Newswise — A Saint Louis University center that researches the best ways to fight chronic disease has received a five-year grant totaling $5.8 million, one of the largest grants in the history of the School of Public Health.

The Saint Louis University Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research Center received the grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The Saint Louis University Prevention Research Center is one of 28 centers funded by the CDC in the country, and the only one in Missouri. It partners with community-based coalitions and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to prevent chronic diseases in low-income, rural parts of the state, improve individual and community health within Missouri and eliminate health disparities.

The center focuses mainly on smoking prevention, nutrition and physical activity and is in its 10th year of operation.

"We have evolved from a focus on individual health behavior change to creating changes in the social and physical environments that enable individuals to make healthy choices, such as advocating smoke-free workplaces and building walking trails," says Ross Brownson, Ph.D., director of the Prevention Research Center at Saint Louis University.

The main CDC grant of $3.6 million funds the core operations of the center for the next five years. In addition, the CDC has awarded the Saint Louis University Prevention Research Center funding for special interest projects:

· Public policies and physical activity: Saint Louis University will lead a team of four other centers to set up a network that examines what policies cities can adopt to promote physical activity. The group will pick at least two research projects, such as examining the link between urban transportation and activity, conducting a case study on a physical activity policy in a school or systematically reviewing the literature to better understand the connection between urban design and community levels of physical activity. The grant of $90,000 per year is funded for three years. Amy Eyler, Ph.D., assistant professor of community health at Saint Louis University, is the principal investigator.

· Community partners and cancer prevention: The Prevention Research Center will team up with the Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research at SLU and the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service to build a network of community partners to research cancer prevention and control in the African-American community. The network will create a database of community partners, identify research gaps, train partners to conduct research and collaborate on research. Saint Louis University is among eight centers participating in the project, and received a five-year grant, currently funded at $300,000. Matt Kreuter, Ph.D., director of the Health Communication Research Laboratory at SLU, is the St. Louis project director.

· Vaccination and flu: While it might seem ironic given the flu vaccine shortage this year, Saint Louis University is examining how to convince elderly African Americans to get vaccinated against influenza. The researchers will study how to allay concerns about vaccine safety, the main reason people resist getting a flu vaccine. They will develop and test messages designed to encourage people to get flu shots, which most years are readily available at little or no charge. The two-year grant, currently funded for $150,000, supports research on messages to elderly African Americans. Senior adults are at the greatest risk of death from influenza. Ricardo Wray, Ph.D., assistant professor of community health at Saint Louis University, is the principal investigator.

Saint Louis University School of Public Health is one of only 36 fully accredited schools of public health in the United States and the nation's only School of Public Health sponsored by a Jesuit university. It offers masters degrees (MPH, MHA) and doctoral programs (Ph.D.) in six public health disciplines and joint degrees with the Schools of Allied Health, Business, Law, Medicine, Nursing and Social Service. It is home to seven nationally recognized research centers and laboratories with funding sources that include the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the American Cancer Society, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the World Health Organization.

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