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Women's Health Initiative seeks volunteers (6/11/98)

South Texas researchers helping to conduct the largest study ever of women's health are looking for 500 more women from the region to join an observational study.

"We have closed recruitment for our clinical trial but not our observational study," said Rose Jackson of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, the South Texas site for the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). "Not much is required, a blood test only, and participants receive lots of benefits."

The WHI is funded by $628 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health to centers nationwide including the Health Science Center. Jackson is the recruitment coordinator for the South Texas WHI efforts. The study's goal is to reduce coronary heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and osteoporotic fractures among postmenopausal women. Thousands of women already are taking part, including 2,728 from South Texas.

The observational study looks at the relationship between lifestyle factors, health and quality of life. "We gather information on health habits such as physical activity and diet, and physical measurements such as blood pressure and body weight, and we take blood tests to see how these factors affect health and quality of life," Jackson said. Participants come to the Health Science Center twice a year and complete an annual health form.

Women in the observational study receive free blood tests and monitoring, discounted travel, prizes and gifts, free breakfasts or luncheons, a free magazine subscription, a bimonthly local newsletter, a free lecture series and significant health information.

Women ages 50-79 from all socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds are invited to enroll. Participants in the observational study are followed an average of nine years.

Besides the observational study, the WHI includes a clinical trial in which some women receive dietary counseling and others are placed on hormone replacement therapy. Enrollment in the clinical trial is now limited to women who have already registered with the WHI.

"This is so good not just for what we can get out of it but what we can give to our daughters and granddaughters," said dietary study participant Alice Soehl, 65, who works in the communications technology department at the Health Science Center. "This is part of our legacy to them."

"I'm here to help myself," said fellow dietary participant Virginia Gill, also 65, of San Antonio. "I've lost some weight and do more exercise now. I'm in a pool three times a week. I also care about my daughters, about what this might reveal for them. They're more health-conscious than I was."

"There still is a great need for women, especially minority women, to enroll in the observational study," said Robert Brzyski, MD, PhD, assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology and co-principal investigator on the South Texas WHI. "The more women we start with, the more details we can understand about the problems of postmenopausal aging, and the easier it will be to relate the observations we make to all women."

Dr. Brzyski said that the Health Science Center is one of only three centers specializing in studying women of Hispanic heritage, and he emphasized the importance of maximal Hispanic participation to the goals of the project. Those most desired for the observational study in South Texas are women in their 70s and who are Hispanic.

The National Institutes of Health has set a June 30 deadline for centers to complete observational study enrollment. For more details or to check eligibility, call (210) 567-5013.

Contact: Will Sansom, (210) 567-2570