Paul Covington of Mississippi coached basketball for 30 years before retiring from Jackson State University. He knew he hadn’t always followed a healthy diet even though he was quite active. Wrong food choices and late-night meals were the sources of concern.
Covington was already a volunteer for the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study initially in the 1980s and is still a part of that research at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state’s only health sciences campus. So, when the Jackson Heart Study (JHS) began recruiting volunteers, they invited participants in the ARIC study to join. And Covington answered the call. Twenty years later, he’s still part of the team.
“At first, I did it for selfish reasons,” said Covington. “I had been coaching so long, I thought maybe getting in the program would help me find out if I had done any damage to my body. After thinking about all of it, I found out in the long run this will help a lot of people. So what started out to be selfish will end up helping others.”
The JHS is the largest study of cardiovascular disease in African–Americans ever undertaken. The landmark study is a federally funded partnership among Jackson State University, Tougaloo College and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The program’s objective is to assist researches in finding out why African–Americans, particularly those who live in Mississippi, have a higher rate of death from cardiovascular disease than any other group. The partnership is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health.
Widespread community involvement has contributed to the JHS attracting 97 percent of its participation goal. Of the 6,193 African–Americans initially interviewed for the study, 5,307 of the 5,500 desired completed the required clinic visit.