Publications by authors named "Vasiliki Bountziouka"

16 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Temporal trends in frequency, type and severity of myopia and associations with key environmental risk factors in the UK: Findings from the UK Biobank Study.

PLoS One 2022 19;17(1):e0260993. Epub 2022 Jan 19.

Population, Policy and Practice Research and Teaching Department, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom.

This study investigated temporal trends in the epidemiology of primary myopia and associations with key environmental risk factors in a UK population. Data were collected at recruitment (non-cycloplegic autorefraction, year of birth, sex, ethnicity, highest educational attainment, reason and age of first wearing glasses and history of eye disease) from 107,442 UK Biobank study participants aged 40 to 69 years, born between 1939 and 1970. Myopia was defined as mean spherical equivalent (MSE) ≤-1 dioptre (D). Temporal changes in myopia frequency by birth cohort (5-year bands using date of birth) and associations with environmental factors were analysed, distinguishing both type (childhood-onset, <18 years versus adult-onset) and severity (three categories: low -1.00 to -2.99D, moderate -3.00 to -5.99D or high ≥-6.00D). Overall myopia frequency increased from 20.0% in the oldest cohort (births 1939-1944) to 29.2% in the youngest (1965-1970), reflecting a relatively higher increase in frequency of adult-onset and low myopia. Childhood-onset myopia peaked in participants born in 1950-54, adult-onset myopia peaked in the cohort born a decade later. The distribution of MSE only shifted for childhood-onset myopia (median: -3.8 [IQR -2.4, -5.4] to -4.4 [IQR -3.0, -6.2]). The magnitude of the association between higher educational attainment (proxy for educational intensity) and myopia overall increased over time (adjusted Odds Ratio (OR) 2.7 [2.5, 2.9] in the oldest versus 4.2 [3.3, 5.2] in the youngest cohort), being substantially greater for childhood-onset myopia (OR 3.3 [2.8, 4.0] to 8.0 [4.2, 13]). Without delineating childhood-onset from adult-onset myopia, important temporal trends would have been obscured. The differential impact of educational experience/intensity on both childhood-onset and high myopia, amplified over time, suggests a cohort effect in gene-environment interaction with potential for increasing myopia frequency if increasing childhood educational intensity is unchecked. However, historical plateauing of myopia frequency does suggest some potential for effective intervention.
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January 2022

Impact of Persisting Amblyopia on Socioeconomic, Health, and Well-Being Outcomes in Adult Life: Findings From the UK Biobank.

Value Health 2021 11 7;24(11):1603-1611. Epub 2021 Aug 7.

Life Course Epidemiology and Biostatistics Section, Population, Policy, and Practice Research and Teaching Department, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, London, England, UK; Ulverscroft Vision Research Group, London, England, UK; Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust, London, England, UK; National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, England, UK. Electronic address:

Objectives: This study aimed to investigate associations between persisting amblyopia into adulthood and its "real-life" impacts and inform the current debate about the value of childhood vision screening programs.

Methods: Associations between persisting amblyopia and diverse socioeconomic, health, and well-being outcomes were investigated in multivariable-adjusted (sex, age, ethnicity, deprivation) regression models, with 126 400 participants (aged 40-70 years) of the UK Biobank with complete ophthalmic data. Analysis by age group (cohort 1, 60-70 years; cohort 2, 50-59 years; cohort 3, 40-49 years) assessed temporal trends.

Results: Of 3395 (3%) participants with confirmed amblyopia, overall 77% (2627) had persisting amblyopia, declining from 78% in cohort 1 to 73% in cohort 3. The odds of persisting amblyopia were 5.91 (5.24-6.66) and 2.49 (2.21-2.81) times greater in cohort 1 and cohort 2, respectively, than cohort 3. The odds were also higher for more socioeconomically deprived groups and for white ethnicity. Reduced participation in sport, adverse general and mental health, and well-being were all independently associated with persisting amblyopia, with the strongest associations in the youngest cohorts. Associations with lower educational attainment and economic outcomes were only evident in the oldest cohort.

