The National Cohort Study initiated by the Helmholtz Association has as its goal, the development of new strategies for risk assessment, early detection and prevention of common widespread diseases. The focus is on the emergence of the most important chronic diseases (diseases of the cardiovascular system and the lungs, diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative/ psychiatric and infectious diseases), their sub-clinical pre-stages and functional changes.
The National Cohort has primarily four main goals:
- Clarification of the causes of chronic diseases and the interrelationship with genetic, life-style and environmental factors.
- Identification of new risk factors and a contribution towards clarification of geographical and socio-economic inequalities in the state of health and the risk of disease in Germany.
- Development of risk-prediction models for chronic diseases, and ways to demonstrate effective prevention (personalised prevention strategies).
- Identification of possibilities for early detection of chronic diseases (evaluation of markers as an effective aid to disease prevention).
In a comprehensive interdisciplinary network of university and non-university partners, 200,000 study participants aging between 20 and 69 years old in 18 different study centres are being examined, interviewed regarding lifestyles, and subsequently observed over the long term concerning emergence of relevant diseases. In addition, various bio-samples are being collected. An even more thorough “Level 2” programme is to be carried out among 20 percent of the test subjects. Furthermore, about 30,000 study participants are receiving an examination with magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) in five study centres. The financing for the entire project shall be assumed by the Federal Government and States (2/3 of the cost) as well as the Helmholtz Association (1/3 of the cost).