When it comes to understanding the health of populations, the Intramural Research Program (IRP) is ideally structured for the long-term research that supports the field of epidemiology. Studying health patterns and outcomes in large numbers of individuals over long periods of time is no easy task, and our scientists have a number of tools available to them that specifically enable this type of research: stable funding, multi-disciplinary support staff, and the world’s largest hospital entirely devoted to clinical research—the NIH Clinical Center.
Epidemiology is a pervasive science, present at some level in every Institute and Center of the IRP. The science involves biologists, sociologists, statisticians, psychologists, and mathematicians, and of course the study participants, who might be in a formal clinical trial or part of the general population. There are three main types of epidemiological study:
- Cohort Studies investigate the long-term health outcomes of a group of healthy people (longitudinal studies).
- Case-Control Studies compare individuals with a known health condition and those without it to understand why some individuals become ill and others do not.
- Cross-Sectional Studies compare groups at a single point in time.
IRP scientists are currently engaged in a wide range of epidemiological studies, including:
- The Framingham Heart Study: A landmark study involving approximately 9,000 residents of the town of Framingham, Massachusetts; established to identify risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease (CVD).
- The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA): America’s longest-running scientific study of human aging; begun in 1958.
- The Costa Rica Vaccine Trial: A community-based HPV-16/18 vaccine trial in Costa Rica designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a human papilloma virus vaccine in 7,465 women.
- The Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS): an ongoing, prospective study of the natural and treated histories of HIV-1-infected men; since inception, this study has published over 1,100 research papers.
To learn more about the IRP scientists who carry out epidemiological studies, visit the NIH Epidemiology & Clinical Trials Interest Group.