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STD Conf 2012
UNC faculty, trainees and Chinese collaborators at the first UNC-South China STI Research Training Course in Guangzhou in 2012.


Major internationally supported ongoing research projects on STI/HIV include the following:

  • Social Science and Ethics of Curing HIV (NIH R01) – – This theoretical and empirical R01 project (details here) examines the unintended and intended implications of HIV cure research, in collaboration with the Guangzhou Eighth People’s Hospital. Contact: Joe Tucker or Stuart Rennie
  • Social entrepreneurship for sexual health (SESH, NIH R01) – – The major goal of this NIH R01 project (details here) it to examine how crowdsourcing can be used to promote HIV testing and linkage in collaboration with the Guangdong Provincial STD Control Center. Contact: Joe Tucker or Shujie Huang
  • African migrant health project – This project uses qualitative research to explore the needs of vulnerable African migrants living in Guangzhou, China, in collaboration with the Guangdong Provincial STD Control Center. Contact: Joe Tucker or Ligang Yang
  • Syphilis demonstration project – This Guangdong Provincial STD Control Center project explores optimal methods for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of syphilis-infected individuals through a comprehensive intervention. Contact Joe Tucker or Shujie Huang
  • Immunobiology of syphilis (IBIS) – This UNC-Guangdong Provincial STD Control Center collaboration examines the biological basis for the syphilis serofast state and related issues. Contact Arlene Sena or Heping Zheng

Non-communicable Disease Research

Monitoring Social Change: Health, Reproduction and Aging (NIH R01)

The China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS) is a multipurpose panel survey that has followed more than 19,000 individuals in 216 communities throughout China from 1989 to 2006. This survey collects data on occupations, incomes and benefits of working-age household members; time use, diet and nutritional status; activities of daily living, health status, and use of health services; marriages and pregnancies of reproductive- age women; household size and composition; living arrangements; care of children and elders; housing conditions; land ownership; and household expenditures. Individual health related data are highly detailed, and include carefully measured dietary intake, physical activity, smoking and drinking data, anthropometrics, blood pressure and limited clinical data from all respondents. We propose to further enhance the value of this unique survey by adding rounds of data collection in 2009 and 2011 and expanding the scope of the survey to include, for the first time, collection of fasting blood samples (on all children and adults aged 2 and older) for analysis of disease-related biomarkers and DNA, toenail and blood spot samples, and geographic data to permit spatial analysis. LEARN MORE

Shopping at the Menghun market. Photo by Barry Popkin.

Nutrition-related NCD Prevention Training in China (NIH D43)

Since 1987, faculty from the University of North Carolina have been actively involved in research on nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases (NR-NCD’s), health services and an array of program and policy-oriented issues in China and elsewhere in the developing world. However, the absence of any training arm has hindered the ability of the faculty to fully develop the infrastructure for research and program and policy work in the country. The shifts in China toward a diet dominated by saturated fat and energy density and an increasing sedentary activity profile in combination with rapid increases in overweight and other NR-NCD’s are coming at a time when China is not prepared for these changes. Small interventions are occurring in selected cities and subpopulations, but changes are needed in the overall public health and health care system. Under this program, UNC and its collaborators will be poised to help strengthen the research training related to macro policy research and implementation, and related programmatic issues. This proposed training proposal focuses on this training agenda in combination with Beijing University, in particular the new Health Economics Department, and the Chinese Center for Disease Control. LEARN MORE

Heterogeneity in Cardiometabolic Risk with Obesity: Who Is at Risk? (NIH R21)

China is a rapidly modernizing country experiencing substantial burden in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The objective of this research is to understand the extent to which variability in age, sex and urbanicity shape cardiometabolic risk. The proposed research will inform efforts to mitigate early development of disease risk across weight status. This study takes advantage of 20-year longitudinal data from approximately 9,000 individuals enrolled in the NIH- funded China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS), to examine how the timing and duration of obesity and central adiposity shape variability in current cardiometabolic risk underlying the “metabolically healthy – overweight” and the “metabolically at risk – normal weight” phenotypes in children, adolescents, young- and middle-aged adults. LEARN MORE

Photo by Barry Popkin

Emergence of Cardiometabolic Risk across the Lifecycle in China (NIH R01)

Very little is known about the pathways that link broad environmental factors to health behaviors, and then to cardiometabolic risk across the lifecycle, taking into account the complex mediation and moderation by diet, activity and weight over time. The China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS), an NIH-funded study of more than 11,000 individuals followed over 20 years, provides high-quality longitudinal data and captures the dramatic emergence of obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in parallel with urbanization during the past two decades. This study takes advantage of these unique data to examine patterns of change in communities characterized by different levels of urbanization over time. Using sophisticated structural models we propose to examine the complex pathways through which community-, household- and individual-level factors affect diet and physical activity, then the rate, degree and timing of weight gain, and ultimately, cardiometabolic risk across the lifecycle. LEARN MORE

Environmental Change and Inflammation: Age, Cohort and Household Effects in China (NIH K01)

Early life exposure to changing social and physical environments has been implicated as a driving force in the increasing global prevalence of obesity and chronic disease at younger ages. However, understanding of the complex pathways linking environmental exposures to the development of health and disease across the life course has been limited by methodological difficulties in disentangling the effects of changing environments from individual, age-related vulnerability to environmental change. This project addresses this gap, bringing together training in sophisticated demographic methods and a unique dataset, the China Health and Nutrition Study, a 20-year NIH study of 11,000 individuals in 4,400 households. The survey captures dramatic changes in diet, disease burden and lifestyles, to characterize environmental determinants of inflammation, a measure of chronic immune activation linked to the development of cardiometabolic disease. Drawing on a life course framework, this project examines the pathways linking social and physical environments to inflammation among children, adolescents and young adults. LEARN MORE