The Västerbotten Intervention Programme: background, design and implications

Background and objective

In Sweden, mortality from cardiovascular diseases (CVD) increased steadily during the 20th century and in the mid-1980s it was highest in the county of Västerbotten. Therefore, a community intervention programme was launched – the Västerbotten Intervention Programme (VIP) – with the aim of reducing morbidity and mortality from CVD and diabetes.

Design

The VIP was first developed in the small municipality of Norsjö in 1985. Subsequently, it was successively implemented across the county and is now integrated into ordinary primary care routines. A population-based strategy directed towards the public is combined with a strategy to reach all middle-aged persons individually at ages 40, 50 and 60 years, by inviting them to participate in systematic risk factor screening and individual counselling about healthy lifestyle habits. Blood samples for research purposes are stored at the Umeå University Medical Biobank.

Results

Overall, 113,203 health examinations have been conducted in the VIP and 6,500–7,000 examinations take place each year. Almost 27,000 subjects have participated twice. Participation rates have ranged between 48 and 67%. A dropout rate analysis in 1998 indicated only a small social selection bias. Cross-sectional, nested case-control studies and prospective studies have been based on the VIP data. Linkages between the VIP and local, regional and national databases provide opportunities for interdisciplinary research, as well as national and international collaborations on a wide range of disease outcomes. A large number of publications are based on data that are collected in the VIP, many of which also use results from analysed stored blood samples. More than 20 PhD theses have been based primarily on the VIP data.

Conclusions

The concept of the VIP, established as a collaboration between politicians and health care providers on the one hand and primary care, functioning as the operating machinery, and the public on the other, forms the basis for effective implementation and endurance over time. After more than 20 years of the VIP, there is a large comprehensive population-based database, a stable organisation to conduct health surveys and collect data, and a solid structure to enable widespread multidisciplinary and scientific collaborations.