Harvard School of Public Health (SPH) in partnership with Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) has received a $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help eliminate health disparities in rural and urban communities.
The four-year grant will establish the Center for Healthy Options and Innovative Community Empowerment (CHOICE), which will capitalize on the strengths of a well-respected historically black university and an Ivy League school.
Through CHOICE, individuals in rural communities in Gadsden County, Fla., and in the urban Boston neighborhood of Roxbury will participate in this research effort to address major causes of excess mortality in minority communities.
People of color and vulnerable populations are more likely than other populations to experience high rates of disease, early death, and barriers to health care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Deborah Prothrow-Stith, professor of public health practice at SPH, will lead the effort at Harvard. “In America, we have had little success in reducing racial health disparities,” she said. “We need creative interventions that are evaluated for effectiveness. CHOICE will use community-based participatory research models to design and evaluate interventions. Also, we will build the infrastructure for minority health and other health disparities research and training within both of our institutions.”
“Under the direction of President Fred Gainous, Florida A&M University will be at the forefront of important research to show how we can eliminate health care disparities throughout our nation,” said Cynthia Hughes Harris, dean of FAMU’s School of Allied Health and principal investigator of the grant. “We can make a difference, and we will do it through scientific and social research. What we can accomplish in rural Gadsden County and urban Roxbury, Mass., will serve as models for the nation.”
Howard Koh is director of the Division of Public Health Practice at SPH, from which the Harvard activities related to CHOICE will be directed. Both Koh and Prothrow-Stith are former Massachusetts commissioners of public health. “This grant will unite multiple forces in promoting public health practice in our broader communities,” said Koh.
Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said, “The award is a well-deserved tribute to Dr. Prothrow-Stith and Dr. Koh for their commitment to better health care for minority communities in Boston and the nation. The Harvard School of Public Health continues to be renowned for its tradition of excellence and leadership in developing effective ways to meet the major health challenges we face. This partnership with Florida A&M University will continue that tradition.”
“We are very proud of this collaboration and this opportunity for Florida A&M University to emerge as a premier center that addresses health disparities in the nation,” said Fred Gainous, Florida A&M University president.
Brian K. Gibbs, director of the Program to Eliminate Health Disparities at the Division of Public Health Practice, is the SPH CHOICE Center director. He will be responsible for the integration of research, training, and community outreach and dissemination activities within the center.