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OSU Medical Center Ohio Awarded $7.4 Million for Women and Aging

  • Synopsis: Published: 2010-10-17 - Ohio State Medical Center is one of four regional centers collaborating to help understand risk predictors of women health conditions after menopause. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations.

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The Ohio State University Medical Center has received a $7.4 million federal grant, as one of the lead organizations in a national project to better understand healthy aging in postmenopausal women. The project is an extension of the Women's Health Initiative, a 15-year federally funded research study and the largest coordinated study of women's health.

Ohio State's Medical Center is one of four regional centers collaborating to help understand risk predictors of women's health conditions after menopause, and to develop strategies to improve the quality of life for women as they age.

Dr. Rebecca Jackson, associate dean for clinical research at the OSU Medical Center, is overseeing the work of the 10 institutions in the Midwest region, including Northwestern, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota.

The study is composed of past participants in the Women's Health Initiative ( WHI ), which was established in 1991 by the National Institutes of Health ( NIH ) to address the most common causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women. Major areas of research included cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis. Participants who initially entered the WHI were between the ages of 50 and 79. Now the same WHI participants, returning to take part in the current study, range in age from the mid-60s to mid-90s.

"We know that people who live long may have any number of health problems, yet they live well and are able to compensate for them," says Jackson. "This study will help us explore the factors that allow women to be resilient and to live well with chronic disease; and to offer advice to help younger women live longer, healthier lives than any past generation."

Jackson has a more than 20-year commitment to women's health, with a specific interest in osteoporosis. She currently serves as vice chair for the NIH-sponsored Women's Health Initiative. She has taken part in the WHI since 1994, and has received an NIH grant to conduct the first ever genome-wide association studies to determine the genetic variations that contribute to risk for hip fractures in women.

"The important opportunity within WHI - which is like no other study in the past - is to gain a better understanding of the impact of environmental modifiers on the development of health issues in women as they age," says Jackson. "Now we're able to study the impact of all the differences in lifestyle choices, as well as the biomarkers and genetic predictors of the health consequences as women move into their much later adult years."

The Women's Health Initiative originally involved more than 161,000 women. According to Jackson, more than 2,300 women in Columbus have already returned for the new project, representing 87 percent of the past participants.

"From the very beginning, WHI has given the participants and their providers the information they need to make better health care choices," says Jackson. "My hope for the future is that our added information will help empower women of all ages to make personalized choices for their health, and to develop the healthiest lifestyles possible.

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