Holidays in Framingham?

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 07 September 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:544
  1. David R Hadden, honorary professor of endocrinology
  1. Queen's University of Belfast

    It was a wet evening in May. We were driving into Boston from New Hampshire without definite plans on where to stay for the night. Suddenly a large motorway road sign loomed out of the mist: Route 9 West—Framingham. “I know that name,” I said, “Let's stay there: it would be interesting to see what sort of people are in the Framingham study, and what they eat.” So my wife and daughter agreed with my idea, for once.

    It took some time, on a series of interconnecting highways, and when we finally got there, on Route 9, we had difficulty in identifying the town at all. Route 9 bisects it and consists of a continuous series of road signs and large warehouses. When we finally retraced our route and got off the highway we found Framingham to be a curious place. One part was a New England wooded village with a white painted church and prosperous housing. Another long main street across the highway was populated by lawyers and funeral parlours. Eventually we found the city centre, with a fine central memorial hall. But nowhere to stay—the inhabitants seemed to speak Spanish, and even food was difficult to find. Eventually we found the only hotel, back on Route 9, where the only restaurant provided a massive Mexican style meal.

    Framingham was selected for the study of the epidemiology of atherosclerotic disease in 1951 when it was “a small self-contained community of approximately 28,000 inhabitants, 18 miles west of Boston.” I wonder about the subsequent lifestyle and eating habits of all those people who have been part of the Framingham study. How many of them were part of the old New England village way of life; how many lived precariously on the edge of Route 9; were any of them Spanish speaking, Mexican food eating immigrants? Their epidemiological experience in the United States has played a major part in producing the cardiovascular guidelines for Britain, but I suspect the present inhabitants will have different risks.

    As a holiday stopover, it might not score highly, but it was an interesting experience.

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