Research proposals to access the CHMS Biobank are accepted anytime.
Integrated within the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS), the biobank is designed to produce a nationally representative cohort to facilitate the progress of new and innovative health research projects. The biobank currently holds biospecimens (blood, urine and DNA) collected from over 22,000 consenting Canadians between the ages of 3 to 79 years. Additionally, respondent privacy and confidentiality is of upmost importance and are upheld by Statistics Canada governance and responsibilities under the Statistics Act.
How to withdraw your biospecimens
The summaries of all research projects that received approval to use the stored biospecimens are posted in the Projects and publications section for a minimum of six weeks prior to the shipment of the biospecimens.
Survey respondents are therefore informed of how their biospecimens are being used and can, if they wish, ask that their biospecimens be withdrawn from the studies. To receive biobank updates including new approved projects, please join the CHMS biobank listserv (electronic mailing list).
Respondents who wish to withdraw their biospecimens from a specific research project or from all research conducted using samples stored at the biobank must send a written request to Statistics Canada by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Respondents must provide their full name, the approximate date that they visited the clinic, their address at time of their visit and their date of birth. This is to ensure that the correct biospecimens are removed and destroyed.
This process is overseen by the Research Ethics Board of Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and Statistics Canada's Executive Management Board.
Table of contents
- Available biospecimens
- Research potential
- Access requests
- Projects and publications
- Listserv (electronic mailing list)
- Contact information
The biobank stores DNA, whole blood, plasma, serum and urine from survey respondents. These samples are stored at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg for use in future health studies.
The CHMS plans to continue adding biospecimens to the biobank with each survey cycle.
A description of the available biospecimens by age range, sample size per survey cycle and by volume available can be found under Available biospecimens.
Data generated from biospecimens can be merged for analysis with other variables from the CHMS content. These variables consists of data from the household questionnaire, physical measures assessed in the mobile examination clinics and laboratory tests, which include multiple health themes such as environmental chemical exposure, bone health, cardiovascular health, immunology, endocrinology, nutrition and more. A summary of the CHMS content can be found under CHMS content summary. Researchers can access CHMS data from research data centres (RDCs), which are located at many universities across Canada.
Before submitting an access request, it is strongly recommended to read the access policy. This document outlines the details regarding access eligibility, requirements, processing and conditions. Access to the biospecimens involves:
- Researchers submit a completed application form to use CHMS biospecimens.
- An application evaluation including a feasibility assessment and Biobank Advisory Committee review.
- After obtaining all necessary approvals, a letter of agreement is signed between the researcher and Statistics Canada
Projects and publications
All projects using stored biospecimens must be made available through the RDCs. Published results will only be presented as combined data. Under no circumstances will personal or identifiable data be published. Details on studies that have been approved to use CHMS biobank specimens are provided below.
Fatty Acid Reference Ranges from the CHMS
Principal Researcher: Dr. David Ma
Affiliation: University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
To determine the reference ranges (normal values) of plasma fatty acids of Canadians to provide an appropriate clinical interpretation of laboratory test results. The study will also serve to establish healthy target levels of fatty acids and determine whether certain concentrations are associated with deficiency or increased risk of chronic disease.
Fatty acid measurement is being widely reported in research. However, the relevance to the health of Canadians is poor due to the lack of available clinical reference ranges. Determining reference ranges for individual fatty acids from the CHMS biospecimens would make it possible to establish healthy targets and evaluate whether certain levels of fatty acids are associated with deficiency or increased chronic disease risk.
This study will address the development of fatty acid reference ranges in healthy Canadians. The data will enable the development of relevant fatty acid reference ranges in the majority of Canadians from 6 to 79 years of age. Fatty acid reference ranges in young children are highly relevant given that growing evidence links the development of adult chronic disease to these early sensitive years of growth and development.
Data results from analysis of the biosamples will be made available to researchers at Statistics Canada's Research Data Centres. Only aggregate statistical outputs conforming to the confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act will be released. Research findings will be disseminated through peer reviewed academic publications.
Biospecimens used in this study were collected in CHMS cycle 1 (March 2007 to February 2009) and cycle 2 (August 2009 to November 2011).
Measuring the Immunity of Canadians to Measles and Varicella and Assessing the Risk of Epidemics (iCARE)
Principal Researchers: Dr. Natasha Crowcroft and Dr. Shelly Bolotin
Affiliation: Public Health Ontario
This study aims to examine the level of population immunity to measles and varicella, (chickenpox) which are both vaccine-preventable diseases in Canada.
