April 14, 2009

College of Public Health is CDC Prevention Research Center

 (Left to right) The College of Public Health’s Jim Raczynski, Ph.D.; Martha Phillips, Ph.D.; Carol Cornell, Ph.D.; and Anna Huff.
(Left to right) The College of Public Health’s Jim Raczynski, Ph.D.; Martha Phillips, Ph.D.; Carol Cornell, Ph.D.; and Anna Huff.

April 14, 2008 | Working with residents in the Delta to improve health just got a little easier for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ (UAMS) Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health.

The UAMS college was awarded about $500,000 a year for five years to develop community partnerships in the Delta to promote health and well-being. The funds are from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of its Prevention Research Centers Program.

It also provides for a pilot study under the leadership of Martha Phillips, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., an assistant professor in the UAMS Department of Psychiatry, to address lack of good nutrition and physical activity in school-aged children in the Delta, serving to develop future research.

The program studies how people and their communities can avoid or counter the risks for chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes. Authorized by Congress in 1984, the program allows researchers to work extensively with communities at every step during the research process.

UAMS is one of 35 academic health centers nationwide named a CDC Prevention Research Center.

“It’s a great honor and a wonderful opportunity for the College of Public Health and for UAMS as a whole,” said Jim Raczynski, Ph.D., dean of the college and director of the new Arkansas Prevention Research Center. “This groups us alongside some of the best recognized institutions in the country and opens up funding not only for the project in the Delta, but eventually for special projects in a variety of areas.”

Each chosen institution will conduct at least one core research project with an underserved community that has a disproportionate amount of disease or disability. In addition, the CDC Prevention Centers may apply for funding each year for as many as 35 different special interest projects (SIPs).

“The big advantage to being a CDC Prevention Center is being among the select few institutions that can apply for these special interest projects,” Raczynski said. “Those could involve several areas of UAMS, and we expect to get the interest of deans in several of the colleges across campus.”

Each SIP is funded for at least one year with a minimum of $100,000, but many are multi-year projects that receive several million dollars, according to the CDC. The SIPs will be identified and bid on as soon as October.

All CDC Prevention Research Centers share a common goal of addressing behaviors and environmental factors that contribute to chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Several such centers also address injury, infectious disease, mental health, oral health and global health. The centers aim to engage communities in participatory research. To honor this focus along with the College of Public Health’s commitment to community-based public health methods, community members from the Delta were chosen to help direct the effort.

Carol Cornell, Ph.D., will serve as deputy director for administration of the Prevention Research Center and Anna Huff was named the center’s deputy director for community.

The Prevention Research Center program reaches 41 million people in 66 partner communities and continues to find new ways to improve the nation’s quality of life.