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    Posted: 09/12/2003
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    Volume 7, Issue 4

Private-Public Partnerships in Cancer Vaccine Research

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Past Highlights
NIH Funds Eight Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced today the creation of eight Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities, designed to support cutting-edge research to understand and reduce differences in health outcomes, access and care.  Four institutes or offices within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute on Aging (NIA), and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research - will support this transdisciplinary research to examine how the social and physical environment, behavioral factors, and biologic pathways interact to determine health and disease in populations.

These new grants, which total $60.5 million over the next five years, address the recommendations of recent reports from the National Academy of Sciences.  The reports called for an approach to health and health disparities that integrates research in the natural, behavioral and social sciences to create a more comprehensive understanding of disease pathways.  The reports also stressed the need to examine causation and intervention at the population and environmental levels, rather than solely at the individual level.

"It is vital that all populations benefit from scientific knowledge and advances," said Secretary Thompson.  "This initiative is an exciting step toward understanding and eliminating health disparities for numerous diseases throughout the United States."

The eight centers will form a network of research teams to explore the complexity of health disparities.  Investigators will follow a community-based research approach that involves community stakeholders in the planning and implementation of research, with studies focusing on obesity, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, mental health, gene-environment interactions, psychosocial stress, and other factors.  Populations will include low-income whites, African Americans, Hispanics, and the elderly.

"Today, people in this country of various backgrounds, ages, or socioeconomic levels bear an unequal burden of disease," said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni.  "These centers will perform innovative research, collaborating extensively to address the important and complicated issue of health disparities."

The grants for the Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities include:

Center Name

and Location

Center Director/Principal Investigator

Focus of Study

Grant Funding

(per year)

Ohio State University

(Columbus, Ohio)


University of Michigan

(Ann Arbor, Mich.)

Electra Paskett, Ph.D.

The overall goal of this project is to increase early detection of cervical cancer by increasing the proportion of Appalachian women, age 18 and older, who receive Pap tests at appropriate intervals and return for necessary follow-up care.  To address barriers to cervical cancer screening in these women, the study will involve educational sessions in the women's homes, as well as presentations by lay health educators.

$1.455 million

from NCI

RAND Corporation

(Santa Monica, Calif.)

Nicole Lurie, M.D., MSPH

This center will assess the impact of Los Angeles park improvements on the physical activity and health of

local residents.  The study will be conducted in partnership with the Department of Parks and Recreation and Neighborhood Oversight Committees, and the Wilmington Coordinating Council, as well as the Multi-Cultural Area Health Education Center, a community-based organization whose mission is focused on improving health and wellness and reducing health disparities among Latinos.  Study results will be presented to local authorities to inform future policy decisions.

$1.400 million

from NIEHS

Tufts University

(Boston, Mass.)


Northeastern University

(Boston, Mass.)

Katherine Tucker, Ph.D.

This center will conduct several research studies among

older adults of Puerto Rican origin in Boston to evaluate the specific stressors affecting the Puerto Rican community.  The center aims to gain a better understanding of the factors that lead to poor health outcomes, and to determine how these processes link to the health disparities observed in minority communities.

$1.600 million

from NIA

University of Chicago

(Chicago, Ill.)


University of Ibadan (Nigeria)

Sarah Gehlert, Ph.D.

Researchers will use an animal model to test the hypothesis that social isolation and excess stress in African-American women of African ancestry increase the risk of early, lethal breast cancers.

$1.330 million

from NIEHS


$200 thousand from NCI

University of Illinois

at Chicago

Richard B. Warnecke, Ph.D.

Researchers will partner with the Healthcare Consortium of Illinois, a community-based organization that addresses health disparities in the Chicago area, to examine the effects of social context on stage of breast cancer diagnosis.  The outcomes then will be applied to a pilot project to test a community-based intervention.

$1.455 million from NCI

University of Pennsylvania

(Philadelphia, Pa.)

Timothy Rebbeck, Ph.D.

This center will study the complex interaction of biological, clinical, behavioral, and environmental factors that are predictive of various prostate cancer outcomes. Researchers will evaluate how these factors explain disparities in outcomes by ethnicity and will disseminate this information to at-risk populations and the public health community.

$1.690 million

from NCI

University of Texas

Medical Branch, Galveston

James Goodwin, M.D.

This project will explore the relationship between neighborhood context and measures of health among Hispanics.  Investigators will explore the reasons for strong neighborhood effects on health by examining several data sets linked to census data: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data on cancer incidence and survival, vital registration data on cancer mortality, and the National Health Interview Survey-National Death Index file on cancer prevalence and mortality and all-case mortality.

$1.700 million

from NCI

Wayne State University

(Detroit, Mich.)

John Flack, M.D., MPH

Researchers will examine the effects of stressors, obesity, and genetic variation of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) genotypes on oxidative stress and salt sensitivity.  This research will provide important new insights into the pathophysiology of salt sensitivity in African Americans who are at high risk for development of hypertension and related cardiovascular diseases.

$1.270 million

from NIEHS

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