Preventing chronic disease; Washington University and St. Louis University receive $8 million CDC grant
A new Saint Louis University-Washington University initiative that studies innovative ways to prevent chronic disease and improve health has received a five-year, $8 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Prevention Research Center in St. Louis, one of 35 programs at academic institutions in 25 states, examines how people and their communities can avoid or counter the risks of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes.
The collaboration between Saint Louis University School of Public Health and Washington University Schools of Medicine and Social Work is Missouri's only CDC-funded Prevention Research Center. This is the 15th year Saint Louis University School of Public Health has been involved in the CDC's Prevention Research Centers Program.
The center has established partnerships with community-based coalitions, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and a variety of academic collaborators to reduce obesity and prevents chronic diseases, in low-income, rural parts of the state.
Elizabeth Baker, Ph.D., professor of community health at Saint Louis University School of Public Health, and Ross Brownson, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Washington University's School of Medicine and George Warren Brown School of Social Work, are co-directors of the Prevention Research Center in St. Louis.
"Nationally, more than 15 percent of deaths can be attributed to physical inactivity and poor diet. In Missouri, nearly 80 percent of adults say they eat fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, more than 25 percent report doing no leisure-time or physical activity in the past 30 days and almost 30 percent are obese," Baker said.
"Researchers have identified many evidence-based community interventions to help create the environments and policies to enable residents to make healthy choices, but little is known about what needs to be in place to facilitate local organizations working together to put proven strategies into action, especially in rural areas like the Bootheel and Ozark regions of Missouri. These areas have some of the state's highest chronic disease rates and lowest socioeconomic indicators."
The Prevention Research Center is developing a new approach to collaboration, Brownson added.
"Our Prevention Research Center brings together the unique talents of faculty and staff at both universities along with a wide variety of community partners. We believe that our center will create a model of academic-community-practice partnership that will lead to improvements in population health," he said.
Representatives of local community groups in southeast Missouri will be invited to a free course that will teach them how to identify environmental and policy strategies that are appropriate for their area and encourage them to write proposals for funding them. The Prevention Research Center in St. Louis will award mini-grants, serve as a resource for the projects and compile and share information so communities know what works to encourage a healthier lifestyle.
The main CDC grant of $4 million funds the core operations and research project of the center for the next five years. In addition, the CDC has awarded the Prevention Research Center funding for special interest projects:
- Cancer prevention: $1.5 million will fund continued research on communicating information to control cancer to those who are disadvantaged; Project director: Matthew Kreuter, Ph.D., professor at the Brown School who also holds an appointment at Washington University School of Medicine.
- Policies and physical activity: $750,000 will fund studies on the impact of policies such as physical education standards in schools, relaxed dress codes that make it easier for employees to exercise and zoning requirements for trails and sidewalks; Project director: Amy Eyler, Ph.D., research associate professor at the Brown School.
- Latin America: $1.75 million will fund a continuation of a public health partnership with institutions in Brazil and Latin America to share information worldwide about initiatives that have worked to increase physical activity levels; Project director: Ross Brownson, Ph.D.