Category Archives: Generic Health Relevance

Research applicable to all diseases and conditions or to general health and well-being of individuals. Public health research, epidemiology and health services research that is not focused on specific conditions. Underpinning biological, psychosocial, economic or methodological studies that are not specific to individual diseases or conditions

Global Health Day 2014: Health challenges in low income countries

Health challenges in low income countries is the theme of this years’ Global Health Day. The is seminar organised by The Faculty of Medicine at NTNU,  Sør-Trøndelag University College and St. Olavs University Hospital.

Konsultasjon Sør-Afrika

The seminar will take place on 21 October in Øya helsehus (Aud. 1), and focus on:

  • Health care systems in low income countries
  • Violence against women


Professor Staffan Bergström, Karolinska Institute. Specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Staffan Bergström has experiences from several African countries on how to save mothers and newborns in places where there is a shortage of doctors. He points to the importance of health workers without medical training. It is they who are the backbone of health care system in low income countries.

“On the African continent only 5,000 doctors are educated annually. African countries are thus forced use health workers without medical training. They do a tremendous job, without having spent even a day at medical school. Simply training midwives in life saving skills can make a big difference” says Professor Bergström. He has had great influence internationally on the task-shifting debate. The last three years Bergström has worked in Tanzania with “Maternal Health Initiative

Dean Sylvia Kaaya, School of Medicine, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Silvia Kaaya is professor of psychiatry. Her research interest is children and mental health. Professor Kaaya’s publications trades extensively to detect and treat mental illness and depression in different groups e.g pregnant women, children, youths and how HIV positivity affects mental health. Recently NTNU and MUHAS signed a MoU in research and student exchange.

Professor Charlotte Watts, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.
In the mid-90s Charlotte Watts did her fieldwork in Zimbabwe. The findings from her study illustrates not only the extent to which violence against women is widespread throughout the world, but also that there is considerable variation in the levels of violence – both within the country as well as between countries. Although the causes of violence are complex, this suggests local variation and that there may be local conditions that affect the extent to which women are subjected to violence. A better understanding of the causes of this variation can be used to identify how to prevent future violence.

Programme and registration

Programme for Global Health Day 2014 (pdf)

The seminar, lunch and pizza are free. Please register for the seminar before 10 October 2014.

Target audience

The target group are persons engaged in research, teaching or clinical activities targeted towards developing countries as well as students in health sciences or medicine.

About the seminar

Global health research embodies research on health problems related to challenges that particularly affect people in low- and middle income countries. The Faculty of Medicine, NTNU, has increased its investment in global health, in close cooperation with St. Olavs University Hospital, Sør-Trøndelag University College (HiST), as well as partner institutions in low- and middle income countries. The seminar aims to increase cooperation, networking and further research activity while providing professional input and inspiration. The Research Council of Norway has given financial support to this seminar.

If you have any questions about the seminar, please contact Elin Yli Dvergsdal

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Filed under Generic Health Relevance, NTNUmedicine, Reproductive Health and Childbirth, Research, Student life

Copenhagen next!

We’re off to Copenhagen! You can meet us at the Science in The City festival from tomorrow until Thursday 26. July.

This is what we are doing there:

On Saturday at 17:00 our researcher Garrett Newton Andersen will demonstrate a hand-held ultrasound machine (Vscan) on stage:



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Filed under Cardiovascular, Generic Health Relevance, NTNUmedicine, Research

Cardiovascular disease is associated with increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis

Blogger: Vibeke VidemVibeke Videm. Foto: Geir Mogen

Twice as many of those who got rheumatoid arthritis between the HUNT2 population-based health survey in 1995-1997 and the next survey (HUNT3) in 2006-2008, reported previous cardiovascular disease at HUNT2. They either had angina or had suffered a myocardial infarction or stroke. The data indicate that there may be a causative link.

