Three-quarters of a million Georgians stand to benefit from a major new public health initiative aimed at reducing high cancer rates by taking aim at smoking, obesity, and lack of physical exercise.
The Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University has been awarded a total of $6.3 million in grants from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish a Prevention Research Center, which will focus its efforts on improving the lifestyles and health of residents in the 33 counties of Southwest Georgia.
The core grant of $3.8 million, scheduled to begin in late September, is a partnership of Emory's Woodruff Health Sciences Center and the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition, which was designated by the Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) in 2003 as a Regional Program of Excellence. In addition to the core grant, the CDC funded investigators at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health for two Special Interest Projects. A five-year grant of $1.6 million will support Emory to be part of a Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network, and a three-year grant of $0.9 million will be used to study and improve the quality of life for men with localized prostate cancer.
Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, a professor of behavioral sciences & health education at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, and a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar, is principal investigator of the Prevention Research Center.
"Our focus will be on cancer prevention," she said. "In the five-year span of the grant, we will expect to see more people being screened for early stage cancers, reducing their use of tobacco, engaging in physical activity, and eating more healthy diets. Though it would be expecting a lot to see an actual decline in the incidence of cancer during this time frame, those improvements will follow over time if we are successful."
Dr. Glanz also is principal investigator of the new Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network. N. Kyle Steenland, PhD, professor of environmental and occupational health in the Rollins School of Public Health and a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar, is principal investigator of the prostate cancer project.
"We are very excited to immediately have two Special Interest Projects in addition to our core center," said Dr. Glanz. "This is wonderful recognition of the growing capacity of Emory and the Rollins School of Public Health, in partnership with the Georgia Cancer Coalition, for community-based cancer research. Both will help to build a program of community-based cancer prevention and control research in Southwest Georgia."
James W. Curran, MD, MPH, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health, noted that the Prevention Research Center is a first for Emory and reflects the active participation of faculty and administrators throughout the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, including many involved in cancer research and prevention efforts through the university's Winship Cancer Institute and the Georgia Cancer Coalition.
"The real significance of this center lies in what we will be able to accomplish in preventing disease and improving health for a medically underserved region of Georgia," he said. "It is an excellent example of the value of partnerships, both within Emory and with our community institutions."
Michael M.E. Johns, MD, executive vice president for health affairs at Emory, added that the new program exemplifies the Woodruff Health Sciences Center's core mission of "making people healthy."
"Health care in the 21st century will have to be more proactive and preventive in its approach if we are going to achieve the healthy society we all want," he said. "Our mission of promoting health and treating disease is not limited to our campus, our hospitals or even the Atlanta metropolitan region. We are excited about extending our involvement in rural Georgia."