BACKGROUND: Despite the finding that Parkinson disease (PD) occurs in more than one in every 1000 people older than 60 years, there have been few attempts to quantify how deficits in impairments, activity, participation, and quality of life progress in this debilitating condition. It is unclear which tools are most appropriate for measuring change over time in PD. METHODS AND DESIGN: This protocol describes a prospective analysis of changes in impairments, activity, participation, and quality of life over a 12 month period together with an economic analysis of costs associated with PD. One-hundred participants will be included, provided they have idiopathic PD rated I-IV on the modified Hoehn & Yahr (1967) scale and fulfil the inclusion criteria. The study aims to determine which clinical and economic measures best quantify the natural history and progression of PD in a sample of people receiving services from the Victorian Comprehensive Parkinson's Program, Australia. When the data become available, the results will be expressed as baseline scores and changes over 3 months and 12 months for impairment, activity, participation, and quality of life together with a cost analysis. DISCUSSION: This study has the potential to identify baseline characteristics of PD for different Hoehn & Yahr stages, to determine the influence of disease duration on performance, and to calculate the costs associated with idiopathic PD. Valid clinical and economic measures for quantifying the natural history and progression of PD will also be identified. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ACTRN12609000008224.