17 August 2001
12 MILLION EUROS NEEDED TO STUDY VENOUS THROMBOSIS AND AIR TRAVEL
Following up on the results of its consultation of experts this spring, the World Health Organization (WHO) elaborated research proposals on venous thrombosis and air travel. These are now being submitted to potential funding sources.
The research will determine the frequency of venous thrombosis, the magnitude of its association with air travel and the possible causal mechanisms involved. If a significant association is discerned, these studies will also provide clues on prevention strategies for air travellers, whatever the level of risk they have. Based on solid scientific evidence from the studies, a set of recommendations will eventually be drawn up for use by interested parties, including travellers.
The proposed studies would require approximately €12 million and would take two and a half years to complete.
"Lately, increased reports of cases of venous thrombosis following flights point to the importance of conducting our research without delay. We hope to quickly secure funding so the studies can begin shortly," said Dr Derek Yach, Executive Director, Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, WHO.
After a review of available research evidence, medical experts who met at WHO in March concluded that further research is needed to define the association between air travel and venous thrombosis. Also participating in the meeting were representatives from the International Civil Aviation Organization, the European Commission and the airlines industry.
In June, the WHO Research Initiative on Global Hazards of Travel Project (the WRIGHT Project) was set up. Its purpose is to launch a set of studies to fill the key gaps in available knowledge on the relationshipbetween air travel and venous thrombosis.
The first step of this Project was the development of comprehensive research protocols (blueprints for studies) by a Scientific Executive Committee. Now that the protocols are complete, the next step in the process is to identify funding to carry out the research.
An Advisory Board will be established to give appropriate advice to the scientific committee involved in the WRIGHT Project. The Board will consist of prominent members of the scientific community, representatives from the medical services of airline companies, members of ministries of transport and representatives of the airline passengers. Governments, agencies and institutions who provide funding will be represented on the Board.
Because the topic under investigation is already largely debated, a wide discussion will be promoted between the researchers participating in the WRIGHT Project and the general public through a new forum. This exchange of views will take place on a web board.
A major advantage of this coordinated and broad-based new effort is to increase the validity of the final results. Currently, there are myriad, uncoordinated, small-scale studies, making it difficult to draw solid conclusions.
Pending the outcome of the studies, the WHO consultation this spring recommended that common sense measures could be implemented for the comfort of airline passengers. These measures, which as yet have little scientific basis, include reducing alcohol intake, drinking adequate fluids, wearing loose clothing and performing leg exercises while seated.
For further information: Please contact Ms Melinda Henry, WHO Spokesperson's Office; Telephone: (+41 22) 791 2535, Fax: (+41 22) 791 4858, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org All WHO press releases, fact sheets and features, as well as other information on the subject, can be found on Internet on the WHO web site: http://www.who.int