Conclusions: There has been a decline in the overall frequency of persisting amblyopia since the introduction of universal child vision screening in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, most adults treated for amblyopia in childhood have persisting vision deficits. There was no evidence that persisting amblyopia has vision-mediated effects on educational, employment-related, or economic outcomes. The observed adverse outcomes were largely those not directly mediated by vision. Patients undergoing treatment should be counseled about long-term outcomes.
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November 2021

Polygenic basis and biomedical consequences of telomere length variation.

Nat Genet 2021 10 5;53(10):1425-1433. Epub 2021 Oct 5.

Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.

Telomeres, the end fragments of chromosomes, play key roles in cellular proliferation and senescence. Here we characterize the genetic architecture of naturally occurring variation in leukocyte telomere length (LTL) and identify causal links between LTL and biomedical phenotypes in 472,174 well-characterized UK Biobank participants. We identified 197 independent sentinel variants associated with LTL at 138 genomic loci (108 new). Genetically determined differences in LTL were associated with multiple biological traits, ranging from height to bone marrow function, as well as several diseases spanning neoplastic, vascular and inflammatory pathologies. Finally, we estimated that, at the age of 40 years, people with an LTL >1 s.d. shorter than the population mean had a 2.5-year-lower life expectancy compared with the group with ≥1 s.d. longer LDL. Overall, we furnish new insights into the genetic regulation of LTL, reveal wide-ranging influences of LTL on physiological traits, diseases and longevity, and provide a powerful resource available to the global research community.
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October 2021

Shorter leukocyte telomere length is associated with adverse COVID-19 outcomes: A cohort study in UK Biobank.

EBioMedicine 2021 Aug 23;70:103485. Epub 2021 Jul 23.

Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, United Kingdom; NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, United Kingdom. Electronic address:

Background Older age is the most powerful risk factor for adverse coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) outcomes. It is uncertain whether leucocyte telomere length (LTL), previously proposed as a marker of biological age, is also associated with COVID-19 outcomes. Methods We associated LTL values obtained from participants recruited into UK Biobank (UKB) during 2006-2010 with adverse COVID-19 outcomes recorded by 30 November 2020, defined as a composite of any of the following: hospital admission, need for critical care, respiratory support, or mortality. Using information on 130 LTL-associated genetic variants, we conducted exploratory Mendelian randomisation (MR) analyses in UKB to evaluate whether observational associations might reflect cause-and-effect relationships. Findings Of 6775 participants in UKB who tested positive for infection with SARS-CoV-2 in the community, there were 914 (13.5%) with adverse COVID-19 outcomes. The odds ratio (OR) for adverse COVID-19 outcomes was 1·17 (95% CI 1·05-1·30; P = 0·004) per 1-SD shorter usual LTL, after adjustment for age, sex and ethnicity. Similar ORs were observed in analyses that: adjusted for additional risk factors; disaggregated the composite outcome and reduced the scope for selection or collider bias. In MR analyses, the OR for adverse COVID-19 outcomes was directionally concordant but non-significant. Interpretation Shorter LTL is associated with higher risk of adverse COVID-19 outcomes, independent of several major risk factors for COVID-19 including age. Further data are needed to determine whether this association reflects causality. Funding UK Medical Research Council, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and British Heart Foundation.
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August 2021

Risks and benefits of percutaneous coronary intervention in spontaneous coronary artery dissection.

Heart 2021 09 18;107(17):1398-1406. Epub 2021 May 18.

Department of Cardiovascular Sciences and NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, University of Leicester, Leicester, Leicestershire, UK

Objective: To investigate percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) practice in an international cohort of patients with spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). To explore factors associated with complications and study angiographic and longer term outcomes.

Methods: SCAD patients (n=215, 94% female) who underwent PCI from three national cohort studies were investigated and compared with a matched cohort of conservatively managed SCAD patients (n=221).

Results: SCAD-PCI patients were high risk at presentation with only 8.8% undergoing PCI outside the context of ST-elevation myocardial infarction/cardiac arrest, thrombolysis in myocardial infarction (TIMI) 0/1 flow or proximal dissections. PCI complications occurred in 38.6% (83/215), with 13.0% (28/215) serious complications. PCI-related complications were associated with more extensive dissections (multiple vs single American Heart Association coronary segments, OR 1.9 (95% CI: 1.06-3.39),p=0.030), more proximal dissections (proximal diameter per mm, OR 2.25 (1.38-3.67), p=0.001) and dissections with no contrast penetration of the false lumen (Yip-Saw 2 versus 1, OR 2.89 (1.12-7.43), p=0.028). SCAD-PCI involved long lengths of stent (median 46mm, IQR: 29-61mm). Despite these risks, SCAD-PCI led to angiographic improvements in those with reduced TIMI flow in 84.3% (118/140). Worsening TIMI flow was only seen in 7.0% (15/215) of SCAD-PCI patients. Post-PCI major adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events (MACCE) and left ventricular function outcomes were favourable.

