The cohort profiles published by International Journal of Epidemiology (IJE) are intended to support scientific collaboration and enhance the use of longitudinal cohort studies. This welcome addition to other types of IJE articles is very much in line with recent reports1–4 emphasizing the need to maximize substantial research investments already made in large cohort datasets. We examined abstracts of all 45 cohort profiles and nine profile updates published by IJE in 2015 and 2016, and reviewed full articles for 55 cohort profiles along with two profile updates published by IJE in 2017. For abstracts from 2015 and 2016, our primary interest was whether or not authors identified population health intervention studies as an area for collaborative research; 74% (n = 40) of the 54 profile authors indicated they would welcome some sort of collaboration. However, the predominant suggestions for collaboration involved using the cohorts in studies of aetiology, prognosis, risk factors and determinants, and genome-wide associations. Few authors described the use of cohorts for either clinical or population health intervention studies, and none of these profiles described the use of cohort data to evaluate policy interventions. Our review of profile articles for 2017 indicates some increased reporting of intervention studies embedded within cohorts and the use of cohorts to review the impact of policies. The purposes outlined for establishing these more recently reported cohorts included reference to clinical or population health interventions for 35.1 % (n = 20). Seven of these 20 papers indicated that the primary or secondary purposes of the cohort were to inform interventions or the development of assessment tools, rather than to use the cohort as a source of data or platform to examine clinical or population health interventions. Examples of interventions being tested or proposed for examination included vaccines, lead and injury hazard controls, infant formula, antiretroviral therapy, hormone replacement therapy, food fortification policies and national child health policies such as child support and access to education and potable water. Various intervention study designs were described, including randomized controlled trials, historical retrospective policy studies and cross-jurisdictional comparative studies. Additionally, 60% (n = 34) of the 2017 profiles described data linkages already established, and another 32% (n = 18) had linkages planned. Cohorts were linked to a variety of datasets including administrative databases (health, education, occupational and social); disease, vaccine and drug registries; and birth, death, migration and incarceration records. These are encouraging signs that authors are considering the utility of cohorts for intervention studies. We believe this information could be further strengthened with a few additions to the cohort profiles. Therefore, we suggest that journal editors add a descriptive sub-heading(s) to prompt authors to provide more details about the application of their cohort for the purposes of clinical and population health intervention studies. Specifically, authors should be asked to: (i) indicate whether or not their cohort has already been used for clinical or population health intervention research studies and to provide examples; (ii) briefly describe what potential the cohort has for either clinical or population health interventions; and (iii) indicate whether or not linking variables are included in the dataset which might make them particularly amenable to studies of population health interventions such as an examination of distinctive policies in comparable jurisdictions. This would help prompt both authors and potential collaborators to consider the intervention research potential of their cohort datasets. In addition, it would be useful for journals to invite letters and commentaries asking researchers to indicate how selected cohort studies could be optimized for clinical and population health intervention research studies. Funding This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [grant number: 122510]. Conflict of interest: None declared. References 1 MRC Population Health Sciences Group . Maximising the Value of UK Population Cohorts MRC Strategic Review of the Largest UK Population Cohort Studies [Project Report]. London and Swindon, UK: Medical Research Council (MRC), 2014 . 2 National Cancer Institute . Trends in 21st Century Epidemiology: From Scientific Discoveries to Population Health, Impact. [Workshop Report]. Bethesda, MD: NCI’s Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program (EGRP), 2012 . 3 Silva IDS. Cohort studies . In: Cancer Epidemiology: Principles and Methods . Lyon, France : International Agency for Research on Cancer , 1999 . 4 Banati P , Zharkevich I. International Symposium on Cohort and Longitudinal Studies in Low and Middle-Income Countries [Meeting Report]. Florence, Italy: UNICEF Office of Research–Innocenti, 2014 . © The Author(s) 2018; all rights reserved. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
International Journal of Epidemiology – Oxford University Press
Published: Jun 4, 2018
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