The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and six other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)  announced contracts totaling $61 million over 6 ½ years to conduct the largest long-term epidemiological study of health and disease in Latin American populations living in the United States.

As many as 16,000 participants of Hispanic/Latino origin—4,000 at each of four sites—will undergo a series of physical examinations and interviews to help identify the prevalence of and risk factors for a wide variety of diseases, disorders, and conditions. Participants in the Hispanic Community Health Study will range in age from 18 to 74 years and will be followed over time for occurrence of disease. The study will also determine the role of cultural adaptation and disparities in the prevalence and development of disease. In line with the recommendations of a 2003 NHLBI report on epidemiological research in Hispanic populations, the study will recruit persons who identify themselves as Hispanics or Latinos, but will emphasize Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and Central/South Americans.

“The Hispanic population is the largest minority population in the United States, and it is expected to triple in growth by 2050. As this population continues to increase—and to experience varying rates of disease—it is vitally important to understand the risk factors and health behaviors that contribute to these diseases. The knowledge gained from this study will benefit not only Hispanic populations but will also enhance understanding of health and disease in other ethnic groups,” says NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, MD.

The Hispanic Community Health Study is broad-based, addressing a wide variety of conditions, including heart disease, stroke, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sleep disorders, dental disease, hearing impairment and tinnitus, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, and cognitive impairment.

The study will assess such risk factors as diet, physical activity, obesity, smoking, blood pressure, blood lipids, acculturation, social and economic disparity, psychosocial factors, occupation, health care access, the environment, and medication and supplement use.