Four researchers at the Institute of Medicine receive grants from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare
Four researchers at the Institute of Medicine won approval for their applications to the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (Forte) and now will receive nearly SEK 18 million for their research. Karl Bonander and Leo Stockfelt have both received junior researcher grants, while Damon Barret and Lotta Dellve have received project grants.
For the University of Gothenburg as a whole, 10 researchers will receive a total of almost SEK 44 million in research grants from the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (Forte), and four of them work at the Institute of Medicine.
Can air pollution cause chronic kidney disease?
Leo Stockfelt, a researcher in occupational and environmental medicine, has received a junior researcher grant of SEK 3,860,000. His research involves several projects on the health effects of air pollution and other environmental factors in several cohorts, including the Swedish CardioPulmonary bioImage Study (SCAPIS). The project explores the connection between exposure to particles and chronic kidney disease.
“The question is interesting because several studies have reported that exposure to particulate air pollutants in the home increases the risk of chronic kidney disease, but there has been no demonstration of this in a work environment where the exposure is much higher,” says Leo Stockfelt. “Animal experiments also support this idea. Possible mechanisms are the same as for cardiovascular disease: inflammation, damage to the blood vessel wall and arteriosclerosis.”
Major burden of disease
In three different cohorts, including the Swedish Construction Worker Cohort (Bygghälsokohorten) and the Swedish CArdioPulmonary bioImage Study, he will investigate whether there is an increased risk of chronic kidney disease for people who have high exposure to air pollutants or work in the construction industry, which exposes them to smoke and dust particles.
“The issue is important because chronic kidney disease constitutes a major disease burden in Sweden and globally, and exposure to particulates is a potential preventable risk factor,” says Stockfelt.
Valid registry data
Carl Bonander, associate professor at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, also has been awarded a junior researcher grant of SEK 5,650,000 from Forte. His project develops and applies methods that can be used to reduce the effects of selective participation in population-based studies.
Although researchers do their best to get a representative reflection of the population they want to study, the participation rate in population studies is often low – especially in groups with poorer socio-economic status. This can affect the validity of the study in several different ways. Since some groups are underrepresented, the estimates based on the study sample may give a distorted picture of the population’s health. Selective participation can also give rise to a spurious correlation between factors, such as behavior and health.
Resolved after the fact
However, under the right circumstances, some of these problems can be resolved after the fact by collecting data from the underlying population, says Carl Bonander.
“In Sweden and other Nordic countries, we have a unique opportunity to characterize the underlying socioeconomics and health history of the population through statistical correction of the problems that arise due to selective participation in studies.”
The project is a continuation of a previous project funded by Forte and headed by Ulf Strömberg (University of Gothenburg) in collaboration with Jonas Björk (Lund University). In the initial project, methods were developed and applied to reduce the effects of selective participation using Swedish registry data. In this project, the researchers will further develop this type of method in collaboration with several large population-based research projects, including SCAPIS, STROKESTOP II, the Malmö Diet and Cancer Study, and a number of new projects focusing on COVID-19.
“We hope the project will lead to new insights into how registry data can be used to study and improve the validity of these types of studies,” says Bonander.
Safe and secure work environment
Lotta Dellve, a professor at the Department of Sociology and Work Science and associate professor at the Institute of Medicine, has previously conducted studies with other researchers that indicates serious occupational injuries are assessed differently depending on gender, country of birth, occupation, and industry. She has now received SEK 3,830,000 for a project that can help promote a safe and secure work environment, especially among female immigrants. According to international studies, this group has a higher risk of work-related injuries.
“We want to investigate mechanisms behind differences in exposure that arise in working life and how they can be prevented in male- and female-dominated jobs with low educational requirements,” says Dellve. “The focus is on exhaustion, strain and infection. We will use registry data, focus group interviews and written information in occupation injury reports.”
Assessment of occupational injury
Researchers will also delve into how patterns of occupational injuries have developed over time. For example, what norms and conceptions of responsibility, content of work and injuries are noted in the assessments of what is understood, communicated and approved as an occupational injury?
“We will also analyze the guidelines that have been construed in the organization and how employees relate to them,” says Dellve.
New knowledge about young intravenous drug users
Researcher Damon Barrett at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine has been awarded SEK 4,340,000 for the project “Intravenous drug use among legal minors and the best interests of the child: Lived experiences, support and policy frameworks in high-income countries.”
Barret says, “About 11.3 million people around the world inject drugs, but within this population, intravenous drug users under the age of 18 is a ‘blind spot’ in research, politics and practice.
"We hope the results of this study will shed new light on the life situation and need for care of young intravenous drug users,” says Barrett. The project will use a mixed methods study integrating quantitative and qualitative methods and comparative legal and policy analysis to identify challenges and best practices in three European high-income countries: Sweden, Switzerland and Wales. The countries have similar socio-economic environments but different laws and policies. One of the study’s goals is to consider ways to improve both policies and practices in these three countries but also to develop transferable lessons for other countries.
You can read the entire list of grants awarded by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare here:
TEXT: ELIN LINDSTRÖM AND JENNY MEYER