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Cohort Profile: The Epidemiology of Chronic Diseases and Multimorbidity. The EpiChron Cohort Study

In 2005 the EpiChron Research Group on Chronic Diseases began to study chronic diseases and multimorbidity through data stored in the computerized medical records of patients living in Aragon, a region of north-eastern Spain.

The relevance of the results obtained with cross-sectional data encouraged the group to set up a regional population cohort of 1.25 million inhabitants, named the EpiChron Cohort Study, which was favourably evaluated by the Clinical Research Ethics Committee of Aragon (CEICA). Baseline data collection was finalized in December 2010 and follow-up is expected to extend until 2020. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies on multimorbidity and comorbidity of major index chronic diseases, as well as pharmaco-epidemiological studies, are the main expected outputs of this project. A longitudinal approach is essential to identify causal relationships among risk factors, diseases and drugs, development of chronic diseases and multimorbidity, and the incidence of adverse health outcomes.

Finally, data sharing and scaling-up of knowledge to different settings and/or countries are also key points of this project. Cross-national comparisons may be useful to increase the validity of results, and to identify social and structural inequalities that may explain differences in the incidence and evolution of chronic diseases and their impact on society. One first step toward the integration and harmonization of large health-related databases such as the EpiChron Cohort was recently taken within the framework of the EIP on AHA, with the final goal to create a structure capable of supporting multi-country health care research projects.

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