OBJECTIVE: To describe the lifestyle-related chronic disease and risk factor prevalence among Torres Strait Islander people of the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area Health Service District and to compare this information with that available for the general Australian population. METHODS: Voluntary community-based screening for persons aged 15 years and older, including oral glucose tolerance test, anthropometry, health questionnaire, measurement of lipids and lipoprotein levels, blood pressure and urinary albumin to creatinine ratio. RESULTS: Nine communities participated in screening between 1993 and 1997. Five hundred and ninety-two participants (286 male and 306 female) identified as Torres Strait Islander. There were high prevalences of overweight (30%), obesity (51%), abdominal obesity (70%), diabetes (26%), hypercholesterolaemia (33%), albuminuria (28%), hypertension (32%) and tobacco smoking (45%). Only 8.5% of men and 6.5% of women were free of any cardiovascular risk factors (abdominal obesity, hypercholesterolaemia, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, smoking, diabetes, albuminuria). Comparisons of this information for Torres Strait Islander people with results from the AusDiab survey show rates of obesity three times higher and diabetes six times higher than for other Australians. CONCLUSIONS: There is a very high prevalence of preventable chronic disease and associated risk factors among Torres Strait Islander people of the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area. IMPLICATIONS: Effective interventions to prevent and manage obesity, diabetes and associated cardiovascular risk factors are essential if the health of the Torres Strait Islander people is to improve. Such interventions could inform initiatives to stem the burgeoning epidemic of obesity and diabetes among all Australians.