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rev-68041Gerald Berenson, MD, and his team at the Bogalusa Heart Study have been collecting health data about childhood heart disease risk factors and their lifetime implications for 39 years, making it the longest running biracial health study in the world. The study has generated thousands of peer-reviewed articles and provided hands-on training for hundreds of medical and public health students. Berenson just published his third book about lessons learned from the Bogalusa Heart Study: Evolution of Cardio-metabolic Risk from Childhood to Middle Age (Springer, 2011).

“We started our study with school-age children, from 5 to 17 years old. Because of the results we went down to preschool age, 2.5 to 5.5 years old,” says Berenson. Ultimately, the Bogalusa team sought birth records to try to answer questions about birth weight and heart disease and diabetes risk. A majority of the people who began participating in the study as school children continued to come back to the Bogalusa clinic for follow-up health checks as first years, and then decades rolled by, creating a generation of heart health data.

The secret to the loyalty and commitment of the study participants was becoming partners with them in their health, says Berenson.

“When we did a physical examination for the study, we sent back information to them and their doctor and referred them to their private physicians if they had them. If there was any kind of medical problems I went and examined them myself and took care of them. I had 4,500 patients to look at initially,” Berenson recalls, wryly. The study has screened over 16,000 individuals in the Bogalusa area over the duration of the study.

Research results from the Bogalusa Heart Study demonstrated that when risk factors for metabolic syndrome and heart disease are present in childhood, related health problems such as high blood pressure, hardened arteries, heart disease, and diabetes are more likely to occur in adulthood.
Dr. BerensonGerald Berenson has been studying risk factors to children’s health for nearly 40 years, expanding his work beyond Bogalousa, LA, to partnerships around the globe. His research is now looking at longevity and genetics.
“Now we are looking at longevity and doing genetic studies,” says Berenson, who is working with his staff to develop a formal archive of the Bogalusa Heart Study. He also is building international collaborations with researchers from nations including Finland and Australia that have been studying health data over the lifespan.

Despite his contribution to the understanding of children’s heart health, Berenson says there are still many questions he wants answered, among them: “I’d like to know why are so many prescriptions given for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, how to control violent behavior, how to overcome the inertia in schools to teach proven health education.”

Berenson and his team have tried to solve that last question with a health education program called Health Ahead/Heart Smart. The K – 6 health curriculum which was implemented for nearly 7,000 students in Washington Parish schools and resulted in better control over weight gain among participating students as well as better fitness results in national tests.

Bogalusa Heart Study Charts Risk Factors in Child Health >

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WHEN IT COMES TO PROVIDING HEALTHCARE, no region in the country has dealt with more unique environmental, sociological, and cultural challenges than those experienced by the Greater New Orleans area. Poverty, crime, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, low levels of education, and natural disaster have plagued it for decades. Hurricane Katrina caused a major brain drain in the medical community, and yet there are over two thousand physicians replenishing the area. Poor health indicators, including a high smoking rate, morbid obesity, and alcoholism, contribute to the high incidence of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and mental health issues.

Attention Members:

In January 2017, the Louisiana State Medical Society (LSMS) House of Delegates voted to amend the LSMS Charter and Bylaws as they relate to their requirement for joint membership. Beginning on September 1, 2017, Orleans Parish Medical Society members will have a choice on how to spend annual membership dues. You may now choose to join either OPMS or LSMS or both.

Membership in both organizations is encouraged but no longer required. The LSMS is the 17th state medical society to move away from the unified membership model, which was established in 1903. Additionally, each individual Parish Medical Society must determine their future relationship with LSMS by choosing to be designated as either a Chartered or an Affiliated Parish Society. After careful review and considerations of information and options provided by LSMS on "Local Independence", the Orleans Parish Medical Society board of directors has decided that OPMS will remain a "Chartered" Medical Society.

Re-enrolling in Orleans Parish Medical Society:
By October 1, 2017, you will be receiving information regarding re-enrollment in Orleans Parish Medical Society via mail and e-mail. We plan to make re-enrollment as simple as possible by providing stamp-addressed return envelopes and the option of enrolling using an electronic platform to re-enroll on the OPMS website, www.OPMS.org. We hope that you decide to remain an OPMS member and will encourage others to join as well. 

Follow updates from Orleans Parish Medical Society on social media:
Orleans Parish Medical Society now provides regular information and updates on Facebook and LinkedIn social media platforms. If you are not already, please follow OPMS on social media. In addition, we will also soon feature an OPMS Twitter handle and a OPMS LinkedIn discussion group.

If you have any questions about future enrollment in Orleans Parish Medical Society and our new social media platforms, please feel free to contact me at jpittman@OPMS.org. Have a great weekend! -- Jim P.