Nation-wide start of the "National Cohort"

In Hannover, HZI runs one of a total of 18 study centres in Germany

The test programme includes smell tests, measurements 
of the grip strength of the hand or ECGs as well as blood pressure
measurements.©HZI / Misiak"National Cohort", the largest health study in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, officially launched today. The launch event held in Essen was attended by the Federal Minister of Health and Research, Prof Johanna Wanka. One of the 18 study centres total is situated in Hannover. It is run by the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and was ready for operations even before the nation-wide launch of the study: Tests have been running since May, some 400 people participated already; and the total to be reached in Hannover in the next few years is 10,000 subjects.

NAKO is a national project of special significance and dimension: Federal and state governments as well as the Helmholtz Association are putting up Euro 210 million to sponsor the study. A total of 25 participating research facilities are setting up 18 study centres. What makes us ill? How can we protect ourselves from disease? And why do some people get ill more often than others? To answer these questions, 200,000 people in Germany between 20 and 69 years of age will undergo medical tests and interviews about their habits and social background over a period of 20 years. The researchers aim to develop a better understanding of the causes and risk factors of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer or diabetes.

The focus of the tests in Hannover is on infectious diseases. "We are contributing our expertise in infection research to the study," says Prof Gérard Krause, head of the Epidemiology Department at the HZI. Which factors favour infections? What are the possible late effects of infections? Questions like these are to be addressed by Krause and his coworkers in the scope of the nation-wide study.

"The National Cohort is a great opportunity for us to gain enormous amounts of knowledge for the fight against widespread diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease in the upcoming years," says Research Minister Wanka. "I'd like to encourage all citizens who receive a letter from the National Cohort to please do participate in the study. The significance of the study results is the higher, the more people participate in it - for the benefit of all of us in the future." 

Likewise Dr Yvonne Kemmling, head of the study centre in Hannover, appeals to the public: "We are very grateful to the people participating in the study for their time and their trust in us," says Kemmling. The subjects visiting the study centre undergo a test programme that takes several hours. The programme includes smell tests or measurements of the grip strength of the hand as well as blood pressure measurements and ECG tests. "We place special emphasis on the contact with the people participating in the study being very personal and specific to the individual. We want them to be comfortable here. After all, we want them to visit again," says Kemmling.

Kemmling and her colleagues depend on the continuing participation of the subjects who will be invited to return to the study centre every few years during the 20-year duration of the study. The aim in Hannover, much like in the other study centres, is to make a long-term contribution to the detection and prevention of many widespread diseases. This is reflected in the motto of the National Cohort: Joint research for a healthier future.


The National Cohort

Joint research for a healthier future is the rationale underlying the National Cohort (NAKO), the largest ongoing demographic study in Germany. The financial sponsors of the study are the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, 14 Federal state governments and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. For more information, please visit www.nationale-kohorte.de .

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