About The Measurement Toolkit

Diet, physical activity, and anthropometric profiles are key determinants of non-communicable diseases and related conditions with high public health burden, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Accurate and appropriate methods of dietary assessment, physical activity assessment and anthropometry are required for multiple purposes, including but not limited to the following:

  1. To assess the dose-response associations between exposure and health end-points (e.g. sedentary behaviour and cardiovascular disease)
  2. To control for the confounding effects of these variables in epidemiological studies (e.g. physical activity in a study of diet-disease association)
  3. To assess the effect of interventions (e.g. effectiveness of a weight loss programme)
  4. To monitor the distribution and temporal trends of exposure within populations (e.g. nutritional status of populations with overnutrition or undernutrition)
  5. To understand the determinants of these exposures (e.g. association between neighbourhood safety and physical activity)
  6. To make cross-cultural and cross-population comparisons (e.g. regional dietary patterns; fat patterning and distribution)
  7. To increase the statistical power to identify the effects of specific genetic and environmental factors plus their interactions when studying the aetiology of disease

Methodological studies have advanced new and improved methods to assess diet, physical activity and anthropometric markers, including self-reported and objective measurements. However, information on how best to conduct measurements accurately and precisely in population health studies is not readily available. This can deter researchers, particularly those who are non-specialist in these areas, from including such assessment in their research. Or, they may choose suboptimal methods or instruments for their setting or population under study. Other than issues of feasibility and costs, there may be several explanations for this, such as:

  1. Lack knowledge of the most relevant or appropriate methods for the research question
  2. Difficulty understanding the terminology, jargon or short descriptions of methodological articles, hindering the implementation of the methods in new studies
  3. Restricted or obscured access to the appropriate instruments and accompanying resources
  4. Insufficient programming capacity to implement a given method

This toolkit aims to fill this gap by bringing together a web-based resource to facilitate dietary assessment, anthropometry and physical activity assessment.

We hope you will find the toolkit easy to navigate and self-explanatory. The toolkit includes:

  1. A concepts section describing the background measurement theory and terminology used throughout the toolkit.
  2. Dedicated sections on methods of assessment for diet, physical activity and anthropometry. Each section includes individual pages for different method types organised by higher level subjective or objective categories. Also provided are introductions to each of the fields of study and case studies on data harmonisation.
  3. Method selector matrices which summarise information on the method pages detailed above, facilitating comparison of the characteristics of different methods.
  4. Instrument libraries specific to each method type, providing links to resources and validation data enabling researchers to more readily evaluate or implement a given method.
  5. Glossary of key terms.

The MRC Population Health Sciences Research Network funded the initial development of a web-based toolkit of methodologies to measure diet and physical activity; this became known as the "DAPA toolkit" (Diet And Physical Activity) and was hosted on an MRC domain (www.dapa-toolkit.mrc.ac.uk/).

We are grateful to all experts who have contributed to the development of all versions of the toolkit.