Posted on November 3, 2006

Study To Track Health Of Hispanics

Judith Graham, Chicago Tribune, November 1, 2006

The largest health study of Hispanics ever launched gets under way in Chicago and three other cities this month, supported by $61 million in government funding.

The 6 1/2-year project will track the prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart failure and asthma and investigate factors that put Hispanics at risk.

The project also will examine how the health status of Hispanics changes over time as immigrants from Mexico, Puerto Rico and Central/South America acculturate to the U.S. and alter their lifestyles.

Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the University of Illinois at Chicago are getting a $9.6 million grant to study 4,000 Latino residents between the ages of 18 and 74. Participants will get a comprehensive medical exam each year and answer detailed questions about habits such as smoking, eating and exercise. Recruitment begins next year.

“The Hispanic population is the largest minority population in the United States, and it is expected to triple in growth by 2050,” said Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, the project funder.

“As this population continues to increase — and to experience varying rates of disease — it is vitally important to understand the risk factors and health behaviors that contribute to these diseases.”

Aida Giachello, director of the UIC’s Midwest Latino Health Research Center, called the Institutes of Health project historic because of its scope and because it recognizes the “growing concentration of Latinos not just on the coasts but in Chicago and the Midwest.”

This is going to allow us to understand in much greater depth what issues Latinos face here and what policies are needed to protect and promote their health,” she said.

Dr. Martha Daviglus, principal investigator and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern, said community advisers in Chicago would offer ongoing feedback to the project. Participants will get child care and transportation assistance and help from community health promoters, as needed. Also, monthly community forums about Hispanic health issues are planned.

About 1.5 million Hispanics live in Illinois, including 800,000 in Chicago. Nationally, almost 35 percent of Hispanics are uninsured, the highest rate of any ethnic group.