$25 million funds health promotion studies at UT School of Public Health


U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports University of Texas Prevention Research Center

HOUSTON - (Oct. 6, 2004) The University of Texas Prevention Research Center, part of the University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston, will receive nearly $25 million in federal funds over the next five years to continue programs aimed at helping children and adolescents establish healthy lifestyle behaviors and to improve cancer screening among adults.

Announcing the grant today, UT School of Public of Health Dean Guy S. Parcel, Ph.D., said: "The continuation of the funding to support the Prevention Research Center will enable the school to continue partnerships with communities and to identify and test ways to prevent health-related problems, particularly in Texas youth and other populations."

Established in 1986 with the help of funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the UT Prevention Research Center investigates health issues that can develop into problems for young people now and in the future. Those issues include tobacco use, unhealthy diets, alcohol abuse, risky sexual behaviors, sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy. Researchers also study issues that affect adult health, such as communicating about flu vaccinations and colorectal and prostate cancer screenings.

"During the past 17 years our goal has been to translate research into practice -- that means to get the research into the community," said Susan Tortolero, Ph.D., director of the center and assistant professor of health promotion and behavioral science at the UT School of Public Health. "As we move forward we will continue to take well-researched, carefully developed programs and get those programs where they belong."

The center works with about 20 local and state public health agencies, academic centers and community partners collectively known as the community advisory group. "Our partners represent the interest of the community and bring its concerns to the investigators," Tortolero said. "We combine energy and expertise to develop programs that impact children and adolescents."

Programs already implemented at the UT Prevention Research Center include:

  • Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) íV a diabetes and obesity prevention program implemented in more then 1,500 schools in Texas, designed to help children improve their diets and increase physical activity.
  • Healthy Passages íV A longitudinal study that spans 10 years and examines educational and social outcomes of adolescents in an effort to understand factors that cause disparities in health outcomes by race/ethnicity, gender and social economic status.
  • Familias íV a study to improve asthma management among Hispanic families.

"Serious chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes will not be conquered in doctors' offices or clinics alone," said George Mensah, M.D., acting director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "To make a real impact, we must understand the behavior choices as well as environmental and social factors that influence an individual's overall health. The Prevention Research Centers look for ways to put the best science into practice and to help people reduce their risk for these diseases."

First authorized by Congress in 1984, the Prevention Research Center program has become recognized for its approach of participatory research in which researchers work hand in hand with communities and mutually agree on research steps.

With guidance from the CDC, the Houston center will continue work on two established projects and start seven new prevention studies.

The new projects include a physical activity and policy network study, which will analyze the role physical activity plays in academic performance among elementary school children. Researchers also will examine the impact of colorectal cancer screening tests among Hispanic women and men. Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among Hispanics.

Investigators also plan to study the effectiveness of on-line prostate cancer screening.

"In addition to these projects, we will also fund community projects for our community partners to conduct in collaboration with our investigations," said Tortolero. "So we will maximize opportunities to implement our studies into the community."

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