Five researchers whose determined pursuit of knowledge about the factors that influence adolescent health led to one of the most influential longitudinal studies of human health—with far-reaching and often unanticipated impacts on society—will receive the first 2016 Golden Goose Award.
The Golden Goose Award honors scientists whose federally funded work may have seemed odd or obscure when it was first conducted but has resulted in significant benefits to society.
The researchers are Barbara Entwisle, Kathleen Mullan Harris, Ronald Rindfuss, and Richard Udry and Peter Bearman who worked at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) in the late 1980s and early 1990s to design and execute the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, or Add Health for short.
They are being cited for their extraordinary multidisciplinary, longitudinal study of the social and biological factors that influence adolescent health, and their work’s wide-ranging and often unexpected impacts on society.
“This project exemplifies the best in team science,” said Barbara Entwisle, vice chancellor for research and former director of the Carolina Population Center. “It reflects the diverse interests of the team that designed it, not in the sense that each has a defined part, but rather in the sense that all perspectives are fully embodied in the whole.”
The social scientists’ landmark, federally funded study has not only illuminated the impact of social and environmental factors on adolescent health—often in unanticipated ways—but also continues to help shape the national conversation around human health. Their work has provided unanticipated insights into how adolescent health affects wellbeing long into adulthood and has laid essential groundwork for research into the nation’s obesity epidemic over the past two decades.
The award will be announced this evening at 7:00 p.m. at an event at the Long View Gallery in Washington, D.C. celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Carolina Population Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, in conjunction with a meeting of the Population Association of America.
The path breaking nationally representative Add Health study has answered many questions about adolescent behavior, with particular attention to sexual and other risky behaviors.
The study has followed its original cohort for more than 20 years, and it is now providing valuable information about the unanticipated impacts of adolescent health on overall wellbeing in adulthood. For this reason, the researchers recently changed the study’s name to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, and it is a landmark example of how longitudinal research can yield extraordinary and unexpected insights.
“The 20 year, and continual, investment by the National Institutes of Health in Add Health is the reason we are successful,” said Kathleen Harris, the James E. Haar Distinguished Professor of Sociology and director and principal director of Add Health. “And they are investing in basic science. They’re agreeing that what we’re going to learn 20 to 30 years down the road is going to matter – and it does.”
By Thania Benios, Office of Communications and Public Affairs