles, and often lead to the formation of infrastructures for 'spin-off (nested) studies'.
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