County has long history in research

June 24, 2003

Washington County residents have taken part in health studies for more than 80 years.

  • The first local community-based health survey was set up in Hagerstown in 1921 by noted health statistician Edgar Sydenstricker, brother of author Pearl Buck. Chosen families were visited over a period of almost 21/2 years in an effort to better identify what made people sick.

    The research, known as the Hagerstown Health Studies, continued into the 1930s and '40s, with several focuses, including tuberculosis and tooth decay. One result was the DMF, or decayed-missing-filled index, which used teeth as a denominator instead of people. It became the standard for dental measurement.

  • There have been several cancer studies in Washington County, starting with research conducted from 1957 to 1962 to determine if environmental causes, primarily radiation, were to blame for high cancer rates.

  • Two cancer research efforts in 1974 and 1989 - nicknamed CLUE I and CLUE II - collected blood from about 69,000 county residents to build a serum bank and establish a cancer registry.

    Researchers looked for possible causes of cancer by comparing the blood of people who developed a certain kind of cancer with the blood of others who did not.

  • In 1986 and 1989, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health looked at heart disease based on information collected from about 5,000 county residents.

    Those subjects also have been used for other ongoing studies.

  • Source: Dr. George W. Comstock, a Johns Hopkins researcher in Washington County since 1962.

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