Research into the immunity of populations to infectious diseases like measles and varicella is critical. There have been recent measles outbreaks in several Canadian provinces including Ontario in 2008 and Quebec in 2011. By studying the level of immunity to measles and varicella in Canadians, we can understand whether specific populations are at higher risk of future outbreaks.
This study will measure measles and varicella immunity using serum samples collected from the CHMS, a nationally representative population-based survey of Canadians. The results will show whether Canada is at risk of large outbreaks and to evaluate whether infection patterns of varicella (chickenpox) and herpes zoster (shingles) are changing. These findings will be presented to the policy makers who recommend the best use of vaccines. This will play an important role in improving the health of Canadians by enabling us to predict future trends of these preventable diseases.
Study findings will be presented at conferences and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. In addition, findings will be shared with stakeholders such as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), Canadian Immunization Committee (CIC) and provincial and territorial immunization committees and Ministries of Health. Results from this study could also be used to support the PAHO (Pan American Health Organization) and WHO (World Health Organization) initiatives that are documenting the global elimination of measles.
Biospecimens used in this study were collected as part of the CHMS cycle 2 (Aug 2009 to Nov 2011) and cycle 3 (Jan 2012 to Dec 2013)
Canadian Biomonitoring Data, Reference Ranges and Associations with Health Outcomes of Priority Metals and Trace Elements to Inform Risk Assessment under the Chemicals Management Plan
Principal Researchers: Dr. Innocent Jayawardene and Dr. Sabit Cakmak, Health Canada
Affiliation: Health Canada
This project will generate biomonitoring data, examine associations with health outcomes, and establish reference ranges to inform risk assessment for metals/trace elements identified as priorities for action under the Government of Canada's Chemicals Management Plan (CMP). These metals and trace elements include (but may be not limited to) Aluminum (Al), Bismuth (Bi), Chromium (Cr), Germanium (Ge), Lanthanum (La), Lithium (Li), Neodymium (Nd), Tellurium (Te), Titanium (Ti), Yttrium (Y), Cerium (Ce), and Praseodymium (Pr).
This analysis will provide an estimation of exposure to metals and trace elements and will allow for the investigation of possible associations with respiratory, kidney, liver and hematopoietic health, using data collected as part of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS). It will also provide data for regulatory assessments under the CMP to help determine the potential for harm to human health from current levels of exposure to these substances from the environment, food, drinking water and consumer products. If the potential for human health risk is identified, risk management actions may be proposed to reduce risk for the Canadian population as appropriate.
The establishment of Canadian reference ranges will afford opportunities to identify vulnerable populations and/or track progress in reducing exposures over time.
Population-weighted summary statistics of concentrations of metals and trace elements in Canadians will be published as part of assessment reports on the CMP Website, as biomonitoring reports, in peer review journals, and/or presented nationally or internationally at scientific conferences on environmental health.
Biospecimens used in this study were collected as part of CHMS cycle 2 (August 2009 to November 2011)
Testing of Potential Interfering Substances in Human Serum on the Liaison 25OHD Assay
Principal Researcher: Dr. Steve Brooks
Affiliation: Bureau of Nutritional Sciences, Health Canada
This proposal aims to investigate a possible bias in the method used to measure Vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) which could affect the status of Vitamin D concentrations in individuals with high total cholesterol.
It has been noted that vitamin D levels (measured through circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D) are lower in individuals with higher amounts of body fat. There are several ideas about why this happens but one theory is that something in the blood interferes with either the method (immunoassay) used to measure vitamin D or with its metabolism in the body.
Cholesterol is a good candidate for this interference since it increases as body weight increases, is similar in structure to vitamin D, and is present in higher blood concentrations compared to 25-hydroxyvitamin D. It is possible then that higher cholesterol interacts with 25-hydroxyvitamin D to lower Vitamin D levels in the blood.
The method first used by the CHMS to measure 25-hydroxyvitamin D was a method called immunoassay, which is known to be sensitive to different elements in the blood. Using this method, it is possible that blood cholesterol or triglycerides influenced the 25-hydroxyvitamin D value. To verify this, we will re-measure 25-hydroxyvitamin D in serum using a newer method that is not affected by other components in the blood.
