University of South Carolina

Major grants to the Arnold School of Public Health

S.C. Public Health Training Center

Grant Amount: $3.25 million

Funding Agency: U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (Department of Health and Human Services)

Principal Investigators: Dr. Greg Hand, associate dean for research and practice, professor, department of exercise science. Dr. Lillian Smith, Director, Office of Public Health Practice and S.C. Public Health Consortium, clinical assistant professor, department of health promotion, education and behavior

Purpose: The award will establish the S.C. Public Health Training Center (PHTC), which is designed to strengthen the state’s public-health infrastructure and foster a comprehensive approach to workforce development through education and on-the-job experience. The Arnold School will collaborate with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and healthcare professionals statewide for this project.

Among the goals of the PHTC:

-- Develop a sustainable infrastructure for public-health workforce development.
-- Assure equal access to center resources for rural, underserved populations.
-- Assess the learning needs and assets available for the public-health workforce.
-- Provide competency-based training programs.
-- Expand practice-based research, service, and education through collaborative projects and field placements.
-- Contribute to the scholarship of workforce development.

The grant is a part of $16.8 million award to support 27 PHTCs at schools of public health and other public or non-profit institutions across the country. The PHTC Program helps improve the public-health system by enhancing skills of the current and future public-health workforce.

Graniteville: Long-term lung health after exposure to chlorine gas

Grant Amount: $2.9 million

Funding Agency: National Institutes of Health

Principal Investigator: Dr. Erik Svendsen, department of epidemiology and biostatistics

Purpose: Chlorine gas, a potential weapon of mass destruction, is one of the most commonly used chemicals. Chlorination accidents are common, exposing thousands of people each year to danger. A large accident causing the release of chlorine gas could result in a public-health disaster.

Although the acute health effects of chlorine gas on the lungs are well documented, no systematic, long-term study of people exposed to high levels of chlorine gas exists. The train derailment in Graniteville, S.C., on Jan. 6, 2005, led to a major chlorine gas spill. Several hundred people became immediately sick and thousands were potentially exposed, including millworkers.

Between 1980 and 2006, Graniteville millworkers had their lung health monitored for byssinosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling cotton dust. This data have shown that millworkers who returned to work after the accident had lung function loss (FEV1) in both 2005 and 2006 that was twice the rate observed in the years immediately before the accident. This study will examine the lung health of millworkers and community members.

The research is significant because the Graniteville derailment exposed the largest general U.S. population ever to chlorine-gas. This study has the opportunity for strong scientific impact.

Cancer disparities among African-Americans

Grant Amount: $4.3 million

Funding Agency: National Cancer Institute

Principal Investigators: Dr. James Hébert

Purpose: This grant continues the research of the S.C. Cancer Disparities Community Network and builds upon the success of the Community Networks Program, funded five years ago. The focus is on African Americans living in South Carolina, who have a much higher-than-average cancer incidence and high mortality rate.

The funding will be used to study the underlying causes of cancer-related health disparities; discover and develop effective innovations to lower incidence, improve survival and reduce suffering; deliver these innovations to high-risk populations; and share the findings with public-health and other healthcare professionals.

Breast, cervical, colon, prostate, lung and oral cancers are the focus of study. The grant will enable researchers to continue their work with community advisory groups that have been advisers for previous studies.

The Puentes (“Bridges”) Project

Grant Amount: $1 million

Funding Agency: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the S.C. Research Foundation; local funding partners, including the New Morning Foundation, the Sisters of Charity Foundation, the Knight Foundation, Advised Fund of Central Carolina Community Foundation, Palmetto Health, Providence Hospitals and Lexington Medical Center.

Principal Investigators: Dr. Deborah Billings, assistant professor, department of health promotion, education, and behavior; Julie Smithwick-Leone, South Carolina Public Health Institute, director of PASOs programs.

Purpose: The Puentes (which means “bridges” in Spanish) Project will build on the important work of the Perinatal Awareness for Successful Outcomes (PASOs) program of the S.C. Public Health Institute at the Arnold School.

Believed to be the first of its kind in South Carolina, the Puentes Project will provide leadership training for Latino men and women as Community Ambassadors, who will help bridge the cultural and language gaps between the Latino community, healthcare providers and policymakers.

The ambassadors will talk with their peers and discuss culturally appropriate reproductive health information. Ultimately, they will collaborate with healthcare leaders and service providers to develop strategies for enhancing health services and access to care for Latinos.

