Officials are in Ottawa trying to sign up volunteers for the largest population-based heath study ever attempted in Canada.

The Ontario Health Study is hoping that all Ontarians over the age of 18 will take part, though realistically they'll be happy with two million adult recruits. To date, 32,000 people are on board.

Researchers say a "big vision study" like this is vital to understanding the causes of, and ways of preventing, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's.

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Dr. Tony Hakim of the Canadian Stroke Network says the Ontario Health Study will provide exciting new data. ((CBC))

 

Those who volunteer will be tracked for their entire lifespan. 

Lyle Palmer, who heads the Ontario Health Study, says that because chronic diseases such as cancer are caused by many risk factors, the more people that are studied, the better the research. 

"What factors cause some people to be healthier than others? Why is it that we have heavy smokers who are 90? What protects those people is a really interesting question," he said.

One reason to focus on Ottawa is its large francophone community, he said. "People who are in the francophone community have poorer health outcomes on average than those in the anglophone community. It's unclear why, but we'd like to find out."

Participants will fill out a yearly health questionnaire and 100,000 volunteers will be given a physical exam and tests.

Dr. Tony Hakim, head of the Canadian Stroke Network, said the study is exciting. The study will include a cognitive analysis of the patients.

"We talk about stroke leading to dementia … We do not have good Canadian data in this regard."

Hakim says the study will cut health-care costs because the large sample size will better target where drugs and treatments are most effective.

Family doctors will post information about how people can sign up for the study in the next few months.