(…) chronic inflammation in one part of the body intensifies chronic inflammatory processes in other parts

Atherosclerosis, the most common cause of cardiovascular disease, is caused by chronic inflammation in the vessel walls. Rheumatoid arthritis is due to a gradual process with increasing dysregulation of the immune system that finally leads to inflammation in the joints. The inflammation due to atherosclerosis probably intensifies the process leading to rheumatoid arthritis. The study was recently published in the scientific journal  Arthritis Research and Therapy.


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On EU: Forget the framework – look to the horizon!

Blogger: Boukje Ehlen boukje ehlen

Working as an EU-advisor for the Faculty of Medicine at NTNU, I read this article in Universitetsavisa with great interest.

(…) last week The Faculty of Medicine submitted a record-breaking 14 EU-proposals, so it can’t be all bad.

fokus istock

Unfortunately, this article builds on the negative experience of researchers with the previous (seventh) framework programme. Though it provides valuable input on how these were perceived, I think it is also important to broadcast that the system is now easier to access:

  • budgeting and reporting of projects has been simplified
  • information on research topics, which documents are needed etc., has become better to find and read
  • it is easy to scan if your topic fits, by applying with a first stage proposal that is only six pages on goals, ambition and impact

Within the Faculty of Medicine, we have put in collaborative effort to explain researchers that Horizon 2020 is different, easier and participating has more value than just money.

I met a researcher that said he once tried to apply for a project back in 1995, and was not keen on applying again. I tried to encourage him by telling him that much has changed since 1995. And not just my looks, but the European project and proposal organisation has changed as well!

Within the Faculty of Medicine, we have put in collaborative effort to explain researchers that Horizon 2020 is different, easier and participating has more value than just money. It can give you (global) visibility, collaboration with different fields, influence on European policy and contacts that last forever.

I meet researcher who express that applying for a EU-projects is a learning process: They learn much more about their research topic, how to phrase it, and to place their research in a European context.

In order to address the perceived challenges with EU-proposals and project, the Faculty of Medicine provides a hands-on, customized and service-oriented support in all stages of the process. We give tailored advice to researchers, which topics and programmes might be relevant, and whether or not to apply.

We give tailored advice to researchers, which topics and programmes might be relevant, and whether or not to apply.

And we explain to researchers, that experiences with EU-proposals of the past can be quite out-dated: the evaluation process has changed, reporting schemes have changed and funding rates have changed.

I hope that with our faculty’s encouragement and support, many researchers will feel confident to embark on a very special journey, that’s called EU-projects!

In the article in Universitetsavisa almost four out of five researchers who did get funding from EU would try again. And last week The Faculty of Medicine submitted a record-breaking 14 EU-proposals, so it can’t be all bad.

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Inactive men needed for a research project at NTNU

Are you a healthy normal weight or slightly overweight male (BMI* between 18.5 and 27 kg/m2)? Do you have a sedentary job and lifestyle and do not exercise regularly? Are you aged between 18 and 50 years? Then this may be a relevant study for you. This is a unique opportunity to carry out tests which are normally only used for research purposes.


By participating in this study you will help us on our way to understand the difference between active and inactive people and how they respond to a meal, and if there is a difference in appetite regulation between the two groups. We are interested in examining the daily variation in insulin response and appetite regulation after the same test meal and how mood and physical activity level can affect it.

You have to be available on three occasions. There will be weighing, measuring, exercise testing (VO2max) and measures of body composition (BODPOD). Two occasions will consist of milkshake and blood samples (approximately 3 hours both times). It will be possible to bring your laptop, books, etc.

If you want more information about this study, please contact master student Linn Bøhler (in English or Norwegian,

The study will run at the Faculty of Medicine, NTNU and is without commercial interests.

*BMI is calculated as: weight (kg) / (height (m) x height (m)).


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Filed under Cardiovascular, Generic Health Relevance, Metabolic and Endocrine, Research

Does daycare cause stress in small children?

