Grant Helps Case Western Reserve, Cleveland Work Together for Healthy Neighborhoods

The Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is teaming up with Greater Cleveland communities to address common health issues faced in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods.

Cleveland, Ohio

The newly established Case Western Reserve Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods (PRCHN) will also serve as a source for regional research and public health data. With an initial $739,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the center will study how residents of these communities can prevent or counter the risks of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer. Such conditions account for 70 percent of all deaths in the United States and 75 percent of the nation's total health-care expenditures, according to the CDC.

"By collaborating with neighborhood residents, leaders and community organizations in Greater Cleveland, we hope to address the significant environmental and lifestyle issues that serve as barriers to good health," said Elaine Borawski, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health Promotion Research at the medical school and the PRCHN's principal investigator and co-director.

"Establishment of the PRCHN builds upon longstanding initiatives at Case Western Reserve that have engaged the community in identifying and addressing health and environmental disparities, which contribute to a greater burden of disease and poorer health outcomes among many of Cleveland's urban residents," said Susan Flocke, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and the PRCHN co-director.

In addition to the medical school, university colleges and schools involved in the center are the Case Western Reserve College of Arts and Sciences; the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing; the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences; and the School of Dental Medicine.

Research projects will target five priority areas: Environmentally Healthy Homes and Communities; Improve Healthy Lifestyles in the Neighborhood; Tobacco Prevention and Control; Reducing the Burden of Chronic Disease; and Urban Planning Poverty and Health Promotion.

As part of its initial funding, the PRCHN will sponsor a major research project in which it will work with neighborhood residents and leaders to increase the availability and accessibility of healthful foods in places where food choices are made such as corner stores, schools and community gardens.

"Good nutrition is linked to good health, but in many urban neighborhoods, lack of supermarkets, limited food selection in neighborhood stores and the prevalence of fast food create an unhealthy food environment," said Jessica Kelley-Moore, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in the Case Western Reserve College of Arts and Sciences and leader of the food project.

Initial funding from the CDC is to support the center's infrastructure and the food study. It is being awarded under the CDC's Prevention Research Centers Program.

The center has the potential to receive up to $1 million annually for up to five years through additional CDC funding.