Prevention Research Centers
Stories and highlights of notable accomplishments
The PRC Program’s grantees conduct research that contributes to improved community and population health. The research includes new models for preventing chronic disease and other public health problems. Stories and highlights of notable accomplishments are reviewed for one or more for the following:
- Changes in policy, systems or environments
- Offers scalability and replicability for other populations
- Expands the evidence base of public health priority areas (including the National Prevention Strategy, Healthy People 2020, CDC Winnable Battles, or the NCCDPHP Domains)
- Impacts the health of the population or community
- Results in measurable changes in practices or reach
- Documents behavior, practice or health outcomes in population(s)
- Contributes to health equity and/or reduces health disparities
- Engages community in implementation
- Provides economic evidence for public health decision making
- Improves scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice
Minor depression affects 15%–20% of community-dwelling older adults and is known to profoundly compromise health and quality of life. People who are socially isolated and in frail health are especially at risk for depression. Doctors and their older patients often incorrectly assume that depression is an unavoidable consequence of aging, and many depressed older adults do not receive treatment.
The decline in strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance that occurs with aging contributes to diminished independence, diminished vitality, and increased likelihood of disabling injury. After years of research showing that exercise leads to improved physical function and reduced disability in older adults, researchers at the University of Washington’s Health Promotion Research Center, a CDC Prevention Research Center (PRC), addressed the feasibility and effectiveness of offering an exercise program in the setting of a community senior center.
Texas A&M University PRC researchers evaluated the implementation and dissemination of a fall prevention program called A Matter of Balance/Volunteer Lay Leader (AMB/VLL) in Texas over the course of two years. The PRC partnered with the Texas Association of Area Agencies on Aging to train their local affiliates to implement the program.
Read “Implementing and Disseminating an Evidence-Based Program to Prevent Falls in Older Adults, Texas, 2007-2009," about the work, published in the November 2010 issue of Preventing Chronic Disease.
Researchers from the University of Kentucky PRC developed and tested a DVD titled “1-2-3 Pap” that encourages Appalachian women to complete the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series. The 3-dose HPV vaccine series is a primary strategy to prevent cervical cancer and should be completed within 6 months. Women viewed the 13-minute video on individual laptops using headphones. The women who watched the DVD were 2.44 times more likely to complete the series than the women who received standard care. This model has the potential to be adapted and repeated in other underserved areas with high rates of cervical cancer.
Read more about the work, published in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Communication.
Community Health Workers
Using a community health worker model, the University of South Florida PRC improved the use of protective eyewear among citrus harvesters. Researchers trained full-time citrus workers to disseminate eye safety information and encourage the wearing of safety glasses among other workers in the citrus groves. Workers who had 1 to 2 years of experience and who received help from a peer worker were significantly more likely to use safety glasses than were other citrus workers. This model may be applicable to injury prevention in similar agricultural settings.
Access an abstract of an article about the research results (through PubMed).
Deaf and Hard of Hearing
PRC investigators at the University of Rochester PRC and their community partners are adapting standard scientific tools to study the public health needs of the deaf population in Rochester, New York.
The Emory PRC creates the first-ever evidence-based Internet program for epilepsy self-management, WebEase. The program is now available online from the Epilepsy Foundation website, and a mobile-friendly version of the program is under development.
Depression is often underdiagnosed and undertreated among people with epilepsy, a brain disorder characterized by repeated and unpredictable seizures. People with epilepsy have many risk factors for depression, including restriction of driving (and therefore limited employability), stigmatization, isolation, dependency on others, and concerns about adding medications to the epilepsy regimen. Research suggests that depression is both biological and cognitive; thus, interventions may include medications for the biologic component and therapy to change patterns of thought. Project UPLIFT combines cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness training to help people with epilepsy and depression manage their symptoms of and reduce depression.
PEARLS is a home-based intervention for older adults that has been shown to significantly decrease depression and improve functional and emotional well-being. The intervention focuses on problem-solving treatment (PST), a skills-enhancing behavioral approach that addresses problems, such as social isolation and lack of physical activity, that contribute to depression. PEARLS is listed in a National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and shows potential for widespread impact. Because PEARLS is a home-based program and many people with epilepsy may be homebound because of driving restrictions, unemployment, and limited public transportation, the University of Washington Prevention Research Center tested whether PEARLS would be effective for people with epilepsy and depression, as it had been proven to be for older adults.
HIV Prevention, Sexual Health, and Teen Pregnancy
Research conducted through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill PRC found that giving antiretroviral drugs to HIV-infected breastfeeding mothers in sub-Saharan Africa or giving an HIV-fighting syrup to their babies are both effective. In part because of these results, the World Health Organization recommended that HIV prevention guidelines for breastfeeding HIV-infected mothers, who were still in the early stages of HIV infection, be modified to offer them a choice of approaches.