Conclusion: While a conservative approach to revascularisation is favoured, SCAD cases with higher risk presentations may require PCI. SCAD-PCI is associated with longer stent lengths and a higher risk of complications but leads to overall improvements in coronary flow and good medium-term outcomes in patients.
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September 2021

Exploration of muscle loss and metabolic state during prolonged critical illness: Implications for intervention?

PLoS One 2019 14;14(11):e0224565. Epub 2019 Nov 14.

Section for Nutrition Research, Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, Imperial College London, England, United Kingdom.

Background: Muscle wasting in the critically ill is up to 2% per day and delays patient recovery and rehabilitation. It is linked to inflammation, organ failure and severity of illness. The aims of this study were to understand the relationship between muscle depth loss, and nutritional and inflammatory markers during prolonged critical illness. Secondly, to identify when during critical illness catabolism might decrease, such that targeted nutritional strategies may logically be initiated.

Methods: This study was conducted in adult intensive care units in two large teaching hospitals. Patients anticipated to be ventilated for >48 hours were included. Serum C-reactive protein (mg/L), urinary urea (mmol/24h), 3-methylhistidine (μmol/24h) and nitrogen balance (g/24h) were measured on days 1, 3, 7 and 14 of the study. Muscle depth (cm) on ultrasound were measured on the same days over the bicep (bicep and brachialis muscle), forearm (flexor compartment of muscle) and thigh (rectus femoris and vastus intermedius).

Results: Seventy-eight critically ill patients were included with mean age of 59 years (SD: 16) and median Intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay of 10 days (IQR: 6-16). Starting muscle depth, 8.5cm (SD: 3.2) to end muscle depth, 6.8cm (SD: 2.2) were on average significantly different over 14 days, with mean difference -1.67cm (95%CI: -2.3 to -1cm), p<0.0001. Protein breakdown and inflammation continued over 14 days of the study.

Conclusion: Our patients demonstrated a continuous muscle depth loss and negative nitrogen balance over the 14 days of the study. Catabolism remained dominant throughout the study period. No obvious 'nutritional tipping point" to identify anabolism or recovery could be identified in our cohort. Our ICU patient cohort is one with a moderately prolonged stay. This group showed little consistency in data, reflecting the individuality of both disease and response. The data are consistent with a conclusion that a time based assumption of a tipping point does not exist.

Trial Registration: International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number: ISRCTN79066838. Registration 25 July 2012.
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March 2020

Standardisation of the Parent Report of Children's Abilities-Revised (PARCA-R): a norm-referenced assessment of cognitive and language development at age 2 years.

Lancet Child Adolesc Health 2019 10 8;3(10):705-712. Epub 2019 Aug 8.

Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.

Background: The Parent Report of Children's Abilities-Revised (PARCA-R) can be used to identify preterm born children at risk for developmental delay at age 24 months. However, standardised scores for assessing all children in the general population and quantifying development relative to the norm are unavailable, thus limiting the use of the questionnaire. We aimed to develop scores that are standardised by age and sex for the PARCA-R to assess children's cognitive and language development at age 24-27 months.

Methods: Anonymised data from PARCA-R questionnaires that were completed by parents of 2-year-old children in three previous studies were obtained to form a standardisation sample that was representative of the UK general population. Anonymised data were obtained from three further studies to assess the external validity and clinical validity of the standardised scores. We used the lambda-mu-sigma (lambda for skewness, mu for median, sigma for the coefficient of variation) method to develop scores that are standardised by age and sex for three scales (non-verbal cognitive development, language development, and total parent report composite [PRC]) for children in four 1-month age bands, spanning age 23·5-27·5 months.

