Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death and hospitalization in both men and women in nearly all countries of Europe. The most frequent forms of CVD are those of an atherosclerotic origin, mainly ischaemic heart disease, stroke and heart failure. The magnitude of the problem contrasts with the usual paucity and poor quality of data available on incidence and prevalence of CVD, except for few rigorous but limited studies.
The objectives of the health interview and health examination surveys (HIS/HES) are to evaluate the frequency and the distribution of the disease, to evaluate trends and treatment effectiveness, to estimate risk factors distribution and prevalence of high risk conditions and to monitor prevention programmes.
According to the EUROCISS project (EUROpean Cardiovascular Surveillance Set) recommendations, surveys are aimed at describing the prevalence of the following CVD conditions: myocardial infarction, heart failure, angina pectoris, peripheral arterial disease, stroke, and ischaemic heart disease.
HIS and HES were developed to supplement information collected from routine databases and population-based registers to implement consistent public health policies. HIS can be repeated periodically in a new sample of the population, or can follow up over time the population recruited at baseline. Procedures and methods to collect information from participants include self-administered questionnaires, direct interviewer-administered questions and telephone interviews. A minimum set of questions to be administered every year, along with a longer, more detailed module to be administered periodically are recommended to evaluate CVD prevalence. The addition of HES provides more detailed and objective information that can be used to improve estimates regarding prevalence of both risk factors and disease status.
The selection of more specialized CVD-specific tests will depend on the objective the survey is designed to achieve, the assumed response rate and the cost and time considerations. For HES on CVD the minimum required is to perform the following measurements: height, weight, blood pressure, waist circumference, total and high density lipoprotein-cholesterol and glucose assay in a nonfasting blood sample. The next appropriate step would be to perform an electrocardiogram. High costs usually make HES difficult to carry out.
Standardization of measurements, training of personnel and quality control are essential to assure reliable data. A high response rate is extremely important, as nonrespondents tend to have different health characteristics from the rest of the sample and their omission therefore results in bias.
This manual of operations is intended for health professionals and policy makers and provides a standardized and simple model for the implementation of a CVD survey.
EUROCISS Research Group
Field of Research
111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified