This report examines the challenges of conducting a multicenter, cross-sectional study of countries with diverse cultures, and shares the lessons learned. The Latin American Study of Nutrition and Health (ELANS) was used as a feasibility study involving the most populous cities of eight countries in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela) in 2014–2015, about 40% of the population of the Americas. The target sample included 9 000 individuals, 15–65 years of age, and was stratified by geographic location (only urban areas), gender, age, and socioeconomic status. Six principal challenges were identified: team structuring and site selections; developing a single protocol; obtaining ethic approvals; completing simultaneous fieldwork; ensuring data quality; and extracting data and maintaining consistency across databases. Lessons learned show that harmonization, pilot study, uniformity of procedures, high data quality control, and communication and collaboration across sites are imperative. Barriers included organizational complexity, recruitment of collaborators and research staff, institutional cooperation, development of infrastructure, and identification of resources. Consensus on uniform measures and outcomes and data collection methodology, as well as a plan for data management and analysis, communication, publication, and dissemination of study results should be in place prior to beginning fieldwork. While challenging, such studies offer great potential for building a scientific base for studies on nutrition, physical activity, and other health topics, while facilitating comparisons among countries.

Translated title of the contributionElaboración de un estudio colaborativo multicéntrico en América Latina: enseñanzas extraídas del Estudio Latinoamericano de Nutrición y Salud
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere111
JournalRevista Panamericana de Salud Publica/Pan American Journal of Public Health
StatePublished - 2017


  • Latin America
  • Multicenter study
  • Nutrition surveys
  • Nutritional surveillance


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