Pediatrician will work to cut sexually transmitted diseases

CHAPEL HILL - National pride in being a world leader doesn't extend to the embarrassing reality that older U.S. adolescents and young adults suffer higher sexually transmitted disease rates than young people in any other developed country.

A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pediatrician who wants to reduce that health problem has just received a four-year, $240,000 Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar Program Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Princeton, N.J.

Dr. Carol A. Ford, assistant professor of pediatrics and medicine at the UNC-CH School of Medicine, says she will use the money to support her research with the UNC-CH-based Add Health project, the nation's largest study of adolescent behavior. She wants to learn what motivates older adolescents and young adults to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and then to seek treatment.

"Getting and using this information in the right way potentially could increase the effectiveness of sexually transmitted disease screening programs in the United States and reduce the overall personal and societal burden of these preventable illnesses," Ford said. "They are a very serious problem."

Ford will collaborate with Dr. J. Richard Udry, professor of sociology and of maternal and child health at the UNC-CH School of Public Health, as he and his Add Health colleagues gather information next year on 20,000 U.S. residents between ages 18 and 25.

Participants will be the same as those randomly selected and surveyed as adolescents in 1994 and 1995. Results of the earlier work made national headlines in 1997 because they proved, among other things, that feeling connected with family, school and religious organizations helped steer adolescents away from unhealthy acts.

Subjects will be asked to provide a urine sample that will be tested for STDs in the laboratory of Dr. Myron S. Cohen, professor and chi

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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