Manitoba volunteers needed for massive, multi-year national study on chronic disease

A massive national study that has been following the health and lifestyle habits of hundreds of thousands of Canadians is moving into Manitoba.

Hundreds of thousands of participants already taking part across Canada

The Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project, a massive national study following of hundreds of thousands of Canadians, has arrived in Manitoba and researchers are looking for 10,000 volunteers to take part. (Adam Berry/Getty)

A massive national study that has been following the health and lifestyle habits of hundreds of thousands of Canadians is moving into Manitoba.

The Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP) is the largest study of its kind in Canadian history. In all, more than 300,000 volunteers will be included in the study spanning B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Atlantic Canada, and Manitoba, where 10,000 volunteers are currently being sought.

The study, which started in 2008, asks participants to share details about their environment, genes, illness, diet, exercise and lifestyle. They'll then be followed over 50 years to explore how the factors interact with one another to influence risk for cancer and other chronic health conditions

"It enables us to take a big-picture look at all of the things that determine our health," explains Nikita Lysenko, a epidemiology research coordinator with CancerCare Manitoba who is managing the Manitoba branch of the study, dubbed the Manitoba Tomorrow Project.

The survey will look at how factors like genetics, environment, career, social circumstances and individual choice play a role in chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

"We want to understand how these factors work together to influence our health and our illness and find out why it is that some folks develop a disease while others don't.," said Lysenko.

"There's a lot we still don't know, so studying a bunch of people for a very long time allows us to learn more about this."

Pay it forward

The project officially launched in Manitoba in January.

After a couple recruitment events, Lysenko says they've already gotten around 600 emails from Manitobans interested in joining the study.

Those who take part will be asked to fill out a questionnaire and give CPTP researchers permission to use their Manitoba Health card number to follow their health. If the volunteer chooses, they can also have measurements like blood pressure and height and weight taken.

Lysenko says volunteers may also be asked to come in for follow up visits every few years.

All the data collected will remain anonymous, says Lysenko, and will be used by researchers like him in Canada and around the world.

"There's a lot of findings from a lot of different fields of research that this could lead to," he said.

"It's an opportunity for folks to pay it forward, so in the future we might have a better idea about cause-and-effect with all of these really common conditions for future generations."

The Manitoba branch of the study is looking for volunteers from across the province between the ages of 35 and 69 who have never had cancer, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer.

Anyone interested in taking part can get more information the Manitoba Tomorrow Project website.