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Funded Studies

Risk Factors for Parkinson’s Disease Among Participants in the Black Women’s Health Study

Study Rationale: Little is known about the incidence, clinical presentation and risk factors for Parkinson’s disease (PD) in Black women, yet the existing evidence suggest that they may have a worse disease course than white women. Established risk factors for PD are based on studies conducted in whites and they may play a different role in determining risk among Black women; at the same time, factors that have been less fully explored, such as racism, may be more relevant. The Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS) is a unique resource for studying the burden, presentation and risk factors for PD in Black women. 

Hypothesis: Studying the incidence and clinical presentation of PD among Black women participating in the BWHS and examining the role of established risk factors (smoking, caffeine intake and physical activity) and suspected risk factors (perceived racism, abuse and estrogen use) will enhance the management of PD in this population.  

Study Design: The BWHS is a study that has followed a group of 59,000 US Black women since 1995 and collected data on their lifestyle, demographics and medical history through biannual surveys. In the most recent survey, participants were asked to report whether they had ever received a medical diagnosis of PD. We will confirm these self-reported cases and describe their clinical characteristics by reviewing medical records (with previous consent) and then use this information to examine the association of established and suspected factors with the risk of PD.     

Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s disease: The proposed project will create a unique resource for the investigation of PD in Black communities. It will advance our understanding of the burden, clinical presentation, and PD risk factors in Black women and help to reshape PD research, prevention strategies and the clinical management of PD in this population. 

Next Steps for Development: If this project is successful, we will be able to establish the foundations for the development of an unprecedented large, longitudinal study of PD among Black women.  


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