University of South Carolina

$6.7 million grant to boost health-disparities research

A $6.7 million grant to the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health will support an established research program in health disparities.

The five-year award is from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health. It will fund a Center of Excellence in the Social Promotion of Health Equity Research, Education and Community Engagement (CCE-SPHERE) and will support the Arnold School’s partnership for education and research with Claflin University.

The award is the second major NIH grant to Dr. Saundra Glover, the Arnold School’s associate dean for health disparities and social justice, to fund research and education in health disparities. In 2005, she was awarded $7.5 million from NIH to establish the Institute for Partnerships to Elimination Health Disparities (IPEHD) and enhanced the Arnold School’s research program on health disparities.

“This grant will enable us to build on the five years of accomplishments that we had with our previous Center of Excellence,” said Glover, who is on the faculty in the Arnold School’s department of health services policy and management.

“We also will be able to expand our research on cancer and other health disparities and strengthen our partnership with Claflin University to educate the next generation of public-health professionals, educators and scientists,” she said.

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 first award led to the establishment of the 4+1 Program that provides academic support for Claflin University students who obtain an undergraduate degree in biology at the Orangeburg campus and then complete their master’s degrees in public health at USC’s Arnold School.

Other successes from the initial award include research on the human papillomavirus that has been linked to cervical cancer and other diseases; HIV/AIDS research and community-outreach programs; and the establishment of community advisory committees that have been critical in identifying key health issues affecting the Orangeburg community.

The S.C. Medical Association devoted its monthly journal in December 2009 to IPEHD’s cervical-cancer research and community-outreach programs. The journal represented one of the first comprehensive statewide reports on cervical-cancer incidence and mortality, Glover said.

“Over the past five years, we have been able to link science and communities so that we better understand the health disparities in South Carolina,” she said. “We will use this knowledge to translate research findings into clinical applications and to help communities focus on prevention.”

The Palmetto State has some of the nation’s most glaring health disparities, including cancer, HIV, infant mortality, cardiovascular disease and stroke, Glover said.

“The disparities are significant. We have to figure out why and what we can do to turn some of this around,” she said. “This new grant will help us do that.”

Health disparities in South Carolina

South Carolina has some of the nation’s most glaring health disparities, including cancer, HIV, infant mortality, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

In South Carolina, obesity is more prevalent among blacks than whites -- 40.1 percent vs. 26.1 percent. The prevalence of diabetes also varies by race and ethnicity: 13.1 percent of blacks have diabetes compared to 8.4 percent of whites, according to the United Health Foundation.

There were 6,055 HIV/AIDS cases among white men and women in South Carolina and more than 17,000 cases of HIV/AIDS among black men and women in the state in December 2009, according to statistics from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

A USC Arnold School of Public Health study, published in the June 1, 2009, issue of the journal Cancer, found that mortality-to-incident Ratios (MIR) for diseases were much higher among African Americans than whites. Among the findings:

Female breast cancer: Among African-American females, the MIR is higher than the national average. In most areas of the Palmetto State, the MIR is more than 20 percent higher than the rest of the United States.

Colorectal cancer: Colorectal cancer MIRs for white men and women are at the national average or below in every part of the state. But for African Americans living in the Pee Dee and the counties along the Grand Strand and Lowcountry, the MIR is above the national average by at least 20 percent.

Oral cancer: The oral cancer MIR for African Americans is 20 percent higher than the national average in all but four counties: Hampton, Colleton, Jasper and Beaufort. These four counties are about 10 percent higher than the national average.

Prostate cancer: In 43 of the state’s 46 counties, the MIR for prostate cancer among African Americans is 20 percent higher than the national average. The remaining three counties – Williamsburg, Georgetown and Horry counties – are 10 to 20 percent higher than the national average.

Lung cancer: Among African Americans, only three counties in South Carolina – Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties – are at the national average for lung cancer. The remaining 43 counties are above the national average.

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 08/20/10 @ 1:40 PM | Updated: 08/23/10 @ 4:56 PM | Permalink