HBM4EU feasibility studies: Lessons learned in combining health and human biomonitoring studies

Hanna Maria Elonheimo*, Karoliina Uusitalo, Sonja Moore, Anna-Maria Andersson, Ronny Baber, Kerstin Wirkner, Madlen David, Marike Kolossa-Gehring, Lorraine Stewart, Ovnair Sepai, Dominik Lermen, Martina Bartel-Steinbach, Panu Rantakokko, Jani Koponen, Hanna Tolonen

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde


BACKGROUND: The European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU) is a joint program evaluating humans' exposure to several environmental substances and their potential health effects. One of the main objectives of HBM4EU is to make use of human biomonitoring (HBM) to assess human exposure to chemicals in Europe to better understand the associated health impacts and to improve chemical risk assessment. In parallel to HBM studies, health examination surveys (HESs), nutrition/dietary surveys, and disease specific health surveys are conducted in many European countries. In HESs, information collected by questionnaire(s) is supplemented with physical examinations and analysis of clinical and biological biomarkers in biological samples. HBM and health examination survey (HES) use similar data collection methods and infrastructures hence the feasibility of combining these two is explored in this paper.

METHODS: Within HBM4EU, three feasibility studies (in Finland, Germany, and UK/England) were conducted to evaluate opportunities and obstacles of combining HBM and health studies. In this paper we report lessons learned from these feasibility studies.

RESULTS: The Finnish feasibility study called KouBio-KUOPIO study was a new initiative without links to existing studies. The German feasibility study added a HBM module to the first follow-up examination of the LIFE-Adult-Study, a population-based cohort study. The UK feasibility integrates a sustainable HBM module into the Health Survey for England (HSfE), an annual health examination survey. Benefits of combining HBM and HESs include the use of shared infrastructures. Furthermore, participants can receive additional health information from HES, and participation rates tend to be higher due to the potential to obtain personal health information. Preparatory phases including obtaining ethical approval can be time-consuming and complicated. Recruitment of participants and low participation rates are common concerns in survey research and therefore designing user-friendly questionnaires with low participant burden is important. Unexpected events such as the COVID-19 pandemic can cause substantial challenges and delays for such studies. Furthermore, experiences from several countries demonstrated that long-term funding for combined studies can be difficult to obtain.

CONCLUSIONS: In the future, incorporating HBM modules into existing HESs can provide a feasible and cost-effective method to conduct HBM studies and obtain a wide range of relevant data to support public health policies and research.

TidsskriftInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Sider (fra-til)1-8
Antal sider8
StatusUdgivet - 2023


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