Decades-long Health Study Launched in Lake Nona

Sep 4

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Source: WKMG-TV News 6 (tap here to view video on mobile devices)
Author: Tara Evans, Producer, tevans@wkmg.com

ORLANDO, Fla. – Exercise, eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep– all things that we know contribute to health. But how many of us regularly do them?

That’s the question the Lake Nona community is working to answer as part of a major health study it’s kicking off.

It’s called the Lake Nona Life Project, and thousands of residents have the chance to be a part of it and get results that will potentially save lives all over the world.

“There’s an overall vision for the Lake Nona community that’s been built around health and wellness, sustainability and education,” said Gloria Caulfield, the vice president of strategic alliances and executive director for the Lake Nona Institute.

She said because of the community’s vision, it makes it the perfect spot for this unique longitudinal study.

“It’s an opportunity to collect data and insights over multiple years,” said Caulfield. “A lot of times when we look at health data or population data, it’s a slice. It’s kind of a snapshot in time, but that in and of itself is not helpful. What’s helpful is looking at projects like this. This is the opportunity to look at data longitudinally which means we will be looking hopefully at health and wellness of this population for multiple years. In a week, we are not going to have all the answers. In a year, we’re not going to have all the answers, but we are going to look back several years from now and say. “This all started with this community and these people and we have this body of knowledge.'”

Think of Lake Nona as a living laboratory. People who live and work there and want to participate will be tracked for decades in order to see how big of a difference healthy lifestyle decisions really can make in our lives. It’s not just the Lake Nona Institute that’s involved in the project– it will be carried out by Lake Nona Medical City researchers and partners. It even has founding sponsorship from Johnson & Johnson Health & Wellness Solutions, Inc.

Caulfield said all adults who live or work in Lake Nona are eligible to participate.

The study is modeled after the famous Framingham Heart Study from Massachusetts. It’s a decades-long cardiovascular study that’s been called one of the most important health studies of the 20th century.

“The most important insights around cardiovascular disease all stemmed out of that project,” said Caulfield. “So things that we take for granted now like exercise, obesity, smoking, we understand all of that contributes to cardiovascular disease and that was one of the dozens of observations and findings that came out of Framingham.”

Findings that are saving and have saved lives. Just ask resident Harrison Greene.

“It saved my life, actually,” said Greene. “I had had a massive heart attack and the Framingham heart study provided my care providers with tremendous research on how to deal with this heart. That was 25 years ago, and the bypasses I have — because of this treatment and because of this study — are still pumping like crazy.”

Now, he lives in Lake Nona and is a big advocate for the Life project because of the results it has the potential to get.

“I’m hoping someday, somewhere, someone’s life is extended because of the data I helped provide,” said Greene.

Caulfield said the best part is, you don’t have to do too much to help save lives. There’s an initial health survey when you sign up, and after that, it just requires minutes of your time a year.

“If you donate about 40 minutes of your time a year, you can really make a difference in what we as a country can learn about health and wellness for future generations,” said Caulfield. “It’s strictly voluntary, nobody has to participate, but that said, so far within the sub-populations that we have been talking to, we’ve had over 70 percent participation and it’s because it isn’t very invasive.”

She said there’s a wide range of questions, including personality, health habits, lifestyle — and you can even submit your insurance claims history.

If you’re worried about privacy, Caulfield said you shouldn’t be.

“There’s so many protections that are put in place to make sure we’re protecting the people who are volunteering to be involved in the project.” said Caulfield.

“No one ever knows who you are, because the protocols are set in such a way that no one even knows who you are by name,” said Greene. “It’s impossible to track who said what by name. It’s not about names, it’s about people.”

Caulfield said people aren’t compensated for their information, but they will have access to Health Media Digital Health Coaching programs that contain information in several different areas of health and wellness. They may also have the opportunity, as the study progresses, to be a part of additional research on specific topics, like sleep and aging.

Bottom line: Greene said it’s a no-brainer.

“You don’t have that opportunity that often to make an impact,” said Greene. “We often wonder, ‘Why don’t people do more?’ Well, here’s an opportunity to do more, so why not?”