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Research in Brief

April 2011

Prevention Research Centers Contribute to Minority Health Improvement

Prevention Research Centers (PRCs) conduct research to improve the health of racial and ethnic minorities. During National Minority Health Month, which is observed every April by the Office of Minority Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, the director of CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE) commented on the value of the PRCs.

“Since its inception, the PRC Program has championed the elimination of health disparities and engaged racial and ethnic minority communities in a research agenda for social change and improved health outcomes,” said OMHHE director Leandris C. Liburd, PhD, MPH. “The PRCs have significantly contributed to our understanding of how to develop, implement, and evaluate policy, systems, and environmental change strategies that support health in all communities.”

Examples of PRCs that are working to improve the health of ethnic and racial minority groups are given below:

  • At Tulane University’s PRC, researchers assess how changes in the food environment in underserved African-American areas of New Orleans affect residents, and how the residents affect the food environment. These researchers examine how the addition of whole grains to federal food assistance packages influences demand at the retail level. The researchers also will study how the expected increase in the number of food stores (under a new policy created with Tulane PRC help) affects the consumption of healthy foods. Another area of research investigates the relationships among the physical and social environments in these neighborhoods and obesity in schoolchildren.

  • San Diego State University PRC researchers work with Latino populations in the United States, who have a higher prevalence of obesity than non-Latino populations, especially in U.S.-Mexico border communities. These researchers are implementing a physical activity intervention and collaborating with community organizations, trainers, and health care providers along the border, increasing the capacity of these partners to advocate for environmental changes that support physical activity.

  • Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine PRC work to empower Korean and South Asian immigrants in New York City to reduce the incidence of diabetes in these communities. The average body mass index for Korean and South Asian immigrants has been shown to increase with successive generations. Being overweight increases the risk for chronic diseases. Through a community-focused initiative called Project RICE (Reaching Immigrants through Community Empowerment), community health workers are trained to deliver a diabetes prevention intervention. Project RICE is conducted in partnership with local health care providers, businesses, and community- and faith-based organizations.

  • Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University PRC work to create a supportive environment for young African Americans in Baltimore who are unemployed and out of school. This population is at an increased risk of depression, which can contribute to negative behaviors, such as substance abuse, which can affect entire communities. In partnership with a youth support organization, the researchers are using an antidepression intervention to transform a vulnerable population and increase the rates of GED completion and employment.

  • Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University PRC discovered a high prevalence of noise-induced hearing loss among American Indians in the Pacific Northwest. The researchers are now investigating ways to prevent future hearing problems in schoolchildren by adapting a proven, effective, educational program called Dangerous Decibels® for tribal use. The program takes a holistic approach that involves schools, families, and communities.

For more information on these and other projects that relate to minority health, go to the Research Projects page and search by Race and Ethnicity.

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