Blogger:May Britt DrugliMay Britt Drugli




Research from several different countries has shown that spending time in child daycare institutions may cause increased levels of stress in small children. In Norway 80 percent of 1-year-olds attend daycare. We know nothing about their stress levels.

In the international studies the children’s stress levels have been measured through analysing the levels of cortisol, also called “the stress hormone”, in spit samples taken at different times in the cause of a day. Our levels of the hormone cortisol increase in situations involving danger and make our bodies prepared for situations perceived as difficult or threatening.



Normally, our levels of cortisol are highest in the morning, decrease during the day and are at their lowest in the evening. Research in other countries has shown that many of the smallest children attending daycare institutions have cortisol levels that remain high throughout the day. When the children spend a day at home their cortisol levels act normally again, falling during the day. This finding indicates that some small children are constantly alert in order to tackle challenges and difficulties when they are in daycare. Perhaps they are spending too much time on their own without support from grown-ups they feel secure with.

Small children need attentive and available adults around them that can help them when they need it. This is not always the practice during busy days in a daycare institution, not in Norway either. Some small children are assumed to be more exposed for experiencing daycare as stressful, because they for instance have a more vulnerable temperament. It is also assumed that a large number of activities controlled by grown-ups and plenty of time spent in a big group can cause higher stress levels in small children.

Negative stress over time can cause a weakened immune system and reduced memory, capability to regulate own behaviour and handle future stress situations. At present, there is not enough knowledge to say if stress caused in child care institutions has these effects.

This autumn we start collecting data for the study “Small in daycare” (“Liten i barnehagen”), where around 400 parents from Trondheim and Oslo will be invited to participate with their children. We will be measuring the children’s levels of cortisol both in daycare and at home as part of the research. Further, we will observe the interaction between the children and the personnel to see if there is a connection between positive interplay and reduced stress levels in the children. We will also investigate factors such as physical buildings, the size of the group of children and number of children per grown-up.

The research project is collaboration between the Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental health and Child Welfare at NTNU and the Regional Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health – Region East and South. In addition international researchers on child care will take part in the research.

Data about the participants has been collected already from pregnancy, a fact that makes the project unique, also on an international level. By controlling other factors that also may cause stress we can be sure that it actually is stress related to the child care institution we are examining. We can also investigate if some children are more vulnerable than others when it comes to kindergarten-related stress. So far, little research has been conducted on this topic internationally.

Our research project will show if the youngest children in daycare in Norway are less stressed than small children in other countries. Perhaps Norwegian daycare institutions are of such a quality that this is the case, but so far we do not know.


Badanes, L.S., Dmitrieva, J. & Watamura, S.E. (2012). Understanding cortisol reactivity across the day at child care: The potential buffering role of secure attachment to caregivers. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27, 156-165.

Bratterud, Å., Sandseter, E.B. & Seland, M. (2012). Barns trivsel og medvirkning i barnehagen. Trondheim: Barnevernets Utviklingssenter, Rapport 21/12.

Gunnar, M.R., Kryzer, E., van Ryzin, M.J. & Phillips, D.A. (2010). The rise in cortisol in family day care: Associations with aspects of care quality, child behavior, and child sex. Child Development, 81, 853-870.

Phillips, D.A., Fox, N.A. & Gunnar, M.R. (2011). Same place, different experiences: Bringing individual differences to reserach in child care. Child Development Perspectives, 5, 44-49.

Sajaniemi, N., Suhonon, E., Kontu, E., Rantanen, P., Lindholm, H., Hyttinen, S. & Hirvonen, A. (2011). Children’s cortisolpatterns and the quality of early learning environment. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 19, 45-62.

Vermeer, H.J. & IJzendoorn, M.H. (2006). Children’s elevated cortisol levels at daycare: A review and meta-analysis. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 21, 390-401.

