NMMC joins study to identify risk factors in postmenopausal women
By Marty Russell
Most of what doctors know about treating and preventing illnesses comes from research based primarily on white, middle-class men with little attention to diseases common in postmenopausal women.
To remedy that, North Mississippi Medical Center, in conjunction with the University of Tennessee in Memphis, is taking part in an extensive, national study that will span 12 years and attempt to answer some of the questions about why women, generally 50 and older, are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis.
“Hopefully, this will identify some of the risk factors that cause some of those diseases,” said Cathy Bond, a registered nurse and clinical coordinator of the study at NMMC’s Women’s Center. “We believe we will find trends that will have local impact when we look at the data further.”
The $628 million study called the Women’s Health Initiative is a project of the National Institutes of Health. Forty-four centers around the nation, including NMMC, are participating in the study that will consist of two areas of research. One area will test a group of about 63,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 for a period of nine years as they undergo hormone replacement therapy, diet modification and take vitamin supplements.
The second area of research is the observational study in which NMMC is taking part. Women volunteers between the ages of 50 and 79 will be tracked over a period of eight to 12 years to determine the relationships of lifestyle and family history on risk factors for the targeted diseases.
Already about 40 women have signed up to participate in the NMMC study. Lucille Tomlinson, 67, of Tupelo, whose family has a history of heart problems, learned about the study at a seminar Bond gave at the hospital’s Wellness Center and signed up.
“When I heard her speak I knew I wanted to be a part of the program,” Tomlinson said. “I hope somehow this study helps a lot of younger people and generations to come. We’re very fortunate to have a program like this.”
Nationwide about 100,000 women are expected to take part in the observational study, which does not require a lot of the participants.
“The initial visit we collect data on their medical history and lifestyle and then we won’t see them again for two more years,” Bond said.
The participants are contacted annually by mail and asked to update questionnaires and follow-up visits are required after three years to update some of the physical tests and measurements taken during the initial visit.
“It takes very little time,” Tomlinson said.
Bond said already she has had women from as far away as Starkville and De Kalb inquire about participating in the program. To her knowledge, she said, NMMC is the only hospital in the state participating in the research.
Bond will be recruiting volunteers for the program through the end of 1997.
“If we could recruit 400 that would be wonderful,” she said of the local study.
Potential participants are asked to call 1-800-549-6636, which will put them in touch with the program’s office in Memphis. After an initial telephone interview, they will receive a questionnaire in the mail to fill out, and Bond will be contacted to set up an appointment for the initial office visit.
For their efforts, participants will receive an annual newsletter outlining the study’s progress and information from time to time about health issues for women in their age group.