Northern Finland Birth Cohorts is a multidisciplinary ongoing research program that was started in University of Oulu as early as in the 1960’s. The enormous research material collected during this time is significant and unique even in worldwide. In autumn 2020, human gait was measured for the first time in the research program. Gait measurement was executed by using MoveSole StepLab -device.
Health and wellbeing research program covers the whole human lifecycle
A multidisciplinary research program, Northern Finland Birth Cohorts, was started in University of Oulu already in the 1960’s. Birth cohorts form a longitudinal research program to promote health and wellbeing in the population covering the entire lifecycle. The aim is to examine how different factors since fetal period and childhood may affect the participants’ health and chronic diseases later in their life.
Northern Finland Birth Cohorts, NFBC1966 and NFBC1986, comprise unique collections of research data since 1965 and 1985. The data collection has begun even before the participants’ birth during their fetal period, and since then until today the data has been collected on regular basis from more than 20 000 persons living in Northern Finland.
The extensive and versatile data collections during the long history of cohort research program have provided excellent opportunity to examine not only different treatments and disease prognosis, but also the effect of diseases on the ability to function.
Research material of the program is enormous. Based on this unique data there have been as many as 86 scientific articles published in international journals and seven dissertations graduated in 2020 alone.
Birth cohort research program considers the potential of modern technology
The research topics within Birth Cohort research program are versatile including musculoskeletal disorders among many other diseases, and additionally for prevention purposes the research program considers how physical exercise affect different aspects of health as well.
Nowadays, the medical technology and self-monitoring technologies are part of health care processes and health promoting actions. The development of sensor technology enables to adopt measurement systems also in large research programs.
Earlier in Northern Finland Birth Cohort research program the amount and intensity of physical exercise as well as the distribution of physical activity during a day has been examined using accelerometers.
It was great that we could also include foot pressure and load distribution measurements in the data collection regarding the follow-up study of 1986 birth cohort, says Minna Ruddock, Research Director in NFBC Project Center, University of Oulu.
Gait measurement data is now a part of the research material
Foot loading in gait was measured for the first time ever in the history of research program, when the data related to birth cohort 1986 was collected during the autumn 2020. The measurements were executed by using MoveSole StepLab, a mobile gait measurement device.
The participants walked about 20 steps in a corridor where their gait was measured and video recording took place. Since shoes have a big impact on our walking, all the participants were not wearing their own shoes, but instead thin-soled and flat-bottomed shoes while measuring their walk.
Research nurse Riikka Siiro-Virtanen says that gait measurements using MoveSole StepLab -device were easy to perform. Preparing for the measurement was simple, and it took only 10 – 15 minutes to execute the measurement, she says.
Specialist in orthopedics and traumatology, MD Jussi Kosola was the one who analyzed the measurement results and video recordings. The results were assessed on an individual basis by Dr. Kosola, and the medical reports were delivered to each participant.
Objective data on gait is beneficial for clinical use
Dr. Jussi Kosola says that the collected data is indeed unique worldwide: ‘This research material enables us for the first time to analyze objective and dynamic data on gait in an age standardized epidemiological research. We can evaluate real value of the data afterwards as soon as it has been analyzed.’
One example of how this measurement data could have clinical value is to combine BMI-index with the gait measurement data, says Dr. Kosola. So, it would be interesting to analyze how under foot dynamic pressure is distributed during the different phases of a step, and how the load under foot changes with higher BMI-values. BMI-value provides information to evaluate relation between the weight and height of a person.
The participants were interested in their gait measurement
Siiro-Virtanen says that the participants were very satisfied with the medical statement and feedback they received about their gait. Especially, they were interested in the new and fascinating gait measurement technology and the information about their own walking.
The gait measurement session made the participants to think about how the measurement results affect their health and wellbeing, Siiro-Virtanen says. They also wished to have some guidance related to their way of walking and the measurement results.
‘We have heard same kinds of comments also from others during our product demonstrations’ says Eero Kaikkonen, CEO of MoveSole. ‘People are interested in the way they walk, but so far they have never been able to see the measurement results. This is just the reason why we started to develop and design a measurement device based on mobile technology available to all of us to measure human gait and motion in our everyday life settings, and not only in clinics or laboratories’ he says. MoveSole StepLab is an easy-to-use measurement device, and anyone can use it. But rather, there needs to be someone to analyze the measurement results, a healthcare professional or a professional to provide gait and motion analysis, like a researcher on gait or sports coach.
You can find further information on North Finland Birth Cohorts at the link: https://www.oulu.fi/nfbc/