Findings: We included 6402 children (mean age 25 months and 1 day [range 23 months and 16 days to 27 months and 15 days]) in the standardisation sample and 709 (mean age 24 months and 19 days [23 months and 16 days to 27 months and 15 days]) to test the external validity and 1456 (mean age 24 months and 8·5 days [23 months and 16 days to 27 months and 15 days]) to test the clinical validity of the standardised scores. For all PARCA-R scales, mean standardised scores approximated 100 (SD 15) in both sexes and all age groups. These scores were independent of socioeconomic status. Standardised scores were close to 100 (15) in the external validation sample, showing the validity of the scores. Standardised scores for the total PRC scale for children born very preterm (<32 weeks' gestation) were 0·47 SD lower on average than the normative mean, and for children with neonatal sepsis were 0·73 SD lower on average than the normative mean. These scores were equivalent to a standardised score of 93 (95% CI 91-94) for children born very preterm and 89 (88-91) for children with neonatal sepsis, thus showing clinical validity.

Interpretation: The PARCA-R provides a norm-referenced, standardised assessment of cognitive and language development at 24-27 months of age. The questionnaire is available non-commercially in English with translations available in 14 other languages, thus providing clinicians and researchers with a cost-effective tool for assessing development and identifying children with delay.

Funding: Action Medical Research (Ref: GN2580).
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October 2019

Improving developmental and educational support for children born preterm: evaluation of an e-learning resource for education professionals.

BMJ Open 2019 06 5;9(6):e029720. Epub 2019 Jun 5.

Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, Notts, UK.

Objectives: Children born preterm are at higher risk for special educational needs and poor academic attainment compared with term-born peers, yet education professionals receive limited training and have poor knowledge of preterm birth. We have developed an interactive e-learning resource and evaluated its efficacy in improving teachers' knowledge of preterm birth and their confidence in supporting the learning of children born preterm.

Setting: Eight primary, infant or junior schools in England.

Participants: 61 teachers of children aged 4-11 years, of which 55 (90%) were female.

Intervention: Interactive e-learning resource designed to improve education professionals' knowledge of long-term outcomes following preterm birth and strategies that can be used to support children's learning ( In a repeated measures design, participants were given up to 30 days access to the e-learning resource, before and after which they completed the Preterm Birth Knowledge Scale (PB-KS; scores 0-33; higher scores indicate greater knowledge) to assess knowledge of outcomes of prematurity. Four Likert scale items were used to assess confidence in supporting children's learning and 10 items were used to evaluate the utility of the resource. PB-KS scores and responses on confidence item were compared pre-resource and post-resource use.

Results: PB-KS scores significantly increased after accessing the e-learning resource (median (95% CI): pre-resource 13 (11 to 14); post-resource 29 (28 to 30)), equating to a 2.6 SD increase in PB-KS scores. Teachers' confidence in supporting children born preterm was also significantly improved after using the resource. The utility of the resource was evaluated positively by participants with 97% reporting that they would recommend its use to others.

Conclusions: The e-learning resource substantially improved teachers' knowledge of preterm birth and their confidence in supporting preterm children in the classroom. Use of this resource may represent a key advance in improving educational outcomes for children born preterm.
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June 2019

Impact of varying the definition of myopia on estimates of prevalence and associations with risk factors: time for an approach that serves research, practice and policy.

Br J Ophthalmol 2018 10 3;102(10):1407-1412. Epub 2018 Feb 3.

Life Course Epidemiology and Biostatistics Section, UCL GOS Institute of Child Health, London, UK.

Background: Refractive error is an increasing global public health concern that requires robust and reliable research to identify modifiable risk factors and provide accurate estimates of population burden. We investigated the impact of reclassification of individuals when using different threshold values of spherical equivalent (SE) to define myopia, on estimates of frequency, distribution and associations with risk factors, to inform current international initiatives to standardise definitions.

Methods: A random sample of 1985 individuals from the 1958 British birth cohort, at age 44, had autorefraction and self-reported on educational attainment and social class.Refraction status assigned in three different models using SE: (A) moderate to high myopia -3 diopters (D) or more extreme (≤-3.00D), (B) hypermetropia +1.00D or more extreme (≥+1.00D) and (C) mild myopia using three different thresholds: -1.00D, -0.75D or -0.50D, hence reciprocal changes in definition of emmetropia.

