Towards a functional EU HBM framework
The main objective of COPHES was to build a coherent and sustainable framework for HBM surveys in Europe and increase the comparability of data across countries. A key step in such a framework is the elaboration and testing of common guidelines for setting up surveys.
To this aim, a 3 step approach was followed, consisting of preparatory work, test phase, and conclusions and recommendations.
In the first step, the protocol team developed a common European protocol in close collaboration with 17 countries taking part in the pilot study DEMOCOPHES.
Six COPHES groups worked together on guidelines for population sampling, recruitment and biological sample collection; biological sample handling, analysis and biobanking; data analysis and integrated interpretation; ethics and privacy protection; communication and dissemination; and training and capacity building. After gathering information on existing practices and expertise (via an EU questionnaire, personal contacts, and consortium meetings), a working version of the common protocol was finalized on 3rd March 2011.
In the test phase, the common protocol guided the development and implementation of the pilot study in the 17 DEMOCOPHES countries. To cope with differences in policy, culture and ethics from one country to another, the common protocol was adapted to take into account each country's realities. The protocol team supported the implementation of the pilot survey study trough a helpdesk, training activities, and direct contacts. It also provided support for the ethical and legal aspects (see under Ethics).
In the third phase of the project, the first results of the pilot study were presented at a joint COPHES/DEMOCOPHES final conference organised under the Cypriot Presidency of the EU Council on 23-24th October 2012 in Larnaca, Cyprus. The full results and final conclusions are currently prepared for publication.