CDC Program Expands to Study Health Needs of Underserved Communities

Colorado School of Public Health Center funded

March 30, 2009

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is awarding more than $25 million to support prevention research through the Prevention Research Centers Program at academic institutions in 25 states, including Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center begun at the University of Colorado Denver (through the Colorado School of Public Health) as well as in the partner community of the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado.

The awards are for the first year of a five-year funding period which starts a new stage in the program’s history and development. First authorized by Congress in 1984, the Program is recognized for having advanced the field of participatory research where researchers work hand-in-hand with communities at every research step.

Like other Centers, the Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center works with community partners to identify local health priorities and to conduct community-based research and program evaluation. The Center’s long standing community partner has been the San Luis Valley. This rural, low income, Hispanic and non-Hispanic white population has been partnering with the University of Colorado Denver on epidemiologic and health promotion studies related to type 2 diabetes and related chronic disease since the 1980s.

“The Center’s health priorities will continue to include healthy eating and physical activity,” said Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center Director Julie Marshall, PhD. “However, our work will expand over the next five years to better address the needs of the whole child. With our public health partners, we will also be working to better integrate practice and research in order to reduce the time it takes to get research findings into practice.”

Elaine Belansky, PhD, the Center’s associate director and principal investigator of the core research project, said: “There are significant health issues facing San Luis Valley youth. In one Valley community, 43 percent of middle school students are overweight or obese and 34 percent of middle and high school students report feeling sad or hopeless. The goal of the core research project, Youth and adults building healthy environments and policies, is to improve the physical and mental health of San Luis Valley middle school students by working in partnership with youth, school administration and community agencies to create school environment and policy changes that can support healthy behaviors. With youth as one of our key partners, we hope to build a new generation of young public health leaders who have the skills and knowledge to assess their community and create positive change.”

Chronic diseases account for 70 percent of all deaths in the United States, and almost half of all Americans live with at least one chronic condition. The medical care costs of people with chronic diseases account for more than 75 percent of the nation’s $2 trillion in medical care costs.

“Preventing chronic disease is critical to our nation’s well-being and excessive health care costs,” said Janet Collins, PhD, director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Our investment in the Prevention Research Centers moves us closer to helping all Americans share the richness of good health.”

The Colorado School of Public Health’s Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center is recognized as a Category 1 Center because it has a comprehensive organizational infrastructure, strong community relationships and plans in place with community partners for a core research project.

Information about the full scope of the program is available at

The new Colorado School of Public Health is the first and only school of public health in the Rocky Mountain Region, attracting top tier faculty and students from across the country, and providing a vital contribution towards ensuring our region’s health and well-being. Collaboratively formed by the University of Colorado Denver, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado, the Colorado School of Public Health provides training, innovative research and community service to actively address public health issues, including chronic disease, access to health care, environmental threats, emerging infectious diseases, and costly injuries.