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Filed under Child and youth, Generic Health Relevance, Mental Health, Neurological, Research

How important is parent involvement in school?

Blogger: Bente KirkhaugBente Kirkhaug




Parental involvement in their children’s education is one of the strongest predictors of children’s school success and has a powerful influence on the children’s achievement and adjustment.

As part of my PhD project at the Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare (RKBU) I have examined parent involvement in relation to children’s behavioural problems and social competence in school. For children with behavioural problems, parent involvement is especially important for how the children cope in school.

Ilustrasjon: Mann som hjelper sønnen med leksene


Parental involvement in school involves behaviour by parents in school settings and at home that is intended to support their children’s educational development. These are behaviour like getting involved with school/ teacher, attending parent-teacher conferences and school meetings and encourage the child’s positive attitude towards education, e.g.; helping the child with its homework, playing games to teach the child new things, taking the child to the library, reading to child and so on.

Positive involvement between parents and school/teachers has been shown to improve the children’s academic accomplishment on all levels as well as their social functioning in school. For children in general, parental involvement in school is reported to lead to improved behaviour, attitudes and attendance at school, as well as better emotional adjustment and greater well-being.

For the youngest children in school, parental involvement is associated with early school success, this including academic and language skills and social competence. Further; parent’s expectations and involvement in school seem to have a stronger influence on the youngest children’s achievement compared to children in the later years of elementary school.

For children with behavioural problems, parent involvement is especially important for how the children cope in school.

In general, children with behaviour problems often have learning difficulties and lack social competence and therefore tend to be rejected by prosocial children. For these children parent involvement in school and co-operation between parents and school/ teacher is in particular important.Young children with high levels of behaviour problems are considered less academically competent, they have poorer reading and verbal skills, they perform worse in school and they receive more negative feedback from teachers than their more behaviourally competent peers.

Positive parent–school involvement for children with behaviour problems is a predictor of later social and academic success and the lack of parental involvement may contribute to extend the child’s behavioural problems.

Maintaining a good working relationship between parents and school is a mutual responsibility. Good communication between home and school, as well as mutual respect is decisive for good cooperation.



Kirkhaug, B., Drugli, M.B., Klöckner, C.A., & Mørch, W-T. (2013). Association between parental involvement in school and child conduct, social, and internalizing problems: teacher report. Educational Research and Evaluation, 1-16.

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Filed under Child and youth, Generic Health Relevance, Mental Health, NTNUmedicine, Research

Theme of the month: Back to school and kindergarten



In August, Norwegian children start kindergarten and school after the summer holiday. This is an exciting time for many families. Some have a toddler in the family going to kindergarten for the first time, while others may have a kid starting in a new class with new classmates.

“Back to school and kindergarten” is the main theme for this blog in August.  Experts within a range of fields, from physical and psychological health to educational science and social science will write about themes related to kindergarten and school. Perhaps we can share some new insights and tips?

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Filed under Child and youth, Generic Health Relevance, Mental Health, NTNUmedicine, Research

The HUNT for better public health

This movie shows how the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study contributes to health research. The Nord-Trøndelag health study (HUNT) is one of the largest health studies ever performed.

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Sugar + inflammation = true?

Blogger: Eivind Samstadespevik_fotografGeirMogen-(




The immune system has sensors that recognize invaders such as bacteria and viruses, but also damage to the cells in the body. When the immune system is activated, the result is inflammation, which is designed to remove invaders and repair cell damage. Inflammation is characterized by redness, heat, pain and swelling.

The body has to regulate inflammation carefully, because if the immune system overreacts, the response itself may cause more damage than the actual reason for the reaction. Chronic inflammation is linked to diseases such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), obesity, cancer, diabetes and dementia, among others.



Sugar + inflammation = true? Foto: istockphoto

Chronic inflammation is linked to diseases such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), obesity, cancer, diabetes and dementia, among others.

