Research to improve people's health


A nation-wide macroproject begins in Terres de l’Ebre to study why the population gets sick and promote precision medicine

The IMPaCT Cohort study, promoted by the Carlos III Health Institute of the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities through its Network Biomedical Research Center (CIBER), will monitor the health and lifestyle of 200,000 people from all over Spain, 4,000 of which from Deltebre, L'Ametlla de Mar, L'Aldea, L'Ampolla, Camarles, El Perelló and Sant Jaume d'Enveja

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This week the IMPaCT Cohort macro-study begins in Terres de l'Ebre, a nation-wide project that aims to better understand the origin of the main diseases and thus help prevent and treat them, applying personalized and precision medicine techniques. To achieve it, over the next twenty years an exhaustive health study will be carried out on a representative sample of the population. In Terres de l’Ebre, this sample will include 4,000 people, in Catalonia as a whole, 24,000, and in the entire State, 200,000.

In Catalonia, the study is coordinated by the Institut d’Investigació en Atenció Primària Jordi Gol (IDIAPJGol), in collaboration with the Catalan Health Service and the Catalan Health Institute in Terres de l'Ebre (ICS).

In Terres de l’Ebre, the study will cover an area populated by 37,201 people living in the municipalities of Deltebre (11,834 inhabitants), L’Ametlla de Mar (7,330), L’Aldea (4,487), L’Ampolla (3,631), Camarles (3,365) and El Perelló (2,913), in the Baix Ebre region, and Sant Jaume d’Enveja (3,641), in Montsià. From this population, a representative sample of 4,000 people will be selected.

This is the second area of ​​Catalonia where this study will be carried out, after the Baix Francolí area, in Camp de Tarragona.

Soon, IMPaCT will be deployed in Vallès Oriental (Sant Fost de Campsentelles), Bages (Manresa), Segrià (Lleida) and Barcelonès (L’Hospitalet de Llobregat).

The study sample includes people between 16 and 79 years old who will be called from the primary care centre (CAP) where the research is coordinated to ask them if they want to participate. The participants will be monitored by collecting information about their lifestyle habits and health status, through questionnaires, physical examinations and physiological tests and the analysis of biomarkers, which will be carried out in the CAP itself.

If they call you, come!

To ensure the success of the project, it is essential that the people who are invited to participate agree to collaborate.

In this sense, Josep Basora-Gallisà, director of IDIAPJGol and principal investigator of the study in Catalonia, highlights that “the collaboration of citizens in this project is essential and that is why it is key that they understand its potential, which will have an impact on improving health of the entire population.”

The sector director of the Terres de l’Ebre Health Region of the Catalan Health Service, Jorgina Lucas, adds that “this is one of the most ambitious studies that have ever been carried out, which will allow for a spectacular improvement in the prevention of diseases and to be able to offer citizens personalized health care.”

A great leap towards precision medicine

The project is promoted by the Carlos III Health Institute through the Network Biomedical Research Centre (CIBER) and aims to create a large population cohort of 200,000 people throughout Spain. “We want to know what role habits, genetic susceptibility and the specific characteristics of the Spanish population and our environment have in the origin of the main health problems and in the prediction of diseases,” explains Marina Esquerrà-Parés, researcher at IDIAPJGol and coordinator of the study in Catalonia.

To prevent the appearance of diseases, it is necessary to know well what factors cause them. Having information about a large number of people and following them over time will make it possible to predict in the future the risks of getting sick that each person has. Advances in the field of genomics and information and communication technologies facilitate this personalized approach.

Population macrostudies such as the IMPaCT Cohort have been carried out in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden or the United States of America. These cohorts collect biological samples, epidemiological information, which includes social and economic factors, and constitute the basic tool to advance personalized prevention. Thus, the IMPaCT Cohort will allow Spain to make a qualitative leap in research on precision medicine.

Data of great value for the scientific community

The data collected from the participants will be available to develop other scientific projects of interest to society. “The IMPaCT Cohort will allow the scientific community to better understand how to prevent the main diseases and deterioration associated with age, injuries and disability,” explains Beatriz Pérez-Gómez, researcher at the National Centre for Epidemiology (CNE) and the CIBER of Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP).

The possibility of having a dynamic record of individual and population data, clinical, genetic, epidemiological and lifestyle habits, will make it possible to build predictive models of diseases, identify health inequalities, monitor key indicators and evaluate the impact of health policies.

Cohort studies

Cohorts are studies in which a large group of people representative of the population is selected, collecting exhaustive data on each participant over the years. The creation of the IMPaCT Cohort is a shared effort with health services throughout the State and the National Institute of Statistics. 21 institutions collaborate, including CAPs, hospitals and research centres. Scientific coordination is carried out by the CIBER and has the advice and participation of numerous researchers and health professionals in the country.

The study will be carried out in a total of fifty health areas (IMPaCT centres) spread throughout Spain, six of them in Catalonia, from which the participants will be contacted and monitored. The project began in March 2023 with a pilot test in Mallorca and Madrid. Subsequently, the study has been progressively deployed in other centres in the different Spanish autonomous communities.