Journal of Public Health

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 235–243 | Cite as

Health issues in the industrial port zone of Marseille, France: the Fos EPSEAL community-based cross-sectional survey

  • Alison K. Cohen
  • Travis Richards
  • Barbara L. Allen
  • Yolaine Ferrier
  • Johanna Lees
  • Louisa H. Smith
Original Article



Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is an increasingly common approach in the USA, but still relatively rare in Europe. In the industrial zone of Marseille, there is a long history of pollution, but little is known about the health implications. This study documented the prevalence of different health issues in two heavily polluted towns in the industrial zone using a CBPR approach.

Subject and methods

This study used a CBPR approach and epidemiologic methods to answer community members’ questions about the health of residents in Marseille’s industrial zone by randomly sampling a cross-section of residents to systematically document health issues in Fos-sur-Mer and Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, two towns in the industrial port area of Marseille, France.


Many chronic illnesses were elevated in these communities, as compared to regional and national prevalences, including chronic skin problems, asthma, cancer, and diabetes. Chronic skin problems and asthma were among the most common chronic illnesses reported. A majority of respondents also reported acute symptoms that affected daily life, including eye irritation or nose and throat problems.


There is likely an environmental explanation for why, even after direct standardization, the prevalences of many diseases were higher in these communities than elsewhere. The combination of CBPR and rigorous epidemiologic methods helps make our findings relevant to both community members and researchers.


Community-based participatory research Environmental health Environmental justice Epidemiology France Health disparities 



This project was financed by a grant from the Agence Nationale de Sécurité Sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (ANSES), the French agency for food, environment and occupational health and safety (award no. PNREST Anses, Cancer ITMO AVIESAN, 2014/1/023). Virginia Tech University also provided some financial support. The University of California Berkeley provided Qualtrics access. IMéRA (Institute for Advanced Study of Aix-Marseille University) provided in-kind support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Competing financial interests declaration

The authors have no competing financial interests to declare.

Supplementary material

10389_2017_857_MOESM1_ESM.doc (82 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 81 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017
corrected publication January/2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison K. Cohen
    • 1
  • Travis Richards
    • 1
    • 2
  • Barbara L. Allen
    • 3
  • Yolaine Ferrier
    • 4
  • Johanna Lees
    • 4
    • 5
  • Louisa H. Smith
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Public HealthUniversity of California BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of City and Regional Planning, College of Environmental DesignUniversity of California BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Department of Science and Technology in SocietyVirginia Tech UniversityFalls ChurchUSA
  4. 4.Centre Norbert EliasEcole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences SocialesMarseilleFrance
  5. 5.Laboratoire de Sciences Sociales AppliquéesMarseilleFrance
  6. 6.Department of Epidemiology, T.H. Chan School of Public HealthHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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