A scientific article reporting the research results and published in the New England Journal of Medicine received the 2011 Charles C. Shepard Science Award in the category of prevention and control. This achievement exemplifies what can be achieved through the PRC model—particularly in how it enables CDC researchers to work closely with external researchers.
In previous health education programs, educators have found it challenging to involve working parents in training sessions. Recognizing the inconvenience to working parents of scheduling and traveling to other settings, the UCLA/RAND Center for Adolescent Health Promotion brought a health intervention to parents at their place of work. Work site health promotion can change adult health behaviors, but few programs have been designed to change children’s behaviors by educating their parents. Talking Parents, Healthy Teens was developed to help parents promote healthy sexual development and reduce risky sexual behaviors in their children by improving their parents’ communication skills.
University of Texas Prevention Research Center (UTPRC) has focused on child and adolescent health since its inception in 1986. Primary community partners include parents and youth, schools, and agencies serving youth. The long-established partnerships provided an excellent foundation for addressing the sensitive issues of teen sexual health. Together, the Houston Independent School District and the UTPRC identified representative middle schools serving low-income students from across the district; 10 schools agreed to participate in the UTPRC trial, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, of a curriculum-based education program called It’s Your Game: Keep it Real (IYG).University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston: University of Texas Prevention Research Center
The Dartmouth College PRC, working with CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), released Smoking Cessation for Pregnancy and Beyond—an interactive web-based training for health care professionals (including physicians, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, certified health educators, pharmacists, and students of the health professions). After completing the training, health care providers are able to apply best practice approaches for smoking cessation among women who are pregnant or in their child-bearing years. The approaches reflect current clinical recommendations from the U.S. Public Health Service and ACOG. The training is accredited for up to 4 hours of continuing education credits. The ACOG and other professional organizations are promoting the training among their constituents. Visit the Smoking Cessation for Pregnancy and Beyond Visit the Smoking Cessation for Pregnancy and Beyond website.
The Teen Years Explained, written by the Johns Hopkins University PRC and released in 2010, describes state-of-the-art knowledge about cognitive development throughout the teen years and how it influences risk assessment, sexual behavior, identity formation, and other dimensions of individual growth. A webinar promoting the book attracted attendees from around the country representing state and local health departments, nonprofit organizations, and federal agencies. The book, intended for public health practitioners, parents, and anyone working with adolescents, is available for purchase online. More than 11,000 copies of the book are already in use. A free downloadable PDF of the book is available on the PRC’s website.
Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
Body & Soul is a program that incorporates healthy lifestyle education, church events, and peer counseling and has been proven to promote healthy food choices among participants. The program was based on the success of two projects that promote healthy nutrition among Black church members. One was called Black Churches United for Better Health and was developed by researchers from the University of North Carolina PRC. It involved making environmental changes to churches (such as increased availability of fruits and vegetables at events), gaining the support of church leadership, and distributing educational materials encouraging healthy lifestyles. The other program was Eat for Life which emphasized motivational counseling for participants.
University of South Carolina PRC’s Physical Activity and Public Health Course trains health department professionals and post graduate researchers in exercise science and public health evidence-based practices. The experiential learning focus of the course has allowed course attendees to apply their knowledge and improve the physical activity environment in Bluffton, South Carolina and Park City, Utah, where the course is taught.
The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center honors New Orleans, Louisiana, with a Bronze-Level Walk Friendly Community designation and notes the contributions of a coalition headed by the Tulane University PRC.
This three-minute video, produced in 2011, describes how a physical activity program developed by the University of Washington PRC for older adults is also helping people with arthritis. A promising PRC program helps schools and communities create supportive environments that promote healthy eating and regular physical activity.
When a PRC evaluated a farming and marketing program for neighborhood youth, the researchers found many benefits rooted in community service. The 9 to 18 year olds were members of the Youth Farm and Market Project in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, a program that shows young people how to grow nutritious food and in the process, learn about good health and community service. To learn just how much more than fresh vegetables the program yields, Youth Farm turned to researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Healthy Youth Development/Prevention Research Center (PRC) to evaluate the program.
Two Prevention Research Centers and a Wide Network of Collaborators Search Brazil and Latin America for Solutions
As countries become industrialized, rates of physical inactivity often rise, and so can the risks of chronic illnesses. PRC researchers and their partners are searching for new ways to promote healthy physical activities.
Planet Health program developed at Harvard Prevention Research Center combines physical activity and nutrition lessons with middle school academic subjects.
Partnering with the YMCA of the USA, the Harvard University PRC developed a curriculum, Food & Fun After School, to increase children's physical activity and healthy food options in after-school programs. The partners established standards for nutrition and physical activity in after-school settings.
View the Food & Fun After School materials. Read a journal article analyzing the price and nutrition of healthy versus less healthy snacks in after-school programs. Read article abstracts describing the program's impact on children's physical activity and healthy food access (through PubMed).