The results from this study should help us better interpret vitamin D status in Canadians, which plays an important role in bone health.
Only aggregate statistical outputs conforming to the confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act will be released. Research findings will be disseminated through peer reviewed academic publications.
Biospecimens used in this study were collected as part of the CHMS cycle 1 (March 2007 to February 2009)
Genetic modifiers of folate, vitamin B-12, and homocysteine status in a cross-sectional study of the Canadian population
Genetic variation in the Canadian population means that not all individuals respond equally to the same nutrients. In Canada, Folic Acid (folate) and Vitamin B12 are two nutrients with important public health and policy implications. Folic Acid is required to prevent some birth defects, and Vitamin B12 is required to prevent megaloblastic anemia and neurodegeneration. We identified associations between a number of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs; genetic variants), that are common in the Canadian population, with folate and Vitamin B12 status. These novel associations provide insight into why these SNPs have been associated with B vitamin–related diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer and birth defects, and how we may make recommendations to meet the nutritional needs of Canadians who have them.
Additional information can be found in the journal article listed below:
Zinck, John, Margaret de Groh, Amanda MacFarlane. 2015. "Genetic modifiers of folate, vitamin B-12, and homocysteine status in a cross-sectional study of the Canadian population." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Who can apply to use the CHMS biospecimens?
Canadian researchers who conduct research in Canada and work under the direction or supervision of a recognized public or private organization are eligible to apply. International researchers must collaborate with a Canadian researcher or research facility.
Can international researchers apply for access to the CHMS biospecimens?
Only Canadian research facilities can receive the biospecimens. An international researcher could apply but would need a Canadian citizen or permanent Canadian resident as a co-investigator. The resulting data files must be accessed from a Research Data Centre (all located in Canada) in collaboration with the Canadian citizen (or permanent Canadian resident) as a co-investigator.
What biospecimens are available in the CHMS Biobank?
- Whole blood
Sample size can range from 3,000 to 6,000, depending on age and survey cycle. Each sample is representative of a number of Canadians in the same age and gender category (nationally representative). Please refer to the Biospecimens Available table for more detail.
Can I request a subsample for a project?
Applications for subsamples, where findings could be of benefit to Canadians, are welcome. However, preference will be given to projects involving a nationally representative sample.
Where can I find a content summary (variables included in each cycle of the survey) for the CHMS?
A content summary of the CHMS is available upon request. Other documentation such as User Guides and Data Dictionaries are also available upon request.
Who can I contact if I have questions about the application form?
Any questions can be emailed to the CHMS biobank coordinator. You will receive a response within 24 hours.
When can I apply?
Research applications are accepted at any time, however, a call for proposals is held biannually. The CHMS Biobank announces a call in the Spring (May 1 to June 30) and again in the Fall (November 1 to December 31) to coincide with the Biobank Advisory Committee meetings.
How long does it take to get approval?
There are three main approval steps. A CHMS review is followed by review by the Biobank Advisory Committee (BAC) then final approval by Statistics Canada’s Executive Management Board (EMB). This can take four to six months. Communications and further questions regarding the project could lengthen this time period. In addition, the EMB would not review the proposal until ethics and funding have been secured.
Please note that although approval may be complete, biospecimens cannot be shipped to the laboratory until the security clearance of the facility and personnel has been completed. The security clearance is carried out by Public Services and Procurement Canada and may take more than a year.
Does my project require approval from a Research Ethics Board?
Yes. Each biobank project must provide certification of its own ethics approval.
Is there a cost to access the CHMS biospecimens?
Yes. Access to the biospecimens is on a cost-recovery basis. The fee structure for each project can vary according to scope and complexity. For information on the fee structure, or for a cost estimate, please contact the CHMS biobank coordinator.
Do I need confirmation of funding for my project before I can apply?
No. Statistics Canada recognizes that funders may require evidence that applicants will be able to access the necessary biospecimens before committing funding. Statistics Canada will consider applications before and after funding is secured; however, a final decision will not be made until evidence of funding is received. A letter of support can be provided upon request if the applicant feels this might help securing funding.
How long will I have to analyze the biospecimens once I receive them?
This can vary by project, the number of biospecimens, the number and complexity of analytes, and the method used for laboratory analysis. An end date will be determined during contract negotiations and parties will agree that timely completion of the laboratory analysis will be a priority.
What do I need to securely transfer my files to Statistics Canada?
