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COMAC EPIDEMIOLOGY
WORKSHOP ON ISSUES IN THE HARMONISATION OF PROTOCOLS FOR EPIDEMIOLOGICAL RESEARCH IN EUROPE, FLORENCE, 30 JUNE - 2 JULY 1991

CONTENT

  1. Summary
  2. The role of COMACs in the Medical and Health Research Programmes of the European Community - M. Hallen
  3. Epidemiological research in the Biomedical and Health Research Programme BIOMED 1 (1990-1994) - Y- Vuylsteek
  4. Capitalising on past experience in Concerted Actions in epidemiology for the future - R. Saracci
  5. Approaches to representative population sampling- options and problems in conducting comparable surveys in Europe; experiences from Concerted Actions in epidemiology - T.I.A- Sorensen, J. Olsen
  6. Ethical issues in epidemiological research: guidelines containing the minimum common standards of practice recommended for use by project leaders and participants in the operation of future Concerted Actions - E. Russel, C.-G. Westrin
  7. List of members of COMAC Epidemiology.

SUMMARY

In the Fourth Medical and Health Research Programme (1987-1991) of the European Community, COMAC Epidemiology, an expert advisory group to the programme, was responsible for 19 Concerted Actions in three out of six research targets (cancer, age-related health problems, environment and life-style related health problems).

As mentioned in its outline, the general goal of this programme is clearly to contribute to a better quality of life by improving health. The programmes distinctive feature is to strengthen European collaboration as a means of achieving this goal.

The main objectives of this workshop were

  1. to evaluate the past experience in order to identify common traits, problems, and solutions which might prove useful to investigators taking part in a new generation of epidemiological studies at the European level,
  2. to discuss options and problems in conducting comparable surveys in Europe as well as
  3. ethical issues in epidemiological research.
In a first session 15 of the 19 Concerted Actions in epidemiology were reviewed following seven headings:
  1. European network of researchers,
  2. Research programmes,
  3. Timing of action,
  4. Financing,
  5. Scientific scope,
  6. Methodology, and
  7. Follow-up.
Overall, the assessment made of the Concerted Actions (a self-assessment by a group composed largely of COMAC members and project leaders) was that the experience had been a positive one and that the advantages, scientific and organisational, exceed the disadvantages and difficulties.

A second session addressed approaches to representative population sampling taking advantage of the extension of epidemiological research from single to multiple European countries, and of the large variation in environmental exposures, life-style factors, industrialisation, and cultural and social norms.
Three sets of problems were identified:

  1. Some related to population sampling,
  2. Some related to obtaining information about exposure to putative causal factors and occurrence of diseases in the individual, and
  3. Some related to obtaining information on exposures and occurrences of disease at population level.
The third session was held to discuss and agree on guidelines containing the minimum common standards of practice to be recommended for use by project leaders and participants in the operation of future Concerted Actions. In particular, they should be helpful to local researchers when seeking approval from their local ethics committees.
Four principles of biomedical ethics were commonly defined:
  1. Respect for autonomy (human rights, dignity and freedom),
  2. Non-maleficence,
  3. Beneficence and
  4. Justice.
Common standards of practice are recommended for:
  1. Research involving direct contact with human subjects,
  2. Research using registers, and
  3. Project management.

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BIOMED Publications | 08.02.2000