Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project -- Pioneering Population Based Research

johnston county project
Research performed in Johnston County, NC has been the source of over 60 supplementary and ancillary studies.

Brief History
For more than 25 years, the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project (JoCoOA) in Smithfield, NC has established itself as one of the premier longitudinal research studies world-wide regarding the epidemiology of osteoarthritis. 

Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health, and other multiple sources, it is internationally-recognized as the flagship study of the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center.  It was one of the first studies in the US to examine the incidence, prevalence and progression of osteoarthritis in African Americans and whites in a rural county. 

The hallmark of this study is its population-based cohort.  The strength of a population-based study is that results can be applied to the general population regarding lifetime risk or prevalence of a disease.  Stability is of paramount importance in the life of a research study.  The Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project has been continuously managed by the same Principal Investigator, has benefited from the direction and oversight of the same Project Officer at the CDC, has had its radiographs read by a single musculoskeletal radiologist, and the majority of the interviewers and research clinic examiners have been with the study for a decade or more. 

Measuring leg length
Researcher Yvonne Golightly, PhD, PT, measures leg length inequality to learn how this condition relates to pain and arthritis.
Recently, the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project received renewed funding from the CDC that extends to 2021. Plans are in the works for opening enrollment to new participants to address naturally-occurring attrition over the past two and a half decades.  New enrollment will include a younger cohort of participants, starting at age 35.

JoCoOA Leadership at UNC 
Since 1990, Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH has been the Principal Investigator for the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project.  Dr. Jordan is a rheumatologist/epidemiologist; the Joseph P. Archie, Jr. Eminent Professor of Medicine; Chief, Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology; Director, UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center (TARC); and Executive Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Leadership Development in the UNC School of Medicine.  She is the recipient of the 2007 Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) Clinical Research Award, and the 2009 Award for Excellence in Investigative Mentoring, along with numerous research preceptorships for medical and graduate students from the American College of Rheumatology Research and Education Foundation (ACR REF), and the Medical Student Training in Aging Research (MSTAR) program.  

Scope of Work
The Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project is home to a vast repository of radiographic, genetic, clinical, behavioral, psychosocial and social determinants data.  Data have been collected on knees, hips, hands, spine, feet and ankles.  Numerous collaborative studies to date have been successfully executed, creating new analytical data sets spanning 7,500 participants.  These data sets serve as an invaluable library for secondary analyses that have, in turn, produced hundreds of publications across diverse disciplines, including health behavior, orthopedics, exercise & sport science, and physical therapy – to name a few.  This project provides an optimal training ground for new researchers, including rheumatology fellows, medical and graduate students, and junior faculty.

Publications from the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project, and other osteoarthritis-related work
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JoCoOA Newsletter

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