ontario health study

Ontario readers, are you participating in the Ontario Health Study? Where did you hear about it? If you decided not to participate, why was that?

I saw ads for the study on the Toronto subway on my way to school. I've been looking for ads in Mississauga, but I haven't seen any. I'm wondering where non-urban, non-transit-riding Ontarians will hear about the study. Perhaps there are TV ads that fall outside my viewing habits.

I'm participating. It seems like an easy, perhaps even fun, way to contribute to public health. The goal for the study is two million people - a huge sample!

About the study:
The Ontario Health Study (OHS) will be the biggest community-based health study ever done in Ontario, and one of the biggest in the world. 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 Study began with an initial phase in which more than 8,000 adults living in three communities in Ontario took part. The main phase of the Study has begun, and is now open to all residents of Ontario who are at least 18 years old. We hope to follow participants in the Study for their entire lifespan. 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 the country.

Medical researchers at universities, research institutes and hospitals across Ontario are conducting this study. The governments of Ontario and Canada are funding the Study.

If you are at least 18 years old, regardless of whether or not you are in good health, we would like you to be part of the Ontario Health Study!

FAQs are here.

To participate, you have to enter the number for your Ontario Health card. I wonder if that puts some people off, since we're accustomed to anonymous surveys. But it seems like the most logical system - to keep track of records, to ensure that only people enroled in the provincial health system participate, that no one is double-counted, and so on. You can give the Study permission to link to your actual health records, or you can opt out of linking; the privacy policy is here.

The initial questionnaire asked about eating habits, exercise, medical conditions (current and past), family medical history and certain environmental factors, like where you live and what kind of work you do. After the first phase, you're contacted annually for ongoing updates.

One thing really struck me in the first questionnaire. You are asked to calculate how many hours a day or week you spend standing, sitting, walking, sleeping, and so on. I was shocked at how many hours a day I spend sitting! Although I exercise regularly, I do spend most of my life sitting. This is probably pretty typical for many contemporary Western people, but seeing the number of hours totaled up took me aback. I'm using that shocking number as an incentive to increase my exercise - not so much more days at the gym as ways to work more movement into my life.

Yesterday morning, Tala and I saw a huge V of geese flying north, one of the most beautiful harbingers of spring. Warmer weather makes it much easier to get more exercise - only one of many reasons I can't wait for spring.

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