Results: Frequency estimates and associations with risk factors altered significantly as the threshold value for myopia moved towards SE 0.0D: prevalence of mild myopia increased from 28% to 47%, the association with highest educational attainment attenuated and with higher social class strengthened, with changes in risk ratios of approximately 20%.

Conclusion: Even small changes in the threshold definition of myopia (±0.25D) can significantly affect the conclusions of epidemiological studies, creating both false-positive and false-negative associations for specific risk factors. An international classification for refractive error, empirically evidenced and cognisant of the question(s) being addressed and the population(s) being studied, is needed to serve better translational research, practice and policy.
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October 2018

Trends in Visual Health Inequalities in Childhood Through Associations of Visual Function With Sex and Social Position Across 3 UK Birth Cohorts-Reply.

JAMA Ophthalmol 2018 02;136(2):223

Life Course Epidemiology and Biostatistics Section, Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health Population, University College London, London, England.

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February 2018

Trends in Visual Health Inequalities in Childhood Through Associations of Visual Function With Sex and Social Position Across 3 UK Birth Cohorts.

JAMA Ophthalmol 2017 09;135(9):954-961

Life Course Epidemiology and Biostatistics Section, Population, Policy, and Practice Programme, University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, London, England.

Importance: Despite the existing country-specific strategies tackling social inequalities in visual health in adults, little is known about trends in visual function in childhood and its association with social position.

Objective: To investigate the distribution of childhood visual function in the United Kingdom and associations with early-life social position between 1961 and 1986, a period of significant social change.

Design, Setting, And Participants: Longitudinal cohort study using harmonized data sets from the British 1946, 1958, and 1970 national birth cohorts. In total, 14 283 cohort members with complete data on visual acuity at age 15 or 16 years, measured in 1961, 1974, and 1986, respectively, for each cohort, and social position were assessed.

Main Outcomes And Measures: Using habitual distance visual acuity (with correction if prescribed), participants were assigned to a visual function category ranging from bilateral normal to visual impairment/severe visual impairment/blindness (International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification). Distribution of visual function over time and associations with social position (risk ratios [RRs] and 95% confidence intervals) were analyzed.

Results: Complete data were available for 3152 participants (aged 15 years; 53% boys [n = 1660]) in the 1946 Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, 6683 participants (aged 16 years; 51% boys [n = 3420]) in the 1958 National Child Development Study, and 4448 participants (aged 16 years; 48% boys [n = 2156]) in the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study. The proportion of children with bilateral normal vision decreased by 1.3% (95% CI, -5.1% to 2.7%) in 1974 and 1.7% (95% CI, -5.9% to 2.7%) in 1986. The risk of overall impaired vision increased by 1.20 times (95% CI, 1.01-1.43) and the risk of visual impairment/severe visual impairment/blindness by 1.75 times (95% CI, 1.03-2.98) during this period. Girls were consistently at increased risk of all vision impairment categories. Higher social position at birth and in childhood was associated with reduced risk of visual impairment/severe visual impairment/blindness (RR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.20-1.68) and unilateral impairment (RR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.72-1.11), respectively.

Conclusions And Relevance: Our study provides evidence of temporal decline in childhood visual function between 1961 and 1986. Despite the limited power of the analysis owing to the small sample size of those with impaired vision, we found an emergence of a contribution of sociodemographic status to the cohort effect that may be the antecedent of the current picture of childhood blindness. Equally, early-life social position may also have contributed to the current social patterning in visual function in older adults in the United Kingdom. These findings highlight the potential value of targeting children in national ophthalmic public policies tackling inequalities.
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September 2017

Perinatal and family factors associated with preadolescence overweight/obesity in Greece: the GRECO study.

J Epidemiol Glob Health 2012 Sep 18;2(3):145-53. Epub 2012 Aug 18.

Unit of Human Nutrition, Department of Food Science and Technology, Agricultural University of Athens, 11855 Athens, Greece.

Objective: To explore associations of perinatal and family factors with preadolescence overweight and obesity in a sample of Greek schoolchildren.

