National teams and protocols
A number of key steps have to be taken before launching a wide-ranging survey. During the first months of the project, each participating country had to translate and adapt the COPHES study protocol to fit its own circumstances and to prepare for implementation.
Setting up a national team to implement the protocol
In each country a team worked on this part of the project with the support of other national networks and specialised experts, gathering necessary expertise from own organisations and/or hiring or subcontracting.
Developing a national protocol.
- How to recruit volunteers to participate in the study? Each country had to decide whether to recruit through schools or population registers.
- Where to recruit participants? Each country had to delineate criteria defining both rural and urban areas, because population densities vary enormously among the 17 countries.
- How to do the interviews? Each country had the possibility to test out the feasibility and added value of a Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI).
Making additions to the protocol
E.g. to shed light on other topics of interest such as:
Other target groups: Slovenia decided to extend its study population, analysing mother-child pairs but also fathers;
- Other matrices: Denmark decided to take blood samples and investigate additional substances;
- Other substances: EU-level support was offered when at least five countries were willing to fund their own additional analyses. For example, six countries wanted to analyse bisphenol-A (BPA) and it was therefore incorporated within the EU harmonised approach.
Translating and adapting background materials and questionnaires
The materials provided by COPHES have been adapted while maintaining comparability with other countries’ documents. Teams received input from national specialists at kick-off and other meetings. On this basis, each team proposed changes, detailing specific national considerations for approval at the EU coordination level. Participating countries got together to exchange experiences and solutions in February 2011 in Brussels and April 2011 in Budapest.
Achievements during the preparatory phase of the project
- Two people from each country were trained at the COPHES ‘train the trainer’ session in June-July 2011 in Berlin. When back in their countries, they trained their full teams accordingly.
- Documents were submitted to ethical committees and privacy and data protection authorities for study approval, and, for some countries required to do so by law, subcontracting insurance. Some teams reported some difficulties with their ethical committees.
- Eight countries decided to use the CAPI system and tested it out by using volunteers.
- National webpages were set up and linked to the EU’s website.
- National teams established their protocols in preparation for recruitment and sampling without major difficulties, with only minor differences compared to the European protocol.