The Ontario Health Study: Creating platforms for revolutionary science and transformational biology

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Professor Lyle Palmer
Ontario Health Study

The discovery and characterization of the causal factors underlying health and disease in the community and the translation of such knowledge to clinical and public health applications will ultimately depend upon the availability of large-scale population-based, longitudinal data and linkage to statutory health data so that all those with and without disease, their risk and protective factors, including both genetic and environmental contributions, can be studied in an unbiased way throughout the whole life span. Such linkages and resources already exist in Ontario. We are in the process of developing a world-class cohort resource that will build on the unique Ontario population health data collected and managed over the last four decades.

The Ontario Health Study (OHS) is the biggest community-based health study ever undertaken in North America. The OHS is a long-term study that will help us understand the causes, prevention and treatment of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, asthma and diabetes. 

The Ontario Health Study is seeking to collect health data from all consenting members of the adult population of Ontario (n~9.5 million people). The study began with an initial phase in which more than 8,000 adults living in three communities in Ontario took part. We hope to follow participants in the study for at least 20 years. This will allow researchers to see how environment, lifestyle and genes affect the risk of common diseases. The OHS is also part of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project made up of five regional health studies across Canada.

Medical researchers at universities, research institutes and hospitals across Ontario are conducting this study, which is funded by the governments of Ontario and Canada. We anticipate that significant new initiatives and collaborations relevant to health policy and promotion, interventions, clinical and genetic epidemiology, new therapies, preventive medicine, and pharmacogenomics will ensue at the national and international level.