Methods: A nationwide cross-sectional study among 2093 students (10.9 ± 0.72 years, 44.9% boys) and their parents were conducted. Anthropometric (e.g., height, weight, mother's body mass index (BMI) at the time of the study and at conception), socio-demographic (e.g., age, education, socio-economic status), diet and other major lifestyle characteristics (e.g., smoking, alcohol intake, physical activity and inactivity) and perinatal factors (e.g., breast- and formula-feeding) were collected with validated questionnaires. Height and weight of students were measured. Overweight/obesity was classified using IOTF cut-offs. Multivariable logistic and linear regression analyses were used to identify major independent factors of overweight/obesity among preadolescents and factors related with the percentage change of mother's BMI, respectively.

Results: Increased age at pregnancy [odds ratios (OR)=0.95, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 0.93-0.97], higher BMI at conception (OR=1.17, 95% CI: 1.12-1.22) and heavy smoking (OR = 2.02, 95% CI: 1.23-3.33) were positively associated with child's overweight/obesity status. Moreover, mother's age and TV viewing, indicating inactivity, were the strongest factors of the percentage increase in mother's BMI (b ± se = 0.23 ± 0.07, p = 0.002; b ± se=0.32 ± 0.10, p = 0.002, respectively).

Conclusions: Preadolescent obesity is associated with mother's pre-pregnancy weight, age and heavy smoking at conception and mother's BMI change after gestation.
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September 2012

Socio-economic and demographic determinants of childhood obesity prevalence in Greece: the GRECO (Greek Childhood Obesity) study.

Public Health Nutr 2013 Feb 25;16(2):240-7. Epub 2012 May 25.

Unit of Human Nutrition, Department of Food Science and Technology, Agricultural University of Athens, Iera Odos 75, Athens 11855, Greece.

Objective: Given the rapid increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity, identifying the sociodemographic influences on obesity status is important for planning and implementing effective prevention initiatives. However, this type of data is limited for Greek children. Therefore the aim of the present study was to identify possible sociodemographic factors associated with childhood obesity at the national level.

Design: Cross-sectional, population-based survey, carried out from October to May 2009. Setting Under the context of the GRECO (Greek Childhood Obesity) study, a nationwide sample of 2315 primary-school children.

Subjects: Children aged 10-12 years and their parents were voluntarily enrolled. Direct anthropometric measurements of the children were obtained and information on sociodemographic characteristics of the parents, as well as their self-reported values of body weight and height, were collected.

Results: Overweight and obesity prevalence was 29·5 % and 13·1 %, respectively, among boys; 29·5 % and 9·0 %, respectively, among girls. Multiple logistic regression analysis revealed that the most important sociodemographic predictors of childhood obesity were mother's age, parental BMI classification and father's type of occupation. More specifically, increased mother's age and normal BMI status of the parents seemed to have a protective effect on the likelihood of having an overweight/obese child. Additionally, the odds of a female child of being overweight/obese were reduced when the father's type of occupation tended to be less manual.

Conclusions: Anti-obesity health policy interventions have to address to the parents and promote their active involvement, to effectively confront the alarming magnitude of the paediatric obesity problem in Greece.
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February 2013

[Using of household budget survey data for public health monitoring of dietary habits in Croatia--DAFNE initiative].

Acta Med Croatica 2010 Mar;64(1):17-24

Croatian National Institute of Public Health, School of Medicine, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia.

Aim: The aim of the study was to determine mean food availability based on the data of national Household Budget Surveys (HBS) provided for the years 1999 and 2004, and also to identify the trends in dietary patterns of the Croatian population according to the Data Food Networking (DAFNE) procedure.

Subjects And Methods: The Croatian National Statistics Bureau conducted the first HBS survey in 1999 on the sample of 2937 households and the second in 2004 on 2847 households, respectively. Those two raw data sets together with the data on relevant socio-demographic characteristics: household locality, number of household members, education and occupation of the household head were sent to the DAFNE coordinating centre in Athens. A post-harmonisation of the raw data was performed according to DAFNE procedure. Further, data were statistically analysed and integrated into the DAFNE databank (DafneSoft).

