Twenty Years of Progress in Prevention Research
“The Prevention Research Centers epitomize what CDC is all about when it comes to working with partners at the grassroots level to protect our nation’s health. Their efforts are resulting in the very information Americans need to choose safe and healthy lifestyles for themselves and their families.”
—Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, CDC Director and ATSDR Administrator
In the 1980s, public health leaders from around the nation called for a network of applied public health researchers who could provide the science behind public health programs. Congress answered this call in 1984 by authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services to select academic centers for this purpose, giving responsibility to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to manage the program.
Over the next decade, the number of Prevention Research Centers (PRCs) more than doubled and activities were expanded to diverse areas of the country, such as Appalachia and the Ozarks. Centers shared information and collaborated to form networks such as the Tobacco Network and the School Health Network. As the PRCs became more skilled in involving communities in their work, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) called on the PRCs to lead the community prevention component of the Women’s Health Initiative.
These past few years have been especially rewarding because of the communities working with the PRCs. The combined efforts in applied research have provided evidence for public health programs and have given people in many communities the skills and the means to lead healthy lives. Research from the centers contributed to passage of a law in Texas requiring schools to provide physical education classes, reimbursement from health plans for physical activity for seniors in Washington State, and recognition at the national level of a no-smoking program for teens in West Virginia. Centers in these and other states continue to lead the way in providing evidence for forward-thinking public health action.
After a recent competition process, a newly composed family of 33 PRCs has been selected. Embracing the commitment to create positive changes in communities, the PRCs are continuing to develop research that is relevant for communities and results in real changes for people all across the United States. In efforts to eliminate health disparities and create healthy communities, the PRCs will remain at the forefront in sharing knowledge and expertise in applied research for public health programs.