The Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project

The Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project  (JoCoOA) operates from the Thurston Arthritis Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and our offices in Smithfield, North Carolina.NC map.jpg

  • This project is a unique, prospective, population-based study of knee, hip, hand and spine osteoarthritis and disability in African Americans and Caucasians, aged 45 years and older.
  • This study has been continually funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since 1990 and the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) since 1993.
  • It has been the source of over 30 supplementary and ancillary studies funded by several NIH Institutes, private foundations, industry, and philanthropy.
  • The scope of this comprehensive project includes clinical, radiographic, psychosocial, and behavioral data.  Genetics, health disparities, disability, injury, occupation and social determinants are also part of this twenty-year old dataset.

Prior to the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project, no other study in the United States had examined urban and rural differences in medically defined arthritis, nor had specific rural areas been studied in detail.

Even though Johnston County was an ideal location for the study, getting started was a massive undertaking.  Using 1990 census data, the project needed to ensure that both Caucasians and African Americans participated in numbers to make the outcomes meaningful.  Armed with the census data and maps, volunteers and staff spread out to contact individuals in person.  Of the 14,297 identified dwellings, 4866 were deemed eligible based on the demographics that the investigators wanted to target.  From the door- to-door work, the subsequent home interviews and clinic visits, over 3100 Johnston County residents became members of the study, followed by another 1200 who joined in 2003-04.

For the past 20 years, the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project has been at the forefront of research into the causes and consequences of osteoarthritis.  The most significant factor in the project’s success has been the thousands of study participants, our devoted project staff and our many collaborators.  We recognize and appreciate their role in this important endeavor.