A key issue for us at the Centre of Molecular Inflammation Research (CEMIR) is how inflammation can be so closely associated with so many seemingly different chronic diseases.

The American Dr. Robert Lustig’s book “Fat Chance – The bitter truth about sugar,” is quite relevant here. Lustig blames high sugar consumption as the major culprit behind our generation’s greatest health challenge, metabolic syndrome1. Dr. Lustig, who is a pediatric endocrinologist and works every day with overweight children, is perhaps best known for his lecture “Sugar: The bitter truth” on YouTube. This video is now been seen by more than 3.5 million people.

Lustig and others raise issues with the prevailing view that obesity is due solely to too much energy in, and too little energy out2.

The World Health Organization’s definition of metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance, along with two or more of the following: hypertension (140/90), obesity (BMI> 30), high cholesterol (TG> 1.7), or increased excretion of protein into the urine (microalbuminuria). Metabolic syndrome results in enormous health care costs, and is more of a major public health problem worldwide than malnutrition.

Patients with metabolic syndrome are at higher risk of a number of different health problems, including heart attack and stroke. We have not been spared from this problem in Norway, and “Samhandlingsreformen” – the Coordination Reform – is an attempt by the Norwegian government to bring the issue to light through an increased focus on preventive health care.

When you consume sugar, your body must decide whether the energy should be used or stored. Sugar is an important source of energy – and it is therefore essential that we always have enough. Any surplus will mostly be stored, in a process that is managed by the liver and that results in a variety of wastes, including uric acid. Under normal conditions, the body can get rid of uric acid, but if it accumulates, it can form crystals.

In the first part of my doctoral research, we found a mechanism that explains how these crystals activate the immune system. The immune system tries to get rid of the crystals, but cannot (see video). The cells then send out a powerful cry for help, which activates the immune system further. This emergency signal is tightly regulated, because if the body overshoots its target, the result is chronic inflammation. If this inflammation manifests itself in a joint, we get redness, heat, pain, and swelling – all symptoms of a disease better known as gout.

The liver also converts sugar into fat for long-term storage. The fat is transported as LDL (better known as “bad cholesterol”) in the bloodstream and out to our fat cells. On the way, the cholesterol can stick to the walls of blood vessels and form the foundation for what we call atherosclerosis. Too much cholesterol in one place can also lead to the formation of crystals, cholesterol crystals.

We are currently completing a project where we have looked at whether cholesterol crystals activate the immune system in the same way. In this situation, the immune system overreacts, but the consequence may be that the vessel wall, and not the crystals, breaks down. This can cause a wound, which in turn can cause a blood clot. And depending on where the clot is located, it can cause a heart attack or a stroke.

The goal of our research is to improve our understanding of how the disease occurs. There are ongoing trials of immunosuppressive drugs to prevent heart attack and stroke. But it is also important from the patients’ perspective that we understand the mechanisms of disease as best we can.

But immunosuppressive drugs attack metabolic syndrome at the wrong end. If it really is correct that sugar + inflammation = true, then we can all approach this from the other end – namely by cutting our daily sugar intake.

1.     Lustig, R. Fat Chance: The bitter truth about sugar. (Fourth Estate, 2012).

2.     Taubes, G. The science of obesity: what do we really know about what makes us fat? An essay by Gary Taubes. BMJ 346, f1050 (2013).


CEMIR_logoThe official opening of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s four new centres of excellence (CoE) will take place on Monday 10 June. CEMIR, the Centre of Molecular Inflammation Research, is one of these new centres. CEMIR researchers will study new mechanisms that set off inflammatory responses. We hope this will provide us with information that could help in the development of new treatment methods and the diagnosis of diseases in which inflammation plays a crucial role. You can read more about CEMIR at

In June there will be more blogs from CEMIR researchers.



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Filed under Cardiovascular, Generic Health Relevance, Inflammatory and Immune System, Metabolic and Endocrine, NTNUmedicine, Research, Stroke