Menzies runs next phase of Aboriginal health study

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'Menzies runs next phase of Aboriginal health study', featured in Issue 6 of CDU E-news

By Paul Dale

Australia’s largest and longest running study of Aboriginal people, the Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study (ABC), has begun its fifth wave of data collection.

The ABC study, conducted by the Life Course Studies team at Menzies School of Health Research, has been following 686 people from birth onwards, with a plan to follow them through sickness and health for the rest of their lives.

The ABC study has visited the study participants about every six years to explore a range of biomedical and social themes. These relate to chronic disease such as diabetes, kidney and heart disease and includes mental health.

Chief Investigator, Associate Professor Gurmeet Singh said the main aim was to relate early life health to later health and disease.

“These longitudinal studies are looking for the earliest signs of chronic disease in those most at risk and noting the age at which these appear,” she said. 

Early identification will help to tailor interventions for key groups and at the most appropriate time to get maximum benefit from therapies.

The study began in 1987 and has monitored the health of babies through childhood, their teen years and now well into adulthood.

The fifth follow-up wave will continue to follow the progress of these 686 people, as well as 196 non-Indigenous participants of the Top End Cohort who are now aged between 28 and 32 years.

“Young people in these studies will undergo a comprehensive health check including body measurements, ultrasounds, blood pressure, blood and urine tests, emotional wellbeing assessments, and for the first time in the study, eye tests,” Dr Singh said.

The Menzies research team will begin data collection in Darwin and then continue during the next two years in more than 40 urban and remote communities across the Top End where the remainder of the participants live.

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