The Canadian Study of Health and Aging was a complex undertaking that faced management challenges not encountered by smaller-scale projects. The study followed 10,263 elderly people in 18 study centers spanning six time zones; it was administered in two languages, and over 70 investigators were involved. The data collected from each participant were not fixed, but varied according to the results of earlier testing. The data could include a screening interview, a self-completed risk factor questionnaire, an interview with a relative, a clinical examination, neuropsychological testing, blood samples, and neuroimaging.
This report describes the approach taken to organize the study, to track participants, and to monitor adherence to the study protocol. It also describes the human organizational aspects, including systems for staff training, for communicating among study centers, and for coordinating the publication of results. The discussion proposes some guiding principles for administering multicenter studies.