More than three million adults in the UK are being invited to take part in one of the world’s largest health research programmes.

As part of what is said to be one of the most ambitious projects of its kind, Our Future Health plans to develop new ways to detect diseases earlier – when they can be more easily treated – and more accurately predict who is at greater risk diseases such as cancerdiabetes, heart disease, dementia and stroke.

Volunteers will also include people who have previously been underrepresented in research, such as people of black, Asian and other ethnic backgrounds, and people with lower incomes.

Dr Ragib Ali, chief medical officer at Our Future Health, said: “One of the things we haven’t been able to do (in the past) is recruit enough non-European people – so (for) people from the South Asian and black communities we haven’t had sufficient numbers to study disease in these populations.

The aim is to try to create a sandbox to test and evaluate these early diagnosis and prevention strategies among a large group of people

Sir John Bell, Our Health Future

“Our Future Health will allow us to do this for the first time at an efficient scale.”

Ultimately, up to five million people over the age of 18 will be able to join Our Future Health over the next few years, which the researchers say will include “thousands of people from ethnic minorities”.

Those who take part in the program are expected to participate in it for a long time and will be required to consent to the provision of DNA and blood samples.

Health data collected from participants will be anonymized and stored in research environments that meet strict security criteria, the researchers said.

In the future, volunteers will be able to receive feedback about their health, including their risk of common diseases, based on their health data and DNA analysis.

They will also be offered the results of blood pressure and cholesterol measurements.

People living in West Yorkshire, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Greater London will be among the first to receive letters.

Professor Sir John Bell, chairman of Our Future Health, said: “The ambition is to try to create a sandbox to test and evaluate these early diagnosis or prevention strategies in a large number of people – between three and five million people.

“And we’ll be able to use this population to help us evaluate these new tools, diagnose disease early, prevent disease more effectively, and intervene at earlier stages.”