News Release

Monday, May 3, 2010

NIH Announces Ten Awards for Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities

The National Institutes of Health announced today the awarding of 10 new Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities, designed to better understand and address inequities associated with the two leading causes of death in the United States — cancer and heart disease.

The program is supported by the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI); the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR). NCI and NHLBI will each contribute $10 million per year in grant funding over the next five years for $100 million in total funding, and OBSSR will provide support for annual meetings.

The 10 centers will support transdisciplinary collaborations among biological, medical, behavioral, social, and public health scientists. In addition, each center will each play a major role in the training of a new generation of transdisciplinary researchers in collaborative team science. The goals are to increase the rigor and impact of science that addresses the many factors associated with health disparities.

“We need to encourage the entire scientific community, from basic to applied scientists, to significantly advance our understanding of health disparities — a remarkably complex and critically important problem for our society,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Centers Receiving Funding:

Grant # Investigator Name Institution Title
50CA148143- Thompson, Beti Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, Seattle Understanding and Preventing Breast Cancer Disparities in Latinas
1P50CA148596- Williams, David R Harvard University School of Public Health, Boston Lung Cancer Disparities Center: Jointly Addressing Race and Socioeconomic Status
50HL105187- Cooper, Lisa A Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore Hopkins Center for Eliminating Cardiovascular Health Disparities
1P50HL105185- Tucker, Katherine L Northeastern University, Boston Boston Puerto Rican Health Study - CVD Risk Factors
2P50CA105632 Paskett, Electra D Ohio State University, Columbus Reducing Cervical Cancer in Appalachia
1P50HL105189- Powell, Lynda H Rush University Medical Center, Chicago Rush Center for Urban Health Equity
1P50HL105188 Ortega, Alexander N University of California,  Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Interventions to Reduce Heart Disease Risk in East L.A.
P50CA106743- Warnecke, Richard University of Illinois at Chicago UIC Center for Population Health and Health Disparities
1P50HL105184- Ammerman, Alice S University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Center for Reduced CVD Disparities: Genes, Clinics, and Communities
1P50CA148110- Buchwald, Dedra S University of Washington, Seattle Center for Native Population Health Disparities

Areas of research investigation:

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: Projects in this center are designed to contribute to the understanding of breast cancer in Latinas, including the antecedents of breast cancer and the types of breast cancer found in the Latina population, and to develop and implement a comprehensive program of screening to increase the opportunities for early breast cancer detection among Latinas.

Harvard School of Public Health: The center will focus on understanding and altering the determinants of racial/ethnic and socioeconomic status disparities along the continuum of lung cancer as well as the impact of the social environment. Researchers will target socioeconomic status and racial/ethnic disparities, and include research among men and women. Researchers intend to identify effective strategies to prevent the initiation of smoking and facilitate cessation among smokers.

Johns Hopkins University: Building on prior work and established relationships with the large African-American population in Baltimore, this center will initially focus on hypertension. The center will include three separate but related intervention studies to improve the identification, treatment, and outcomes of African-Americans with hypertension.

Northeastern University: The emphasis of the center will be on cardiovascular risk in the Puerto Rican community. Projects include consideration of genetic variation in relation to changes over time in allostatic load – physiological changes due to exposure to chronic stress — and biochemical indicators of risk. Studies will also focus on more concrete indicators of disease and consider social networks, neighborhood characteristics, such as physical space and access to food, and environmental factors, such as air pollution, as social determinants of health. Using community-based participatory techniques that involve community stakeholders in all aspects of the research process, they will implement and test a multidimensional intervention that focuses on diet and physical activity and fully considers the social and physical environment.

Ohio State University: The center’s research will focus on understanding why cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates are higher in Appalachian Ohio, and West Virginia. The research questions integrate issues of medical research (gynecological oncology and pathology, family medicine, molecular genetics), natural science (molecular biology, virology, statistics, biostatistics, immunology), social science (communication, psychology, sociology), and social work in addition to public health to implement interventions.

Rush University Medical Center: The long-term objectives for the center are to develop and integrate rigorous clinical trial methodology into disparities-focused behavioral clinical trials; test innovative multi-level interventions across the lifespan from children to the elderly; and empower inner-city communities to become active participants in the design and conduct of interventions to improve their health.

University of California, Los Angeles: Situated in East Los Angeles, this project's main aim is to reduce cardiovascular disease risk in this underserved area. Implementation will consist of family and neighborhood environment interventions, along with the collection of physiological data that will examine risk for cardiovascular disease in individuals and across generations. The intervention components include several dimensions that affect health outcomes -- personal and family factors, systems factors, and environmental factors.

University of Illinois at Chicago: Lack of access to care and health disparities among underserved and minority women with breast cancer remains high. This center will define how apparent disparities in early detection, diagnosis, and treatment can be addressed in safety-net hospitals, which are known for treating a substantial share of uninsured, Medicaid and other vulnerable patients regardless of their ability to pay. The center will determine how community health clinics can more effectively identify and monitor patients at risk for aggressive breast cancer, and how patients at elevated risk can be engaged to participate in a tailored screening and monitoring program. And it will determine how biological factors, specifically DNA methylation (a chemical reaction in which a small molecule, called a methyl group, is added to other molecules), promote aggressive breast cancer disproportionately among women of color.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: This project will consist of an integrated set of three interdisciplinary studies in Lenoir County, N.C. The first will determine genetic factors associated with cardiovascular risk. The second will seek to understand the multilevel determinants of poor health outcomes and the potential social and community capital that can support sustainable change. Finally, the third will work with community leaders, health professionals, and citizens to apply these understandings to improved, practice-based management of hypertension and community-centered lifestyle management, and test the impact on improving outcomes and reducing disparities in cardiovascular health.

University of Washington: The center will conduct five interwoven research projects on cancer in American Indian/Alaska Native populations. One project will study nicotine metabolism, while another investigates a preventive intervention for cervical cancer among Hopi women and girls. Other studies included an evaluation of an intervention using computerized multi-media storytelling that emulates Native traditions (digital stories) to increase colorectal cancer screening; as well as an intervention to reduce environmental tobacco smoke, and a study of surgical treatment and outcomes among American Indians/Alaska Natives with lung, prostate, breast, or colorectal cancers.

The center grants were initially funded earlier this decade by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NCI, the National Institute on Aging, and the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, all part of NIH. Eight awards were made to centers located at:

  • Ohio State University, Columbus
  • The RAND Corporation
  • Tufts University/Northeastern University, Boston
  • The University of Chicago
  • The University of Illinois-Chicago
  • The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • The University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston
  • Wayne State University, Detroit

Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at

NCI leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH effort to dramatically reduce the burden of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI Web site at or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) opened officially on July 1, 1995. The U.S. Congress established the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) in the Office of the Director, NIH, in recognition of the key role that behavioral and social factors often play in illness and health. The OBSSR mission is to stimulate behavioral and social sciences research throughout NIH and to integrate these areas of research more fully into others of the NIH health research enterprise, thereby improving our understanding, treatment, and prevention of disease.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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