UNC awarded $22 million to coordinate Hispanic Community Health Study

October 12, 2006
A $22 million federal contract to coordinate a nationwide health study of Hispanics in the United States has been awarded to the Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Hispanic Community Healthy Study will examine the impact of acculturation – adapting to life in a new environment and culture – on the health of the U.S. Hispanic population. The study will identify the prevalence and risk factors (protective or harmful) for a broad range of diseases, disorders and conditions – everything from heart disease to dental cavities. The researchers plan to recruit 16,000 Hispanic adults from groups of origin including Mexican-American, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Central/South American.

Photograph of Dr. Lisa LaVange

Photograph of Dr. Lisa LaVange

“This study will be the most comprehensive assessment of health ever done in this rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population,” said Dr. Lisa LaVange, UNC professor of biostatistics and one of the principal investigators from UNC’s Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center. “We are thrilled that UNC will be at the forefront of this research.”

The center, which is part of the UNC School of Public Health’s biostatistics department, was selected as the study coordinating center by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. The $22 million award will be distributed during the next six-and-a-half years.

As coordinating center, the UNC project team will be responsible for study design and monitoring, data management and analysis and coordination of a central laboratory and reading center. The UNC center also will provide data quality control and manuscript preparation.

National data show that U.S. Hispanic populations overall have lower mortality rates from heart disease compared to non-Hispanics, but have increased prevalence of obesity and diabetes, according to the institute. Hispanics also have a lower incidence of all types of cancer than blacks or whites, and are less likely to die of cancer. Lifestyle changes associated with U.S. culture – such as nutrition, smoking, role of family and community – could affect these patterns. Data from the study will identify the cultural factors that influence disease development in the Hispanic population.

Study participants will be recruited through four field centers located at San Diego State University in California, Northwestern University in Chicago, Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and the University of Miami in Florida. Each person will receive an extensive clinic exam and health assessment when the study begins. The participants will be interviewed each year for up to four years to see how their health changes in specific areas that the study is designed to assess.

The study results will be shared with communities involved in the study to help improve public health at the local level.

Dr. Lloyd Chambless, UNC research professor of biostatistics, is principal investigator for the coordinating center. Assisting him as co-principal investigators are LaVange and Dr. Gerardo Heiss, UNC professor of epidemiology.

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Note: LaVange can be reached at (919) 966-8333 or lisa_lavange@unc.edu.

School of Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, (919) 966-7467, ramona_dubose@unc.edu.

News Services contact:
Becky Oskin, (919) 962-8596, becky_oskin@unc.edu.