Background to the study

The Elfe study was set up in response to questions asked by researchers and concerns that various public bodies had been raising for more than a decade.

Henri Leridon, director emeritus of research at INED and founder of the Elfe cohort, presents the history of the study, its objectives and its future in 2021. [FR]

An initial project was launched by a joint research unit of the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED) and National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) on the initiative of its director, the demographer Henri Leridon. Now director emeritus of research at INED, and former associate professor at the Collège de France, Henri Leridon was keen to adopt a resolutely multidisciplinary approach, in order to analyse as many different aspects of children’s lives as possible.

At the same time, Public Health France (formerly known as the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance, InVS) was charged with designing a study of children’s environmental health as part of France’s National Environmental Health Plan, drawn up in 2004. Intended to identify the effects of exposure to various types of pollution on children’s health, this mission was entrusted to its environmental health department.

So now there were two projects sharing the same objective, namely to help today’s children grow up happy and healthy. It seemed only natural to combine the two, as this would benefit all concerned. Accordingly, in 2006, the two joined forces within a scientific interest grouping (GIS) to form the Elfe project. Henceforth, a single study would cover the fields of social sciences, health and the environment.

In response to an invitation from the GIS, more than 60 research teams from universities, public-sector research establishments and health agencies joined the project. In 2011, the French National Blood Service (EFS) became the latest partner in this exciting adventure, and the GIS was replaced by an INED-INSERM-EFS joint unit. The project also received the backing of a consortium of stakeholders (research bodies and public institutions).