The North West Adelaide Health Study is a population-based biomedical cohort study investigating the prevalence of a number of chronic conditions and health-related risk factors along a continuum. This methodology may assist with evidence-based decisions for health policy makers and planners, and inform health professionals who are involved in chronic disease prevention and management, by providing a better description of people at risk of developing or already diagnosed with selected chronic conditions for more accurate targeting groups for health gain and improved health outcomes. Longitudinal data will provide information on progression of chronic conditions and allow description of those who move forward and back along the continuum over time. Detailed methods are provided regarding the random recruitment and examination of a representative sample of participants (n = 4060), including the rationale for various processes and valuable lessons learnt. Self-reported and biomedical data were obtained on risk factors (smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, family history, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol) and chronic conditions (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes) to classify participants according to their status along a continuum. Segmenting this population sample along a continuum showed that 71.5% had at least one risk factor for developing asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or diabetes. Almost one-fifth (18.8%) had been previously diagnosed with at least one of these chronic conditions, and an additional 3.9% had at least one of these conditions but had not been diagnosed. This paper provides a novel opportunity to examine how a cohort study was born. It presents detailed methodology behind the selection, recruitment and examination of a cohort and how participants with selected chronic conditions can be segmented along a continuum that may assist with health promotion and health services planning.
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