Chiang Mai University Health Worker Study aiming toward a better understanding of noncommunicable disease development in Thailand: methods and description of study population

Clin Epidemiol. 2014 Aug 13;6:277-86. doi: 10.2147/CLEP.S65338. eCollection 2014.


Background: Urbanization is considered to be one of the key drivers of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in Thailand and other developing countries. These influences, in turn, may affect an individual's behavior and risk of developing NCDs. The Chiang Mai University (CMU) Health Worker Study aims to provide evidence for a better understanding of the development of NCDs and ultimately to apply the evidence toward better prevention, risk modification, and improvement of clinical care for patients with NCDs and NCD-related conditions.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of health care workers from CMU Hospital was conducted between January 2013 and June 2013. Questionnaires, interviews, and physical and laboratory examinations were used to assess urban exposure, occupational shift work, risk factors for NCDs, self-reported NCDs, and other NCD-related health conditions.

Results: From 5,364 eligible workers, 3,204 participated (59.7%). About 11.1% of the participants had high blood pressure (systolic blood pressure ≥140 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure ≥90 mmHg) and almost 30% were considered to be obese (body mass index ≥25 kg/m(2)). A total of 2.3% had a high fasting blood glucose level (≥126 mg/dL), and the most common abnormal lipid profile was high low-density lipoprotein (≥160 mg/dL), which was found in 19.2% of participants.

Discussion: The study of health workers offers three potential advantages. The first is that the study of migrants was possible. Socioenvironmental influence on NCD risk factors can be explored, as changes in environmental exposures can be documented. Second, it allows the investigators to control for access to care. Access to care is potentially a key confounder toward understanding the development of NCDs. Lastly, a study of health personnel allows easy access to laboratory investigations and potential for long-term follow-up. This enables ascertainment of a number of clinical outcomes and provides potential for future studies focusing on therapeutic and prognostic issues related to NCDs.

Keywords: Thailand; noncommunicable disease; risk factors; urbanization.