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IHCC Featured Cohort: ELSA-Brasil

The Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Health (“Estudo Longitudinal da Saúde do Adulto” – ELSA-Brasil) has been part of the IHCC since its inception. Prof. Paulo Lotufo, full professor of the University of São Paulo Medical School and Bernard Lown Scholar, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, is one of the PIs of ELSA-Brasil and represented the cohort at the inaugural summit of IHCC in 2017. At that time, ELSA-Brasil was the only cohort from Latin America. Prof Andre Brunoni, Associate Professor at the University of Sao Paulo Medical School and senior researcher on mental health research in ELSA-Brasil, started participating in the IHCC in 2020, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to investigate its impact on mental health. IHCC organized working groups and Prof. Lotufo and Prof. Brunoni are both involved in committees related to mental health, metabolomics of cardiovascular diseases (Nightingale project), and the Cohort Data Atlas to enhance collaborations between cohorts.
ELSA-Brasil is a cohort of 15,105 civil servants from 6 universities from Brazil that started in 2008 to evaluate the determinants related to chronic, non-communicable diseases, initially cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, but later expanded to other conditions, such as rheumatologic diseases, cognitive impairment, and mental disorders. Three assessment waves were conducted in 2008-2010, 2012-2014 and 2017-2018. During the pandemic, the São Paulo center quickly adapted and was granted funding to perform a “virtual covid wave” in 2,117 participants in 3 assessments in 2020 (May-July, August-September, October-December), acquiring a granular evaluation on the mental health burden of the pandemic. Quite surprisingly, preliminary data showed no major changes in psychiatric symptoms and disorders – although the rates were high (as it was shown in cross-sectional studies in early 2020) they were not different compared to pre-pandemic data. These findings are being carefully examined with other experts from IHCC, Harvard Professor Jordan Smoller and Senior Research at Oxford Sarah Bauermeister, and will be harmonized with data from other cohorts. 

"ELSA-Brasil is one of the first, largest cohort from a Low-/Middle- income country. It was inspired by classic (Framingham´s study) and modern (MESA, Whitehall) cohorts from the US and UK and more than 357 articles have been published so far. Participating in the IHCC has expanded our opportunities and international representativity for funding and projects."

"I am thrilled to actively participate in the IHCC. I already foresee innumerous developments in my scientific career, such as having access to learn modern statistical methods of longitudinal data analysis and techniques of cohort harmonization. From the perspective of mental disorder, the synergy between ELSA-Brasil and IHCC cohorts provide a unique opportunity to better understand the social determinants of mental health, which is still poorly understood when it comes to comparisons between different regions of the globe."