NLM Informatics Lecture Series: When the Entire Country is a Cohort: Collecting and Analyzing Big Data

Date: June 11, 2013 Time: 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: NIH Lister Hill Center Auditorium (bldg 38A)
Event Type: Lecture

Henrik Toft S2013rensen, DrMedSci, PhD, is the Head of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology at Denmark's Aarhus University Hospital.  He has been working for more than ten years with 2013Big Data2013 that encompasses clinical records, administrative bases, and registries from a whole country. His main research interests are:

  1. Determinants of long-term prognosis for chronic disease, in particular the prognostic impact of the interaction between multiple chronic diseases, complications and outcome.
  2. Observational studies of safety of medical interventions and treatments
  3. Methods in clinical epidemiology


For many years the Nordic countries have established numerous registries. The establishment in Denmark of the Civil Registration System in 1968 with the Civil Registration Number allowed personal identification of a remarkable quality and made it possible to obtain information on the same person in several registries, a situation unique to the Nordic countries. The history behind the registries will be reviewed as well as the structure of the Danish health care system. The main registries will be reviewed together with examples of clinical epidemiological studies based on these registries.

The registries can be divided into classic medical registries, administrative databases, and clinical quality databases. Moreover, social data are available from the Danish Government.

Two major Danish biobanks will also be mentioned and the ability to be linked to various registry information. Tissue of all specimens from Danish pathological departments has been stored since the 19602013s in Denmark. DNA on all infants born after 1981 is available in Denmark from the Danish Newborn Screening Biobank (NBS-Biobank) which stores samples after screening for phenylketonuria by means of analyses of dried blood spots taken by a heel prick 48-72 hours after birth.

Finally, principles for the use of registry data in Denmark will be covered and some of the challenges and limitations of registry-based research in Denmark.


Dr. Henrik Toft S2013rensen earned his MD in 1983, PhD in 1994, and DMSc in 1996, and held clinical employments from 1983 to 1994 and from 1996 to 2004. He is a specialist in internal medicine (1993) and hepatology (1997). From 1998 to 2004, he was a consultant at Aarhus University Hospital's Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Since 2000, Dr. S2013rensen has been a professor in clinical epidemiology at Aarhus University, and head of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology at Aarhus University Hospital. As of May 2013, he will serve as a Visiting Professor at Stanford University, CA, USA. Dr. S2013rensen has more than 700 publications within the fields of clinical epidemiology, pharmacoepidemiology, and determinants of the prognosis of cardiovascular, infection, gastrointestinal and cancer diseases. He is Principal Investigator on several international studies, and has been supervisor for more than 45 students who have received the PhD degree.  He is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Clinical Epidemiology. Dr. S2013rensen is a member of the Board of Directors of the Council for Independent Research, Medical Sciences and has assessed grant applications and held several professorships in a number of European countries and in the US. He received the 2012 Hagedorn Prize, and in 2011, The Order of Dannebrog by Her Majesty The Queen of Denmark.

Event Information

This lecture will be open to the public; however, seating is limited. Reservations are not required.

This talk is now available to watch on demand at

Reasonable Accommodations: Sign Language Interpreters will be provided. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodation to participate in this lecture should contact Rebecca Goodwin ( or 301-451-4635) or the Federal Relay (1-800-877-8339).

Sponsored by: Dr. Clement McDonald, Director, Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications (LHNCBC), National Library of Medicine (NLM)

Event contact: Rebecca Goodwin, Office of the Director, LHNCBC, NLM, 301-451-4635,