The largest collection of health research data ever attempted in Canada, and possibly the world, kicked off last week as volunteers reported for duty.
With input of 50,000 people across the country, the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging is a 20-year-project that will collect information from people age 45 to 85.
The participants were selected at random and invited to take part. The first of 3,000 people drafted in Victoria started showing up at Gorge Road Hospital on Thursday.
They will be asked questions about a range of topics including their lifestyle, social circumstances and general health. They will also undergo medical tests for things such as bone density, vision, balance and mental fitness.
Even blood and urine samples will be collected and flown to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., to be frozen and stored.
Furthermore, another 2,500 participants will be interviewed by telephone at the Victoria site.
In three years, the data collection will take place again with the same subjects.
This continuous collection of data makes the information invaluable for researchers interested in the aging process. As the subjects age, their health data will be collected again and again, so researchers can examine and learn from the changes taking place.
Holly Tuokko, director of the Centre on Aging at the University of Victoria, said the numbers of the human sample size, 50,000, makes it the largest ever attempted in Canada.
Tuokko also said the depth of the information gathered likely makes it the most detailed ever undertaken in the world. It has already attracted worldwide interest, with international researchers collaborating on the methodology behind the data collection to make it universally applicable.
“This is not only going to be of use to Canada, it is going to be of use to people worldwide,” Tuokko said.
The study involves 11 data-collection sites across Canada. The differences in collection sites, from Victoria, across the Prairies, Ontario and Quebec to the Maritimes, will also likely provide useful comparative data.
Once collected, the data will be available for researchers to make applications to use in their own work.
While the collection is set to continue for 20 years, it’s expected researchers will be applying to make use of the data within a just few years.
Privacy and ethical standards are have been discussed and established to protect the participants.
Research participant Sally Tuckey, 64, of Victoria, said so far she has found the questioning and testing to have gone so well and done so professionally, she remains delighted to be a part.
“My name was just drawn and I thought, ‘What a wonderful thing to give to the next generation,’ ” Tuckey said.
“I wasn’t thinking about what it might do for me,” said the mother of three grown children and grandmother.
© Copyright 2013