In order to understand why and how some people develop cancer and chronic disease while others do not, Alberta’s Tomorrow Project in Alberta, Canada, invited Albertans that do not have prior history of cancer other than skin melanoma to participate in their long-term study by contributing information about their personal lifestyles and other risk factors for chronic diseases.

There were 55,000 people between 35 to 69 years of age that joined the Alberta Tomorrow Project between 2000 and 2015. These participants were followed over time to capture their lifestyle, behaviours, and health status to understand the potential risk factors involved in developing cancers and chronic conditions.

Senior Research Associate Ming Ye commented that,

“While these hard-to-obtain data on lifestyles and risk factors are critical for understanding the underlying causes of chronic disease, Alberta’s Tomorrow Project needs reliable data sources for chronic disease diagnosis and outcome evaluation as well.”

As such, the research team from the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta combined data from the Alberta Tomorrow Project with administrative health data that had been routinely collected and made available by Alberta Health (AH, the Ministry of Health in Alberta), in a process known as data linkage.

Ming Ye further explained that

In this study, by linking and analysing administrative health data for participants of Alberta’s Tomorrow Project, we reported on the proportion of patients with major chronic diseases as well as the number of new cases arising each year in this cohort over 2000-2018.”

Using the ICD codes (disease diagnosis codes used by health professionals) in the linked healthcare data, the researchers were able to identify cases of chronic diseases. The study found that hypertension and depression were the most common chronic conditions in the ATP cohort. The study also showed that the number of patients with chronic conditions had increased over time, including those with two or more chronic conditions.

The Alberta Tomorrow Project aims to support cancer and chronic disease research by following its participants for up to 50 years. This study not only shows the value of linking with administrative health data for long-term health surveillance for the Alberta Tomorrow Project, but also illustrates the great potential of linking administrative health data with other population-based cohorts for health research.


To find out more about the study, to access the full article please click


Ming Ye, Research Associate, School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton


Ye, M., Vena, J., Johnson, J., Shen-Tu, G. and Eurich, D. (2021) “Chronic Disease Surveillance in Alberta’s Tomorrow Project using Administrative Health Data”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 6(1). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v6i1.1672.