University of Wisconsin Launches Innovative Research into State's Health Disparities


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Three doctorsMADISON - With the help of a $5.2 million federal stimulus-program grant, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is developing a program to focus on disparities in heart and lung disease in Wisconsin, two of the most significant causes of death and disability both in the state and nationally.


Statistics from the Wisconsin Bureau of Health Information and Policy paint a stark picture of the disparities in cardiovascular and lung diseases among diverse populations in the state. Between 2001 and 2004, for example, more African-Americans died prematurely from coronary heart disease and stroke than white males and females. In Wisconsin's population younger than 65 years, heart disease accounted for 50 percent of deaths among African-American men, 30 percent among African-American females, while accounting for 21 percent of deaths among white men and 9 percent among white females.


The grant will help the UW establish the Network for Health Equality in Wisconsin (NHEW) to identify how changes within the economic, political and social landscape in Wisconsin contribute to major differences in health among state residents. The network will study issues such as quality of and access to health care and shifts in local economies. It will also monitor how policy changes, such as smoking bans or programs to improve public transportation, can impact health status.


"We know that a person's health is impacted by many things, and not just by their genes and individual lifestyle choices," explains Dr. Javier Nieto, the network director and Chair and Professor of the Department of Population Health Sciences. "The communities and environments we live in, the health policies in these communities, shifts in local economies, and the quality and availability of health care also play a part in creating or disturbing health."


The new grant will expand the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW), which is also directed by Nieto. SHOW was launched in 2008 with funding from the UW's Wisconsin Partnership Program to collect health-related data from Wisconsin residents, including health history, health behaviors, access to health care, height, weight, blood pressure and blood samples, as well as on the quality of the built environment of the communities where individuals live.


Besides SHOW, other network collaborators include the Wisconsin Collaborative for Health Care Quality, the Wisconsin County Health Rankings, and the UW's extensive compendium of the state's local health programs and policies. Each entity collects measures of health and health care within Wisconsin; the newly formed research network will enable more comprehensive exploration of health determinants and disparities within communities.


The program will also expand partnerships with the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, Milwaukee's Center for Urban Population Health and UW's Community Health Connections, the Wisconsin Research and Education Network, and the Collaborative Center for Health Equity.


This innovative program is funded by a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Each year the National Institutes of Health invests more than $25 billion in health research, which is performed mainly at universities throughout the country; the majority are highly competitive grants. The awarded Grand Opportunity (or GO) Grant is from a special category of awards granted through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and for health research infrastructure projects.

Date Published: 10/22/2009

News tag(s):  researchouruwhealth

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