Feature of the Month – Austria and Germany
Largest city: Vienna
Official language: German
Total population: 8,477.230
MOBI-Kids population: 1,42 mio
Popular foods: Tafelspitz, Wiener Schnitzel, Sachertorte, Wein
The Medical University of Vienna (MUV) was established in 1365, and has a distinguished international reputation for excellent education, research, and patient care spanning 650 years. MUV is one of the oldest institutions for medical training and research in Europe.
Institute of Environmental Health, Center for Public Health, Medical University Vienna: Since more than 30 years the institutes’ research focuses on environmental factors and health, in particular physical, chemical and psychological factors. It provides information, evidence and policy advice to local and national governments and environmental and public health practitioners in the public and private sectors. Main target is the implementation of preventive strategies. In the last years, the Institute for Environmental Health has conducted epidemiological projects studying the impact of environmental factors on health especially of vulnerable groups.
Michael Kundi, National Principal Investigator: Michael is head of the Institute of Environmental Health. His research covers the whole range of epidemiological, clinical, field and laboratory experimental studies of environmental and occupational factors. He is a member of the vaccination committee of the Highest Health Council in Austria. He is head of the toxicology working group of the Indoor Pollution Committee of the Ministry for the Environment, and vice director of the Austrian Committee on Noise Reduction.
Hans-Peter Hutter, National Fieldwork coordinator: Hans-Peter is an Associated Professor in Public Health, medical doctor specialized in hygiene, environmental and preventive medicine as well as an ecologist and landscape designer. His main research focus is epidemiology of electromagnetic fields, outdoor and indoor air quality, climate factors, and environmental chemicals (human biomonitoring). In 2011, he established a Child Public Health research unit at MUV. He is chairman of the Austrian Section of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment and chief editor of medi.um, Austrian Journal of Environmental Health.
– Names and short backgrounds of collaborating centres
Heidi Wöhrer, Clinical Institute of Neurology, MUVI. The Clinical Institute of Neurology, founded in 1882, is the oldest institute of its type, and covers the whole range of neuropathological and neurochemical methods. It has established a brain tumour registry that is almost 100% complete. Its current priorities are molecular genetics of prion diseases and brain tumours. In the area of prion diseases, it has developed into a national and international center of excellence and expertise that leads several European, EU-funded networks. Heidi Wöhrer is organizing the brain tumour registry and is a medical doctor who is specialized in neuropathology.
General Hospital Vienna
Sozialmedizinisches Zentrum Ost
Wagner-Jauregg Provincial Neuropsychiatric Clinic Linz
Landeskrankenhaus Gmunden and Vöcklabruck
Medical University Graz
Landeskrankenhaus Salzburg – Universitätsklinikum der Paracelsus Medizinischen Privatuniversität, Universitätsklinikum Neurochirurgie
Krankenhaus Hallein and Zell am See
Medical University Innsbruck
Landeskrankenhaus Kufstein and Zams
Due to the very complicated procedure with ethics approvals we started field work iterative – mainly – 2013. It will be continued till end of March 2015. To date we recruited 14 cases. We had to exclude 18 cases due to ineligible diagnosis.
Funding sources: Grant FP7-ENV-2008-226873, Austrian participation in MOBI-Kids is partially supported by the Ministry of Science.
Largest city: Berlin
Official language: German
Total population: 80.716
Number of collaborating MOBI-Kids hospitals: 127
In Germany, MOBI-Kids is coordinated by the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology & NetTeaching Unit at the Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine of the University Hospital of Munich (LMU). Founded in 1472, the University of Munich is one of the oldest universities in Germany and one of the major universities in Europe. With respect to the number of students it is currently the second largest university in Germany. The Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine is one of three German WHO Collaborating Centres for Occupational Health and offers a wide variety of research interests as well as international contacts.
MOBI-Kids fieldwork started in October 2010 and will continue until early 2015. With the support of collaborating hospitals, cases and controls are identified in all 16 German states covering a population of more than 80 million. As by August 2014, 90 cases could be recruited. In addition to the funding by the European Union, the German part of MOBI-Kids is supported by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS).
The study is coordinated by Katja Radon, Tobias Weinmann, Vanessa Kießling, Swaantje Klostermann, and Jenny Schlichtiger. Katja is the Head of the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology & NetTeaching Unit. She is a Professor for Epidemiology at the University of Munich (LMU) and has coordinated a large number of population-based epidemiologic studies. She has also been involved in research and teaching on occupational and environmental health in low and middle income countries and has a special interest in developing web-based teaching methods for medical students. Tobias has an education in psychology and epidemiology and is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher at LMU. His interests include environmental epidemiology, especially potential health effects of exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) and environmental noise, as well as mental health. Swaantje and Vanessa both joined LMU in 2012 after finishing their education. Right from the beginning they supported the field phase of the study with much enthusiasm while Jenny is mainly involved in conducting the German part of the Mobi-Expo study.
Questions and Answers
How did your centre become involved in MOBI-Kids?
MUV: We got the information that the project is planned at a WHO meeting and informed the principal investigator about the brain tumour registry that was established at that time in Austria.
Are you involved with more than fieldwork?
LMU: In addition to field work, we are leading Work Package 6 (Dissemination) in cooperation with CREAL. This work packages aims at spreading knowledge about the study among the scientific community, stakeholders in the field, and the general public. We are also one of the centres contributing to Mobi-Expo (http://www.crealradiation.com/index.php/en/mobi-expo).
MUV: We are also involved in the brain tumor validation study.
What are your research interests (beyond MOBI-Kids)?
LMU: Apart from studies investigating potential health effects from RF-EMF, we are especially interested in risk factors for the development and prognosis of occupational allergies, occupational dermatosis, and occupational asthma. In addition, we are closely collaborating with universities from Latin America to realise joint research programmes and to train students and professionals in the field of occupational safety and health (OSH). In this context we developed a Master’s programme in International Occupational Safety and Health which offers an international and interdisciplinary training in global OSH with a focus on project-based learning.
MUV: Several emerging public and occupational health issues and also traditional ones are in our focus: outdoor and indoor air pollution, climate change, environmental chemicals, noise, green spaces and recreation, shift work.
Why do you think MOBI-Kids is an important study?
MUV: It is worldwide the largest and scientifically most sound epidemiological study on the use of telecommunication devices and children’s resp. adolescent’s health. It is a challenging task for all scientists and staff involved and needs tremendous efforts to conduct the study. In our view it will take a long time to finalize a similar study on this emerging issue because of the various problems to conduct an epidemiological study such as MOBI-Kids properly.
Do you have any upcoming meetings, conferences, presentations, etc. to advertise?
MUV: The Brain Tumor Epidemiology Consortium Annual Meeting is held in Vienna, Austria, Sept 8-10, 2014 (http://app.certain.com/profile/web/index.cfm?PKwebID=0x5560748ecd&varPage=home).
What do you think is the most interesting part about MOBI-Kids?
LMU: The collaboration with so many experienced and enthusiastic researchers from around the world makes MOBI-Kids an outstanding project.
MUV:It combines experts from all relevant fields, especially the expertise of epidemiologists and dosimetricians (both for low- and high-frequency EMF).
Are you involved in other studies on EMF? Or other environmental exposures and risk of brain tumours?
MUV: As mentioned above, we conducted epidemiological and experimental studies on base stations and mobile phones (ATHEM: Athermal biological effects of high frequency electromagnetic fields). Besides research we are active in risk communication issues esp. about the location/siting of base station antennas and use of mobile phones.