$7M Grant Establishes New UIC Center to Eliminate Health Disparities


The UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy has been awarded a $7.2 million federal grant to establish the UIC Center of Excellence in Eliminating Health Disparities.

The new center, funded by a five-year grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health, will focus on health disparities in prostate and colorectal cancer, community-based breast cancer initiatives, and training and educating the next generation of health disparities researchers.

"The new center will be a multi-faceted, university-wide resource to integrate health disparities research and activities," said Elizabeth Calhoun, associate professor of health policy and administration at the UIC School of Public Health, and director and principal investigator of the new center.

"We plan to engage new investigators in health disparities, reaching not only into our undergrad and graduate populations, but even into high school, to build a pipeline of researchers interested in health disparities," she said.

Carol Ferrans, professor and associate dean for research at the UIC College of Nursing, is the center's co-director.

Researchers at the center will build upon prior UIC research to implement a community project to eliminate breast cancer disparities in South Side Chicago communities disproportionately affected by high rates of breast cancer deaths. The project will use culturally sensitive messages to promote mammography screening, address beliefs that contribute to screening reluctance, and address personal and health system barriers to screening.

The center's primary research projects will specifically look at disparities in prostate and colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer among African American women and the third most common for African American men. Late-stage diagnosis, method of detection, delays from detection to surgical intervention, and disparities in treatment may all contribute to African Americans having the highest mortality from this disease of any racial or ethnic group, according to researchers.

In one study, led by Garth Rauscher, assistant professor of epidemiology and associate of the UIC Cancer Center, researchers will enroll 500 African-American patients newly diagnosed with colorectal cancer to obtain information about screening, stage at diagnosis and treatment. The researchers will look at personal barriers such as cultural beliefs about cancer, social support, transportation, housing, literacy, perceived stress, fear, medical trust, as well as access barriers such as insurance status.

A second study, led by Vince Freeman, assistant professor of epidemiology and associate of the UIC Cancer Center, will compile data on prostate and colorectal cancer cases diagnosed between 1995 and 2008 in Chicago to conduct a population-based analysis of clinical, socioeconomic and health care factors that account for mortality differences between African Americans and whites.

Ultimately, these statistical models will allow researchers to predict hot-spot areas heavily burdened with disease, said Calhoun, and provide effective measures for deploying resources such as targeted cancer screenings.

The center has a research core, a training and education core, and a community engagement core, led by Richard Warnecke, Faye Davis, and Ferrans, respectively.

The new UIC Center of Excellence in Eliminating Health Disparities will involve faculty from all six of UIC's health sciences colleges, the UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy, the UIC Center for Clinical Translational Science, and the UIC Cancer Center to develop a comprehensive strategy to incorporate research, education, policy changes and community partnerships to reduce health disparities in Chicago and beyond.

This news release was written by Sherri McGinnis González of the UIC News Bureau.

12/22/09 Update:

The second study in the Center of Excellence in Eliminating Health Disparities has changed from Vince Freeman's study to an examination of local food environments and disparities in ovarian cancer survival, conducted by Charlotte Enns Joslin and others. Freeman’s study on prostate and colorectal cancer is being conducted separately, with funding from the American Cancer Society.