Jason Lacombe is a DPhil candidate (Population Health) in the University of Oxford’s Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention. His British Heart Foundation-funded doctoral project looks at the links between lifestyle factors – activity levels, diet, alcohol, and tobacco use – and cardiovascular disease, with the aim to inform policy-making in cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment. Jason’s project examines data held within UK Biobank, the national and international resource which is following the health and wellbeing of 500,000 volunteer participants, to identify how the factors are related to each other (e.g. does frequent activity, a healthy diet, not smoking, and moderate alcohol consmption result in reduced cardiovascular disease risks compared to frequent activity, a poor diet, smoking, and moderate alcohol consumption), to biomarkers of cardiovascular disease (e.g. blood pressure and cholesterol levels), and their association with new diagnoses of and death from cardiovascular disease.
It will attempt to overcome the limitations of existing methods to understand the relationships between various lifestyle-related risk factors, and he hopes that the improved methodologies developed in his project will be applicable to evaluate risks in other disease areas such as cancer, diabetes, and respiratory diseases. The cluster analysis which he will apply is not restricted by the dichotomous behaviour categorisation (‘risky/unhealthy’ versus ‘not risky/healthy’) of the traditional co-occurrence method, and instead allows for the identification of association patterns using multiple levels for each variable, thereby providing answers on dose response. Second, issues in study design limit the conclusions that can be drawn from existing literature: in prospective studies, lifestyle factors assessed only at the baseline are not only susceptible to measurement error but may not accurately characterise behaviour during long periods of follow-up. Resurveys on a representative sample of study participants will more accurately reflect “usual” behaviour levels over the follow-up period. Furthermore, the use of very large prospective study data as opposed to small sample sizes can provide more robust information on risk estimates with less risk of compromise from random variations. Lastly, linking study participants to NHS electronic records on hospital admission and mortality provides unbiased disease outcomes in contrast to reliance on self-reports, and will further improve the accuracy of disease-risk factor associations.
Jason’s long term goal is to pursue an academic research career contributing to the body of knowledge relating to physical activity and health. He followed his undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at the University of Toronto with a Master of Science where his thesis project looked at the links between mental health and physical activity levels in breast cancer survivors.
Outside of his academic life, he coaches youth hockey and plays right wing for the Oxford Varsity Blues team. He is very grateful for the recognition of the CCSF for his dedication to his research area, and of his personal commitment to making a difference in his community.