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Posted: November 09, 2005

UNT HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER RESEARCHERS RECEIVE $7 MILLION CENTER GRANT TO STUDY HEALTH DISPARITIES


me1.jpg The National Institutes of Health has awarded UNT Health Science Center $7.25 million to establish the Texas Center for Minority Health, Education, Research and Outreach (EXPORT Center).

“This grant will allow us to explore our strengths in terms of research, education and outreach,” said Jamboor Vishwanatha, PhD, program director for the grant and associate dean and professor in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. “We will be able to try out our ideas and find our strengths in the effort to address issues of health disparities and help eliminate them.”

The grant submitted by the health science center was one of 218 proposals from across the country, and NIH funded only six.

“This is truly exciting,” said Ronald Blanck, DO, president of the health science center. “Because NIH recognized the quality of the programs that we already have that are designed to address health disparities, we were able to forgo years of work and automatically become an exploratory center. This puts us well along the path of becoming a comprehensive center, the final step in this three-step process.”

The grant, known as Project EXPORT—Establishing Exploratory Centers, will be funded for five years, from 2005 to 2010, by NIH’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

At the end of the five years, Dr. Vishwanatha said he hopes to apply for a comprehensive center grant, further establishing the health science center as a leader in addressing minority healthcare issues.

The objectives of the center are to foster existing relationships and develop new relationships with underrepresented minority institutions. This will be done by providing opportunities for minority students and faculty to perform health disparity research, Dr. Vishwanatha said.

The grant will also promote educating students, healthcare practitioners and policy makers on the existence of health disparities and the need to combat the problem, he said. The EXPORT Center will also serve as a resource for minority communities in North Texas by disseminating health information, promoting community participation in health education and research, and implementing disease prevention activities.

Dr. Vishwanatha said the center will focus on research in areas where health disparities exist for minorities in North Texas, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, stroke and HIV.

The center will have four administrative cores headed by investigators at the health science center. Dr. Vishwanatha will lead the administrative core that oversees the entire grant.

A call for applications for pilot projects to be funded through the EXPORT Center is scheduled to go out in early November. The first round of funded projects will likely begin immediately thereafter, Dr. Vishwanatha said.

A conference that will address health disparities among minorities is tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2006, and the first group of researchers from underrepresented minority institutions will begin training in the spring of 2006, along with the first group of minority students.

Dr. Vishwanatha said he hopes that the EXPORT Center will provide much needed research opportunities on health disparities and an opportunity to recruit minority health professionals to understand and eliminate health disparities among minority populations.

Since the combined minority populations of Texas surpassed the non-Hispanic white population in 2004, the issue of health disparities among minority populations will continue to be an issue. By the year 2026, the Hispanic population is projected to become the majority population in Texas.

“Here at UNT Health Science Center, we’ve worked throughout Tarrant County to help eliminate health disparities and recruit more underrepresented minority students into our student body,” Dr. Blanck said. “This center will expand on the work that we’ve already been doing.”

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Contact: Kay Colley 817-735-2553, cell 817-980-5090, e-mail kacolley@hsc.unt.edu.

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