Baerbel-Maria Kurth talks
with ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions
about this month's New Hot Paper in the field of Social
Article Title: The German Health Interview and
Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS): an
overview of its planning, implementation and results taking
into account aspects of quality management
Year: MAY-JUN 2007
* Abt Epidemiol & Gesundheitsberichterstattung,
Postfach 650261, D-13302 Berlin, Germany.
* Abt Epidemiol & Gesundheitsberichterstattung, D-13302
Would you summarize the significance of your
paper in layman's terms?
For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany,
representative data from about 18,000 participants aged between 0 and 18
years of age exist for the precise assessment of the physical and emotional
health of the young German population.
This publication is the first basic description of the German Health Survey
of Children and Adolescents (KiGGS) and its results. An additional general
publication about the study, its methods and design, is offered in Kurth
BM, et al: "The challenge of comprehensively mapping children's
health in a nation-wide health survey: design of the German KiGGS-Study,"
BMC Public Health 8: 196, 2008.
"We are responsible for developing
knowledge of the health status, health
behavior and health risks of the German
This survey is unique for Europe because of its sample size, its age range,
and its response rate, as demonstrated in the EU Health Surveys Information
How did you become involved in this research, and
were there any problems along the way?
I am the Head of the Department for Health Reporting and Epidemiology (with
about 120 co-workers) in the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the central
German Public Health institution. We are responsible for developing
knowledge of the health status, health behavior, and health risks of the
Several representative Health Interview and Examination Surveys had been
carried out covering the adult population in Germany. However, no such
study existed for the 0- to 17-year-old at the turn of the millennium.
Available data of the health of children and adolescents included vital
statistics, administrative medical data, records from routine medical
check-ups of children starting school, and various regional epidemiological
studies. This patchwork of data and results was of limited value for
assessing the general health of the young generation in Germany. Therefore
the German Federal Ministry of Health commissioned the RKI to design and
conduct a nationwide study on the health of the young generation.
In 1998, the RKI began to develop strategies and instruments based on its
extensive experience from health surveys of adults, on the thorough
literature reviews, and on close cooperation with other experts. After
evaluation of the study protocol by scientific reviewers and approval by
ethics committees and data protection officers, a feasibility study was
carried out in 2001-2002.
In the light of this pre-test, the study plan and all procedures were
optimized for the main survey with some 18,000 subjects. The German Health
Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents ("KiGGS"),
carried out from May 2003 until May 2003 in 167 study centers in Germany,
was jointly funded by the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Ministry
of Research and Education, and by the RKI.
Where do you see your research leading in the future?
The data fill a longstanding information gap. The main aims of this survey
• To close information gaps in the field of children’s and
• To obtain data for epidemiological research.
• To obtain baseline data for longitudinal epidemiological studies in
children and adolescents.
• To evaluate the effectiveness of the health care system for the
• To help prioritizing public health measures.
• To give recommendations to health policy makers for improving
prevention and intervention strategies.
• To improve the long-term health of children and adolescents.
Most of these aims have been reached. Data from the KiGGS survey are made
available to the scientific community as a public use file.
98% of the KiGGS participants agreed to participate again in a follow-up
study. Just now we are starting the follow-up as a telephone interview
survey with our KiGGS participants. The next examination survey is planned
after three years. The results of the cohort studies will answer many of
the questions which could not be answered by a cross-sectional study.
Do you foresee any social or political implications for your
In the analyses, conclusions were drawn for setting priorities in improving
long-term health of children and adolescents and to give recommendations to
health policymakers for improving prevention and intervention strategies in
Germany. A new strategy of the German government "to improve health of
children and adolescents" is based on the results of the KiGGS study. Our
new Health Surveys will help to evaluate the anticipated results of the
Dr. rer. nat. Bärbel-Maria Kurth
Head, Department of Health Reporting and Epidemiology
Robert Koch Institute
Projekt Zukunft: Dr. Bärbel-Maria Kurth, Robert Koch-Institut Web ¦
KEYWORDS: HEALTH SURVEY; CHILDREN; ADOLESCENTS; EXAMINATION;
INTERVIEW; MODULES; QUALITY MANAGEMENT.