Statistics Canada will provide the software and IT support for secure electronic file transfers. Note that the laboratory data must be housed in a standalone computer with physical access controls and no Internet access. The only Internet exposure the data should have is with the secure, encrypted, password-protected file transfer to Statistics Canada.
Can I share the data with interested colleagues?
No. The CHMS biospecimens and the data generated from their analysis are confidential and cannot be shared with unauthorized individuals. Only persons with Reliability Status security clearance who are considered “deemed employees” of Statistics Canada are allowed to access the biospecimens and data.
Both employees and deemed employees of Statistics Canada are subject to the same penalties under the Statistics Act. However, becoming a deemed employee does not create an employment relationship between Statistics Canada and the individual.
For more information on deemed employees, please refer to the FAQ section of the Statistics Canada Research Data Centre website.
Can I add an investigator or a student to the approved project personnel?
Although it is best to include everyone who will be on the project in the original application, it is understood that changes may occur. If a Principal Researcher is added, the original proposal must be amended. It is then subject again to the three approval stages. Laboratory staff or students who are added to the project must have security clearance (Reliability Status) and become a deemed employee by Statistics Canada before access to the biospecimens and data is allowed.
Can the CHMS dataset be linked to provincial health administrative databases across Canada?
Statistics Canada endorses record linkage proposals to administrative data sources when possible. These proposals require separate approval from senior management, in addition to the approval required for the Biobank project. For more information on record linkage, please contact the CHMS biobank coordinator.
How and when will I be able to associate my lab data with the CHMS data?
During laboratory analysis, the results are securely transferred to Statistics Canada. The data are processed and checked for errors, duplicates, etc. When the file is clean and in a suitable format for analysis, it is released to the Statistics Canada Research Data Centre (RDC) of the researcher’s choice. (The contract to access the CHMS biospecimens includes a contract to access the RDC). The researcher will then have exclusive access to both datasets for a one-year period, after which the dataset will be made available to other researchers.
How long do I need to wait after the laboratory analysis has been completed before I can access my data at the RDC?
This can vary by project, the number of biospecimens, the complexity of the lab variables and derived variables as well as the number of corrections that may be required. It could take from three to six months.
Is there any longitudinal collection in the CHMS?
There is currently no longitudinal element in the CHMS.
How do I get access to CHMS data (not biospecimens)?
You can access these data at any Statistics Canada Research Data Centre (RDC) across Canada. The staff at the RDCs are very knowledgeable and can assist you with the analysis you wish to do. To access these data, you must submit an application to Statistics Canada. Information on the location of the RDCs, on the available datasets and on the application process is available on the website.
Is information on ethnicity available for the CHMS samples?
Although we gather information on ethnicity from our respondents, deriving publishable results from the relatively low numbers of the varied ethnicities is difficult. For confidentiality reasons, Statistics Canada restricts the reporting of low-incidence findings.
Would I be able to produce provincial estimates using the CHMS data?
Each CHMS cycle is designed to produce national estimates. The collection site selection process was done in order to obtain a sample that would produce reliable national estimates. The sample design at the national level takes into account the distribution of urban/rural areas across the country, but not provincially. No consideration was made within a province or region to ensure, for instance, that all health regions were covered or that all geographic areas (North, South, East or West) were represented. Therefore, even if cycles are combined, the provincial representation will not be optimal and is not recommended.
How are the biospecimens stored?
The CHMS Biobank biospecimens are stored in -80°C freezers. Other pre-analytical information is available in the cycle-appropriate User Guide. Users can request by sending an email to the CHMS biobank coordinator.
Can I combine cycles of biospecimens?
Yes. Multiple cycles of biospecimens can be accessed for analysis. Costs may be prorated to reflect the fact that some processes must be done only once for each project. Instructions for combining multiple cycles of Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) data are available upon request by sending an email to the CHMS biobank coordinator.
Listserv (electronic mailing list)
The CHMS biobank listserv provides researchers and respondents news and information regarding CHMS biobank activities, products, and releases.
- Send an email message to the CHMS biobank coordinator. Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message type: subscribe CHMS biobank
- Send an email message to the CHMS biobank coordinator. Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message type: remove CHMS biobank
Please contact the CHMS biobank coordinator:
- for questions about the biobank
- to submit an application
- to subscribe or unsubscribe to the CHMS biobank listserv (electronic mailing list)