Center of Excellence in the Social Promotion of Health Equity Research, Education and Community Engagement (CCE-SPHERE)

Grant Amount: $6.7 million

Funding Agency: National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health

Principal Investigator: Dr. Saundra Glover, director, Institute for Partnerships to Eliminate Health Disparities, associate dean for health disparities and social justice

Purpose: The grant will support an established research program in health disparities and will fund a Center of Excellence in the Social Promotion of Health Equity Research, Education and Community Engagement (CCE-SPHERE) and support the Arnold School’s partnership for education and research with Claflin University.

The grant’s co-principal investigators include Dr. Kim Creek of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy at USC and Dr. Rebecca Dillard of Claflin University.

The award is the second major NIH grant to Glover for the funding of research and education in health disparities. In 2005, she received $7.5 million from NIH to establish the Institute for Partnerships to Elimination Health Disparities (IPEHD) and enhance the Arnold School’s research program on health disparities.

Childhood Obesity

Grant Amount: $1.4 million

Funding Agency: National Institutes of Health

Principal Investigator: Dr. Russ Pate, department of exercise science

Purpose: The Arnold School of Public Health is collaborating with scientists throughout the United States on a national study of community programs aimed at reducing childhood obesity. The study, funded by a $23 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest efforts to date to determine which intervention and prevention community programs work best in the effort to halt the number of children who are becoming overweight and obese.

Researchers will focus on 300 communities throughout the nation. The study will examine the community, family and personal factors that influence physical activity; socioeconomic and cultural influences on diet and physical activity; school and community policies; and physical environmental factors.

Other researchers: Dr. Edward Frongillo, Dr. Robert McKeown, Dr. Saundra Glover, Dr. Melinda Forthofer, Dr. Sonya Jones and Dr. Natalie Colabianchi, all from the Arnold School of Public Health, and Dr. Dawn Wilson of the department of psychology.

Two Studies: Women’s Health Disparities

Grant Amount: $181,250

Funding Agency: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development/National Institutes of Health

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jihong Liu, an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics, and Dr. Sara Wilcox, a professor in the department of exercise science

Purpose: The grant will support a project called “Promoting Healthy Weight in Pregnancy and Postpartum Among Overweight/Obese Women.” Many African-American and low-income women enter pregnancy overweight or obese. This increases their risk for weight retention after delivery and for obesity-related health problems.

The researchers will develop a behavioral intervention, based on interviews with women in the target group, and then test the intervention program for its effectiveness in preventing excessive weight gain in pregnancy and promoting weight loss after women give birth.

Grant Amount: $168,000

Funding Agency: National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STDS and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Principal Investigator: Dr. Myriam Torres, clinical assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics and director of the Consortium for Latino Immigration Studies

Purpose: The grant will support the fourth year of a project, “Empowering Latinas to Lash Out Against AIDS (ELLAS).” The first phase of the study has involved interviews with pregnant Latinas about their knowledge, beliefs and attitudes about HIV/AIDS transmission, intentions to take an HIV test and knowledge about the testing and counseling being offered by healthcare providers.

The next phase will focus on the use of culturally tailored materials, such as videos in Spanish, on the benefits of early prenatal care and HIV testing to prevent perinatal transmission. These materials will be developed for use by healthcare providers and for dissemination in Latino communities.

Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria with Antibiotics Infused with Nanoparticles

Grant Amount: $500,000

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Principal Investigators: Dr. Alan Decho, professor, department of environmental health sciences, director of the Microbial Interactions Laboratory

Dr. Brian Benicewicz, nanochemist, College of Arts and Sciences, Centers of Economic Excellence endowed chair in polymer nanocomposites

Purpose: The study will examine how nanoparticles can be used to change the way antibiotics are delivered to cells. It is the first to look at antibiotics infused with nanoparticles and how they can cure infections that have become resistant to medicines currently available.

An emerging concern in health is the growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. Decho studies infections caused by biofilms, which are composed of bacterial cells surrounded by slimy, protective coatings of acids and proteins. Biofilms attach to tissues, organs and artificial implant devices and often lead to infections that are difficult, if not impossible, to treat.

Benicewicz, the project’s co-principal investigator, is an expert on polymer nanocomposites and brings the expertise to engineer such minute pieces of machinery, literally atom by atom, to create nanoparticles whose design and capability was simply unthinkable a mere decade ago.

Resistant microbial infections are widespread in hospitals and communities, and recalcitrant biofilm infections are believed to have an economic impact of up to $30 billion. Conservative estimates indicate that more than 100,000 people die from hospital-acquired and persistent infections.


By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 10/22/10 @ 4:20 PM | Updated: 10/22/10 @ 4:24 PM | Permalink



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