Results: Average daily food availability per person/day for both surveyed years seems to be satisfying. However, a dietary pattern showed discrepancies between proposed dietary guidelines and consumption of some food items. In comparison with proposed daily intake of 400 grams or more of fruits and vegetables, an average availability is lower and accounts 343 grams in 1999 and 314 grams in 2004. Availability of fish and seafood is low (23-27 g) but in the same time daily availability of meat and meat products is high (181-186 g), especially regarding red meat. During the five year period a decreasing trend is evident for availability of most food items, including lipids and sugar products. The availability has increased only for nuts, fruit and vegetable juices. The differences in availability of certain food groups are evident amongst some socio-economic categories of households. In urban households the availability of milk products, fish, vegetables, fruit and fruit juices is higher than in rural households, as it is in households with higher educated in comparison to low educated household heads. The highest food availability is registered in households with one person. However, there is a general trend that the food quantities are lowering in households with a growing number of persons.

Conclusion: The data of HBS harmonised and statistically analysed according to DAFNE methodology offers the possibility to monitor and compare dietary habits and trends in food availability on national level as well as across European countries. If the HBS data are properly expanded and exploited they could become valuable tool for planning national food and nutrition policy, development of national dietary guidelines, promotion of healthy eating, planning and implementation of public health interventions, and for many other positive features.
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March 2010

Adolescents dealing with sexuality issues: a cross-sectional study in Greece.

J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol 2010 Oct 21;23(5):298-304. Epub 2010 May 21.

P. & A. Kyriakou Children's Hospital, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens School of Medicine, Athens, Greece.

Study Objective: To evaluate the prevalence of sexual activity and contraception methods used by Greek adolescents. To assess the effect of various factors in the decision making on sexual activity.

Design: A cross-sectional study design was applied. SETTING-PARTICIPANTS: The population (N = 1538) consisted of a random sample, stratified according to locality and population density, of 20 public junior high and high schools located in the urban district of Athens, Greece.

Interventions: Anonymous self-completed questionnaires were used to assess sexual practices, contraception methods, and factors affecting sexual activity choices.

Measures: Spearman association calculations and chi-square were used, while regression analysis models were also applied.

Main Outcome: We examined the sexual practices among Greek adolescents, and indicated the psychosocial factors that may influence adolescents' sexual behavior.

Results: 16% of the adolescents have had sexual intercourse, while the boy/girl ratio was 3/1 (P < 0.05). Mean age of sexual debut was 14 +/- 1.5 years. An additional 20% have had any other sexual experience at a mean age 13.5 +/- 1.5 years. Although sexually active adolescents generally use condoms (90.6%), only 32% use them properly (at every and throughout sexual contact). At least half of them do not have adequate protection (no method used or unreliable methods applied), while 8.2% of the girls have used emergency contraception. Adolescents with unstable home environment (divorce, recent death, not living with mother) or sexually experienced peers, as well as those that seek sexual education from siblings or friends have higher possibilities of being sexually active.

Conclusion: Greek adolescents can be sexually active at a young age and they need sexual education on safe sex practices.
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October 2010

Soft drinks: time trends and correlates in twenty-four European countries. A cross-national study using the DAFNE (Data Food Networking) databank.

Public Health Nutr 2010 Sep 31;13(9):1346-55. Epub 2010 Mar 31.

Department of Hygiene Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, School of Medicine, University of Athens, Athens, Greece.

Objective: To evaluate time trends in the availability of soft drinks, to identify food choices associated with their consumption and to assess the relationship between socio-economic status and daily soft drink availability in a wide range of European countries.

Design: Data on food and beverage availability collected through the national household budget surveys and harmonized in the DAFNE (Data Food Networking) project were used. Averages and variability of soft drink availability were estimated and tests for time trends were performed. The daily availability of food groups which appear to be correlated with that of soft drinks was further estimated. Multivariate logistic and linear regression models were applied to evaluate the association between socio-economic status and the acquisition of soft drinks.

Setting: Twenty-four European countries.

Subjects: Nationally representative samples of households.

Results: The availability of soft drinks is steadily and significantly increasing. Households in West and North Europe reported higher daily availability of soft drinks in comparison to other European regions. Soft drinks were also found to be correlated with lower availability of plant foods and milk and higher availability of meat and sugar products. Lower socio-economic status was associated with more frequent and higher availability of soft drinks in the household.

Conclusions: Data collected in national samples of twenty-four European countries showed disparities in soft drink availability among socio-economic strata and European regions. The correlation of soft drinks with unfavourable dietary choices has public health implications, particularly among children and adolescents.
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September 2010