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M. FISBERG, I. KOVALSKYS, G. GÓMEZ SALAS, R.G. PAREJA TORRES, M.C. YÉPEZ GARCÍA, L.Y. CORTÉS SANABRIA, ET AL. (2017) “Developing a cooperative multicenter study in Latin America: Lessons learned from the Latin American Study of Nutrition and Health Project.” Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública 41: e111.

The Latin American Study of Nutrition and Health (ELANS) was a multinational survey with the goal to depict the nutritional status of people in Latin America and to investigate physical activity, food consumption, and nutrient intake among representative samples in urban populations of eight countries. This study is particularly important because it is one of the first of its kind to attempt to understand health behaviors for a region. The paper presents the challenges and lessons learned in developing such a multi-national study and provides a model for future collaborative research. The study provides evidence of the advance toward regional data collection and health informatics.


Abstract: This report examines the challenges of conducting a multicenter, cross-sectional study of countries with diverse cultures, and shares the lessons learned. The Latin American Study of Nutrition and Health (ELANS) was used as a feasibility study involving the most populous cities of eight countries in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela) in 2014-2015, about 40% of the population of the Americas. The target sample included 9000 individuals, 15-65 years of age, and was stratified by geographic location (only urban areas), gender, age, and socioeconomic status. Six principal challenges were identified: team structuring and site selections; developing a single protocol; obtaining ethic approvals; completing simultaneous fieldwork; ensuring data quality; and extracting data and maintaining consistency across databases. Lessons learned show that harmonization, pilot study, uniformity of procedures, high data quality control, and communication and collaboration across sites are imperative. Barriers included organizational complexity, recruitment of collaborators and research staff, institutional cooperation, development of infrastructure, and identification of resources. Consensus on uniform measures and outcomes and data collection methodology, as well as a plan for data management and analysis, communication, publication, and dissemination of study results should be in place prior to beginning fieldwork. While challenging, such studies offer great potential for building a scientific base for studies on nutrition, physical activity, and other health topics, while facilitating comparisons among countries.

Keywords: Latin America; Multicenter Studies; Nutritional Surveillance; Nutritional Surveys; Regional Research.

DOI: 10.26633/RPSP.2017.111