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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Center for Epidemiology & Population Health

Active Projects

Learn more about our active projects below. Center projects align with our three key reasearch programs.

A New Generation of Prospective Cohorts - Innovative Data Linkages

Principal Investigator: Faraz S. Ahmad, MD, MS

Combining the rigorous and detailed phenotyping done as part of the NHLBI Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis with the power of electronic health records may lead to a more complete picture of an individuals’ health over time. This is just one of the studies we have that leverages innovative data linkages and brings together unique data sources each within its own strengths and limitations. Future studies will expand across the nation.
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A Systems Science Approach to Understanding Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Obesity

Principal Investigator: Kiarri N. Kershaw, PhD, MPH

Identifying effective strategies for reducing obesity is critical for alleviating the unequal burden of obesity and related adverse outcomes facing black and Hispanic women in the U.S. The overall goal of this project is to use a systems science methodology, agent-based modeling, to understand place and interpersonal effects on utilization of different food outlets and food types (salty snacks, sweet snacks, fruits, vegetables). We will then use this model to simulate the potential effectiveness of a variety of multi-level interventions designed to promote healthful eating behavior change.

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Chicago Healthy Eating Environments and Resources Study (CHEERS)

Principal Investigator: Kiarri N. Kershaw, PhD, MPH

We developed the Chicago Healthy Eating Environments and Resources Study (CHEERS) to better understand how women aged 18-44 years use their environment, available resources and each other to make eating decisions that influence overall health and obesity. Between September 2016 and October 2017, we collected data about eating behaviors and food availability in four neighborhoods in the city of Chicago. We anticipate that CHEERS will represent the first step in a larger research agenda to enable Chicago families to make healthier eating decisions and reduce obesity and cardiovascular disease risk.
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Childhood Cardiovascular Health Trajectories and Adult Outcomes: A Pooled Cohort

Principal Investigator: Norrina Bai Allen, PhD

The American Heart Association (AHA) defines "ideal cardiovascular health" (CVH) as the simultaneous presence of optimal levels of seven metrics comprising the major CVH behaviors and health factors: no smoking, recommended physical activity, healthy diet score, favorable body mass index (BMI) and low blood pressure, total cholesterol and fasting plasma glucose. The overall goal of this project is to examine early trajectories of the CVH metrics and score among five childhood/young adult cohorts (the Bogalusa Heart Study, the Young Finns Study, Project HeartBeat!, STRIP and CARDIA) and to contribute new knowledge supporting AHA’s commitment to achieve the 2020 Impact Goal.

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Dementia Risk Pooling Project (DRPP)

Principal Investigator: Norrina B. Allen, PhD

The Dementia Risk Pooling Project harmonizes 11 prospective, natural history cohorts of diverse middle and older age adults, recruited across multiple sites with multiple in-person assessments of clinical, genetic and behavioral risk factors, follow-up of greater than 10 years, and ongoing ADRD ascertainment. The DRPP will be made available to researchers via a cloud-based computing platform. We will develop and validate an accurate and personalized, dynamic dementia risk prediction model which incorporates longitudinal risk factor measurements and updates as new measurements are accrued.  This tool can be used clinically to guide treatment decisions and will be made available to clinicians.

Healthier, Earlier: Cardiovascular Health Trajectories from Birth Through Adolescence

Principal Investigator: Norrina Bai Allen, PhD

Closing the gap in knowledge about emergent CVH within a developmental context is a transformative step toward the goal of preserving CVH from its origins via primordial prevention and ultimately reducing the burden of CVD. The goal of this study is to characterize trajectories in CVH from birth to age 12, link these CVH trajectories to rigorously collected health metrics and measures of subclinical atherosclerosis and elucidate the role of neurodevelopmental health in these pathways. We are using data from the CAPriCORN electronic health record data repository linked to the Mapping the Diversity of Young Children Neurodevelopmental Cohort.

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Precision Medicine Intitiative

Principal Investigator: Philip Greenland, MD

The Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) is a long-term research endeavor, involving the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and multiple other research centers, which aims to understand how a person's genetics, environment and lifestyle can help determine the best approach to prevent or treat disease. The long-term goals of the PMI focus on bringing precision medicine to all areas of health and healthcare on a large scale. To this end, the NIH has launched a study, known as the All of Us Research Program, which involves a group (cohort) of at least 1 million volunteers from around the United States.

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Racial/Ethnic Residential Segregation and cardiovascular disease risk

Principal Investigator: Kiarri N. Kershaw, PhD, MPH

Racial/ethnic residential segregation is the systematic separation of individuals by race/ethnicity. The processes that contribute to segregation patterns in the U.S. are the result of a complex set of social, cultural and economic factors that also lead to the differential distribution of and exposure to resources and opportunities by race/ethnicity. Our group has utilized several nationally representative cross-sectional datasets and longstanding cohort studies to examine the contributions of residential segregation to cardiovascular disease risk factors and outcomes.

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The Lifetime Risk Pooling Project

Principal Investigator: John T. Wilkins, MD

The LRPP was designed as an individual-level pooled dataset from 20 U.S. community-based cardiovascular disease cohorts. Cohorts were selected if they included at least one baseline examination with direct measurements of physiological or anthropometric variables and included at least five years of follow-up for fatal or nonfatal CVD events with high-quality CVD endpoint assessment. Studies using the LRPP have examined lifetime risk of cardiovascular diseases, blood pressure, cancer and other major chronic disease. In addition, the LRPP has served as a resource for creating risk prediction equations and estimating population attributable risk in the U.S.

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Using Ecological Momentary Assessments to Measure Stress Reactivity in Natural Settings

Principal Investigator: Kiarri N. Kershaw, PhD, MPH

The way people respond to stressful situations (i.e., stress reactivity) varies widely. Scientists typically measure stress reactivity in controlled studies, but this is limited because laboratory stressors cannot capture the variety, severity or duration of stressors that individuals face in their daily lives. We conducted a pilot ecological momentary assessment (EMA) in 35 women to examine the feasibility of using a novel method combining EMA with heart rate variability measurement to develop a measure of stress reactivity in natural settings.

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