Background: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. In comparison to whites, African-Americans have a higher risk of dying from CVD and have a worse risk factor profile. The Jackson Heart Study (JHS) is designed to investigate the origin and natural history of CVD in African-Americans.
Methods: Reading centers for electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, carotid ultrasonograms, pulmonary function tests, and ambulatory blood pressure monitoring provide training for data accrual, quality assurance assessments, and specialized measurements for research objectives. Laboratories adhering to well-established quality assurance programs provide blood and urine analyses, as well as storage of specimens for future assays. A new Coordinating Center was created to perform functions analogous to those of coordinating centers for multisite studies, including protocol development, data management, statistical analyses, and operational support for the study. An established coordinating center serves as a resource to the JHS Coordinating Center, providing assistance in preparing procedure manuals and data collection forms. This group also designed and developed the JHS data management system.
Results: This network of specialized research organizations is implementing state- of-the-science methodologies to assess prevalence, progression, and incidence of CVD and subclinical atherosclerosis, and to evaluate a myriad of risk factors. From November 2000 through March 2004, JHS collected 4000 data fields on each of more than 5300 African-American participants.
Conclusions: This article describes the roles of specialized research agencies contributing to JHS, and the methodologies being utilized to accumulate study data. A diverse collection of scientific disciplines is required to collect the information needed to meet the objectives of the JHS.