Dr. Karen Winters, left, UMMC professor of nursing and associate director of the JHS Field Site, answers a question from Sheila Gibson of Jackson during the Community Mix and Mingle.
Dr. Karen Winters, left, UMMC professor of nursing and associate director of the JHS Field Site, answers a question from Sheila Gibson of Jackson during the Community Mix and Mingle.
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At brink of 20th anniversary, community matters to Jackson Heart Study

Published on Thursday, September 27, 2018

By: Karen Bascom

The Jackson Heart Study is a partnership between the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson State University, Tougaloo College, and as of August this year, the Mississippi State Department of Health. But ever since it commenced 20 years ago, there has been another, most important partner: the cohort of 5,300 Jackson-area African-Americans that volunteered their time and health information to make it all possible.

“Without you, there is no us,” Dr. Mario Sims, JHS chief science officer and UMMC professor of medicine, told attendees at a community Mix and Mingle celebration of the funding renewal for the JHS at the Jackson Medical Mall on Saturday, Sept. 22. “We are here to be stewards of your data, and we value your participation.”

Dr. Adolfo Correa, JHS director, discusses the study with community members and participants like Bemore Rockett, right, of Jackson.

Nearly 100 people attended the event, including representatives from all six JHS centers and the funding agencies: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health. Study leaders provided an overview of their center’s past accomplishments and future objectives for the next six years, then took turns meeting with small groups to answer their questions about the JHS, covering topics from the history of the study to goals for the future.

Dr. Adolfo Correa, JHS director and UMMC professor of medicine, also thanked the participants and told them that the study will continue to conduct research that is “rigorous, replicable and responsible.”

The NIH renewed their funding for the JHS August 13. The six-year contract includes funding for a fourth exam, continued annual follow-up and surveillance activities, conducted by the JHS Field Center at UMMC. It also supports the Coordinating Center at UMMC, the study’s administrative and scientific hub. In addition, it supports the Undergraduate and Graduate Training and Education Centers at Tougaloo College and Jackson State University, respectively, which prepare students for careers in public health and other health-related fields.

Brand new components in this renewal include a second Graduate Training and Education Center at UMMC and a Community Engagement Center managed by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH).

Dr. Victor Sutton, director of the CEC and the MSDH Office of Preventive Health, addresses community members at the JHS Mix and Mingle.

“We’re excited to be working with the community,” said Dr. Victor Sutton, director of the MSDH Office of Preventive Health and the JHS CEC.

The goal of CEC is to implement innovative evidence-based programs that will promote cardiovascular health and prevent disease. While the JHS is not recruiting new participants, the CEC creates the potential for the study to reach beyond its Jackson-area participants and affect communities statewide. Some of the initiatives which they hope to run during the next six years include Mayoral Health Councils, community health advisory networks and partnering with churches and barbershops to facilitate education and screening events.

In addition, the JHS will continue to host events like the Mix and Mingle, where people can gather and learn more about the study and how their data are being used.

Transparency is of the upmost importance for the JHS, Sutton said. During a Grand Rounds presentation the previous day at UMMC, Sutton cited the concept of “Nothing about us, without us,” meaning that the study requires the full, direct participation of Jackson’s African-American community to be successful.

“This is our study,” Sutton, a West Jackson native, told Mix and Mingle attendees Saturday. “There’s a role for everyone.”

Amel Mohamed, student coordinator and director of the UTEC at Tougaloo College, answers questions during the JHS Mix and Mingle.

Dr. Karen Winters, UMMC professor of nursing and associate director of the JHS Field Center, told attendees one way they can be involved is to volunteer to help write lay summaries, which distill the JHS’s peer-reviewed publications into accessible, plain-language documents for the public.

“Those of you who are English teachers or nurses, we could use your expertise,” Winters said.

The Jackson Heart Study received its first funding in 1998, with the first participant exam occurring in 2000. Many of these participants were recruited from the Jackson cohort of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, which marked its 30th anniversary in 2017.

Ruby Winters, Karen Winters’ mother, a retired UMMC nurse and Jackson resident, is a member of ARIC and JHS. She said that research is serious business and that the JHS has handled that responsibility well.

“The Jackson Heart Study has done a good job educating the community,” she said. “They believe in saving lives, and that’s what matters: keeping people living.”

Bemore Rockett of Jackson said staying with the Jackson Heart Study has provided other benefits.

“The community events are a social gathering,” he said. “They’re fun.”