Previous cohort studies have demonstrated associations between lifestyle factors and chronic disease outcomes. However, for many of these factors such as physical activity, the exposure measurement has been relatively imprecise. The development of newer questionnaires that assess different domains of activity (transportation, work, domestic life and recreation) and inactivity (specific sedentary activities) may allow the associations between different aspects of these complex exposures and chronic disease to be disentangled. In general the precision of estimation is enhanced by shortening the time frame of reference. Therefore in order to optimise assessment of “usual” level of exposure it may be preferable to utilise repeated measurement with a questionnaire with a short time of reference rather than single use of one with a longer time frame. The increasing use of objective assessment of lifestyle factors alongside questionnaire based methods is an important step. Many questionnaires and objective instruments are available but need to be selected for a particular study on the basis of fitness for purpose. The MRC Public Health Sciences Network has funded the development of a web-based toolkit describing these different approaches. This toolkit, which is available at http://www.dapa-toolkit.mrc.ac.uk/ will form the basis for future developments including enhancing wider access to computational software.
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