For more than 25 years, the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project has established itself as one of the premier longitudinal research studies world-wide regarding the causes, societal implications, and means of addressing the impact of osteoarthritis. Ongoing research is providing important new insights regarding how osteoarthritis is diagnosed and assessed clinically, as well as how it can be addressed in community settings.

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Amanda Nelson, MD, MSCR, RhMSUS; and Yvonne Golightly, PT, MS, PhD

The Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project was initiated in 1990 and led for 27 years by Dr. Joanne M. Jordan, who was the principal investigator, and who also served as Director of the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center as well as Chief of the UNC Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology Division. With Dr. Jordan’s promotion to the role of Vice Dean in the Office of Faculty Affairs and Leadership Development, the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project is now being led by two Co-Principal Investigators with the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center: Rheumatologist Amanda Nelson, MD, MSCR, RhMUS; and Epidemiologist Yvonne Golightly, PT, MS, PhD. Dr. Jordan remains a co-investigator for the research project.

“I am thrilled to have two highly skilled investigators to take the reins of this long-standing project, and I am eagerly anticipating how they will shape the next 25 years of this unique community-university partnership,” says Dr. Jordan.

Both Drs. Nelson and Golightly have worked with the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project since 2006 and together have authored 33 publications based on findings from this project. Research performed in Johnston County, NC, has been the source of over 70 supplementary and ancillary studies as well as more than 200 publications.

“Our research is unique because we are bringing to bear a vast repository of population-based data, paired with the latest findings that are being made available thanks to innovative analytic methods and application of imaging and other technologies,” says Dr. Nelson. “As a result, we are gaining valuable insights that help better inform how we evaluate and treat patients with osteoarthritis.”

Dr. Golightly, who combines her research background with training as a physical therapist, adds that a key goal of the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project is to identify interventions that patients can implement in their daily lives.

“In addition to learning about the causes and implications of osteoarthritis, we want to know more about what can realistically be done now – in real-world community settings – to reduce the impact of this disease on patients here, and across the country,” says Dr. Golightly.

Drs. Nelson and Golightly are leading efforts to begin enrollment of new participants, in order to address naturally-occurring attrition as well as to also include a younger cohort of participants, starting at age 35. This new cohort in Johnston County will include White, African American, and for the first time, Hispanic men and women.

Read more about the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project.