Experts predict brain study in Lakewood Ranch could mimic success of Framingham Heart Study


by: Andrew Atkins Staff Writer

At a special LWR Talks at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club in May, neuropsychologist Stephanie Peabody repeated her contention the planned Brain Health Study at Lakewood Ranch could be as significant as the Framingham Heart Study.

That could cause local residents — who have been asked to participate in the brain study and to give it their support — to ponder what the heart study, which began in 1948 and continues today, meant to Framingham, Mass.

The answer, according to today’s Framingham residents, wasn’t so much about increased medical facilities, jobs or a more thriving local economy.

The payoff was a healthy community.

Greta Lee Splansky, the Director of Operations at the Framingham Heart Study for Boston University, said the heart study focused on its namesake town, situated about 20 miles west of Boston. The study began in 1948 and still runs today, 71 years later.

As explained in a 2001 article from the local paper, The MetroWest Daily News, the heart study is now on its third generation of participants.

But while the findings have had worldwide implications, Splansky said it made a tremendous impact on the residents of the town where it was born.

“It attracted, good doctors to the area,” she said, adding that doctors sent the information they gathered from participants to the participants’ primary physicians. “The medical community here was sophisticated and stimulated by the presence of the study.”

She said little impact in terms of brick-and-mortar businesses coming to a town tied directly to the study. Nevertheless, the town’s workforce, as a whole, said its overall health improve.

Framingham did see a population explosion in the ’50s and ’60s as people sought to move out from Boston and buy homes in the suburbs. “All of that would have happened with or without the Framingham Heart Study,” Splansky said.

Annie Murphy, director of the Framingham History Center, agreed that businesses moved to Framingham regardless of the heart study.

However, she said, it still bolstered the economy through feeding the workforce healthy employees.

“It had a huge impact on the community,” she said. “A healthier community makes a better working community.”


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