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Participate in the Ontario Health Study and change the future of health care in Canada

from the April 4, 2011 issue of Connect

Participate in the Ontario Health Study and change the future of health care in Canada

Over 200 senior scientists at universities, research institutes and hospitals across the province have teamed up to conduct the Ontario Health Study, the largest population-based health study ever attempted in Canada. Adults 18 years of age or older living in the province of Ontario are eligible to participate in the study, giving all Ontarians the chance to change the future of health care.

Women’s College Hospital is just one of many organizations in Ontario officially endorsing the study.

“We really hope to generate as much interest as possible,” says Dr. Paula Rochon, vice-president of research at Women’s College Hospital. “This is an important opportunity for all of us at Women’s College – not just as staff, physicians and volunteers working in a health-care setting, but also as Canadians wanting to improve health care for future generations. The number of people who participate will ultimately influence how successful the study is.”

The study, which currently has 25,000 participants registered, asks volunteers to take 20 to 30 minutes of their time to answer questions relating to their general health, genetic history and lifestyle. The aim is to better determine how factors such as environment, lifestyle and genes affect the risk of common diseases such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and depression.

“Population-based studies have led to a lot of important developments in health-care research,” says Dr. Rochon. “There was a time when it wasn’t common knowledge that smoking caused cancer. Population-based studies like this one played a big role in leading researchers to determine that a causal link existed.”

Following the completion of the questionnaire, participants will be sent optional followup questionnaires on an annual basis, and may be invited to visit assessment centres where more comprehensive measurements can be taken (such as lung and cardiovascular function, vision and hearing, mental and psychosocial health, and physical and cognitive function).

While the assessment centres will not actually open to the general population until the fall, researchers are planning a pilot series of workplace mini-clinics beginning in June – the first of which will take place at Women’s College. A select group of participants (including Women’s College staff who have completed the baseline online questionnaire) will be invited to participate by having the following measurements taken:

  • height (standing and sitting)
  • weight and percentage of body fat
  • waist and hip circumference
  • sitting blood pressure
  • resting heart rate
  • lung function
  • hand-grip strength

Participation in the mini-clinic, as well as the overall study, is completely voluntary.

The researchers of the study, which is funded by the governments of Ontario and Canada, hope to follow participants for their entire lifespan – allowing for the unique opportunity to see how a variety of factors influence health over a long period of time.

For more information on the study and how to participate, please visit www.ontariohealthstudy.ca or call 1-866-606-0686.


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