Questions and Answers

  • Q. I'm a health professional. Can I join the study?
  • A. Thanks for your interest, but no. The design of a cohort study like the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study requires that we track lifestyles and medical histories of the original group enlisted in 1986. We learn what to do by seeing how the subjects' diets and lifestyles affect their health over time.
  • Q. I'd like a copy of one or more of the published articles. Where can I obtain these?
  • A. The most likely place to find articles published in health journals is your local medical library. In addition, some journals publish abstracts or full articles on the World Wide Web. If you don't live near a medical library and the article you're interested in isn't on the web, ask a reference librarian at any public library to recommend a way to see a copy.
  • Q. The researchers in this study have looked at a medical problem that I'm concerned about. Can I get advice from them?
  • A. Accurate medical diagnoses are unique to individuals. It is impossible for us to give individualized responses to an individual's health questions. Your personal physician is best able to provide useful advice.
  • Q. I'm a scientific researcher and would like to use the data for my own research. Is this possible?
  • A. Collaborations with external investigations is possible, subject to approval by the HPFS study group. However, you are responsible for your own funding and must collaborate with one of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study researchers.
  • Q. What kinds of questions are on the questionnaires?
  • A. The questionnaires include items about medical conditions, medications, tobacco use, and exercise. In addition, every four years a food frequency questionnaire is administered to collect detailed information about amounts and types of foods and beverages consumed.
  • Q. How do you know that the questionnaires are eliciting accurate information?
  • A. The validity of self-reported information has been tested several times by comparing subject reports against actual measurements. The evidence indicates that the data gathered in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study has a high degree of validity. (See publication lists for studies of questionnaire validity.)
  • Q. Does the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study share any information about the participants?
  • A. No. All information gathered is anonymous, and identities of participants are never shared with anyone. In the offices housing the data, all identifying information, such as participants' names and addresses, is separated from the health information and kept under lock and key.
  • Q. What percent of the study population is from minority populations? How does this affect the results?
  • A. One percent of the cohort is African-American and one and a half percent is Asian-American. In research in which ethnic background is a focus, the researchers over-sample from these groups in order to draw valid results.
  • Q. Are the findings from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study applicable to women?
  • A. Sometimes. Most of the interesting findings from the study are also examined using data from the Nurses' Health Study, a similar research project with women as participants.
  • Q. What is the response rate?
  • A. Approximately 93 percent of the original cohort still participates.
  • Q. Are you affiliated with the Harvard Health Letters?
  • A. No, although the Health Letters may cite our reports.

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