TUCSON — To better understand the health impacts of COVID-19, researchers at University of Arizona Health Sciences are leading the first statewide long-term public health study of COVID-19 in Arizona.

The study, called Arizona CoVHORT, will provide vital data to help understand individual susceptibility to infection, the health repercussions after recovery from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and the overall impact of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of Arizonans.

Arizona CoVHORT will compare health outcomes for Arizonans who tested positive for the novel coronavirus to those of Arizonans who were not infected. Led by Kristen Pogreba-Brown, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, the study will collect information on preexisting conditions such as cancer, hypertension and diabetes as well as basic data such as sex, race, ethnicity and occupation.

"This study will help us answer so many of the most important health questions around COVID-19. Who is most susceptible to severe infection? What are the long-term health consequences? What health factors put people at greater risk after they've been sick? This is information the whole world wants to know," Pogreba-Brown said. "With the knowledge from this research, we'll know where we need to focus attention and resources for better health outcomes during and after the pandemic. We'll help save lives."

Arizona CoVHORT will answer multiple health questions by following a group of individuals over time in what is called a "cohort" study. Participants start with a baseline health survey that takes about 15 minutes to complete online and includes information about symptoms, illness and recovery, and measures of well-being.

Periodic follow-up surveys will monitor participants' health status over time and gather information on how the pandemic has affected Arizona residents' health and access to care. Participants receive four follow-up surveys in the first year and one or two per year after that.

The Arizona CoVHORT database will be available for all Arizona investigators to use for current and future health research.

"These results will provide important public health information for Arizona residents and will greatly expand our understanding of the long-term health impacts of COVID-19. What we learn will influence science and health care practice," Pogreba-Brown said.

With funding from the BIO5 Technology and Research Initiative, Pogreba-Brown initiated the project in March with the help of Elizabeth Jacobs and Leslie Farland, researchers in the College of Public Health, and Pamela Garcia-Filion in the Department of Biomedical Informatics at the College of Medicine-Phoenix.

"We are using this project to not only establish longitudinal monitoring but to assess the short-term and long-term health effects of COVID-19 on Arizona residents," Garcia-Filion said. "This is extremely important because the project will include the most vulnerable populations and those that might otherwise not have access to care or testing."

Other researchers involved in the study are Kacey Ernst, professor in the College of Public Health; Karen Lutrick, assistant professor in the College of Medicine-Tucson Department of Family and Community Medicine; and Megan Jehn, an epidemiologist at Arizona State University who is leading the effort to recruit participants from ASU's saliva-based testing program.

"The more we know about the risk factors, the better we can help our communities and treat patients who contract the virus, even after they have recovered," Pogreba-Brown said. "This pandemic is not going away anytime soon, and we need to know how to fight it, how to protect people, and how to provide the best treatment. Arizona CoVHORT will provide the data to improve the health of all Arizonans."

The project began in Pima County and is now recruiting statewide. To learn more and sign up, visit the Arizona CoVHORT website and follow the links to join the research study.

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