Community health workers (CHWs) have been used worldwide to promote health; in Hispanic communities, CHWs (called promotores when referring to both women and men) have been successful in programs to improve access to care and screening. Promotores help tailor and lead a chronic disease prevention program for Mexican-Americans living on the U.S.-Mexico border
The Maine Bureau of Health and the Maine Center for Public Health joined with Harvard University’s CDC-sponsored Prevention Research Center to form a new entity named the Maine-Harvard Prevention Research Center (MHPRC). The partners focused attention on the statewide problem of obesity, and in 2004, the MHPRC established the Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative (MYOC) in partnership with the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Together they developed an approach to addressing overweight in children via physicians’ offices. They obtained funding from the Maine Health Access Foundation to launch an intervention to improve care of overweight children and their families by improving providers’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices.
In 2000, the Maine Bureau of Health and the Maine Center for Public Health joined with Harvard University’s PRC to create a new center focusing on the statewide problem of childhood obesity. Research results led to a statewide ban (2007) on advertising of unhealthy snacks on school property. The Harvard-Maine PRC subsequently sponsored statewide conferences that prompted advocacy on legislation requiring calorie labeling on menus of chain restaurants (20 or more establishments; signed into law June 17, 2009).
Read a summary of the law
Harvard University PRC researchers found that through the use of the Out of School Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative (OSNAP), after-school programs can increase children’s access to drinking water during snack time. The PRC developed OSNAP to help programs that care for children outside of school improve nutrition and physical activity environments, policies, and practices. Ten programs participating in OSNAP took part in learning sessions focused on changing policies and environments to increase healthy eating, drinking, and physical activity opportunities. The researchers helped the programs set up standard operating procedures for water delivery, such as provision of cups to children at snack time, to increase the likelihood that changes would be maintained at the end of the study. Compared to ten control programs, at six-month follow-up the intervention sites served 3.6 more ounces of water on average per child per day, served water more frequently, and served 60.9 fewer beverage calories on average per snack per day. The researchers believe this study is the first group randomized control trial (RCT) of an intervention to increase the amount of water served in after-school programs. The changes made to the after-school snack menus of participating Boston Public Schools (BPS) are being adopted and implemented throughout the BPS system.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston PRC was part of the research team that created CATCH—the Coordinated Approach to Child Health. This elementary school program is proven effective in producing diet and physical activity improvements that persist into early adolescence. Staff associated with the PRC’s CATCH Program educated policymakers in Texas about the potential of school health programs to influence children’s physical activity and nutrition. The efforts resulted in the development and passage of Senate Bill 19 in 2001 mandating that all elementary schools have a coordinated school health program by 2007. CATCH has been adopted by more than 1,500 schools in Texas and in schools in 7 other states.
Read the case study about CATCH.
Bike Lane Infrastructure Improves Ridership in New Orleans
Tulane University PRC researchers assessed the promising built environment strategy of creating bicycle lanes to increase physical activity in New Orleans. The city of New Orleans installed its very first on-street bicycle lanes in the spring of 2008, and gave the researchers the unique opportunity to observe and evaluate the before and after effects of this new infrastructure on bicycle ridership.
PRC Provides Recommendations for a Louisiana Healthy Food Retail Financing Program
The Tulane University PRC is a member of and provided technical assistance and data analysis to the Healthy Food Retail Study Group, established by the Louisiana Senate in 2008. The center coordinated the study group and prepared the report that made recommendations for a Louisiana Healthy Food Retail Financing Program, enacted in 2009. The law provides grants and loans to supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and food retailers to make fresh fruits and vegetables available in low-income communities.
Read the policy brief, Healthy Food Retail Act, developed by the PRC.
Read the study group’s report.
Researchers from the St. Louis University and Washington University in St. Louis PRC created an inventory of 61 Dissemination and Implementation (D&I) models and organized them according to three categories for use by D&I researchers. These models help to bridge the gap between research and practice by providing the structure that can be used to spread evidence-based approaches that prevent disease, promote health, and improve health services.
A team of researchers and practitioners from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and UCLA/RAND partner organizations† have been collaborating to document the magnitude of students’ exposure to violence and develop a cognitive-behavioral therapy intervention for trauma in schools (CBITS) that can be delivered by school-based mental health professionals for students experiencing postexposure symptoms. Pilot-testing of the intervention in the LAUSD using a quasi-experimental study design showed CBITS to be promising, and a more rigorous study was undertaken.
University of Michigan Prevention Research Center
Flint, Michigan, an economically disadvantaged community in which the prevalence of adolescent risk behaviors is high, was chosen by the Prevention Research Center (PRC) of Michigan as an intervention site. The PRC offered academic strength as well as concern and commitment to collaborate with the Genesee County Health Department, community-based organizations, and other community representatives in addressing the health risks of young males. The community expressed concern about adolescent violence and was interested in finding ways to reduce substance abuse and early sexual behavior as well as in increasing healthy behavior among its adolescent residents.
- Page last reviewed: March 30, 2016
- Page last updated: October 5, 2015
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