CDC Boosts External Research to
Protect Americans' Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announces that it is committing almost $30 million in new funding to support innovative public health research aimed at further promoting and protecting the health of Americans, with an immediate focus on producing a body of evidence that will help employers make better choices in wellness programs. The CDC’s new Health Protection Research Initiative aims to strengthen public health research by encouraging more individuals and institutions to engage in research that will result in measurable improvements in public health. The availability of funds was published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts on April 23, 2004.
The first element of this new research initiative targets projects that will provide employers with the evidence they need to promote the health of their workforce. CDC has found employers need more science-based evidence to choose the best options among various benefit programs and workplace health promotion programs. This part of the new initiative is not intended to address occupational health and safety issues but to focus on broad health promotion.
“We know that there are many steps that all Americans, including workers, can take to protect their health, such as not smoking, making healthier food choices, and staying active,” said Department of Health and Human Service Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. “This new initiative will help us to better understand just how effective these steps are and what else can be done to help more Americans make these kinds of healthier choices.”
CDC expects projects designed to affect health in the workplace will have a positive economic and health impact. For example, with more than 60 percent of U.S. adults being overweight or obese, the direct and indirect costs of diabetes were estimated at nearly $132 billion in 2002, and annual U.S. medical expenditures attributed to obesity are estimated at $93 billion in 2002 dollars. The economic cost of obesity to business, including health, life and disability insurance and paid sick leave by private sector firms was estimated to be at least $15.4 billion in 2002.
For this purpose CDC will dedicate up to $14 million to support 20 to 40 grants. Grant applications will go through an external peer-review process to gauge their effectiveness in responding to the intent of the research initiative. Applications are open to researchers affiliated with public or private academic or research institutions, eligible agencies of the federal government, units of state or local government, and health care organizations.
“This initiative is a very positive step in our efforts to promote better health in America. Despite our best efforts to date, we do not yet have the research to tell us the best ways to combat a large proportion of health risks. With this new program, CDC is investing in closing the gaps in our knowledge so that we can move toward a time when all people will achieve their expected life span with the best possible quality of health,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding.
Two additional blocks of funds are aimed at expanding training to increase the number of individuals and institutions involved in public health research. Up to $10 million will support development of a corps of independent, public health researchers to address national public health priorities. And up to $4 million is targeted to support institutions of higher learning to develop training programs that will prepare highly qualified scientists to lead innovative public health research in the future.
An additional $1 million has been allocated to establish a Center for Excellence in Health Promotion Economics. This new academic research center would apply economic theory and methods to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of health protection programs in priority areas.
Through this initiative, CDC hopes to engage dozens of new researchers in understanding the nation’s most compelling public health problems and in developing and evaluating effective solutions that will lead to measurable improvements in health promotion and protection.
“Public health research is the essential step to translate scientific findings into the kinds of health actions that employers and individuals alike will be willing to take to improve their health and better protect themselves from emerging infectious, environmental and terrorist threats,” Dr. Gerberding said.
“We know a great deal, but we need to know more, and we need to increase the pace with which we develop programs that work. This research funding is designed to engage more people in this crucial effort,” she said.
Research proposals for the workplace and individual training components are due June 21, while applications for the institutional training and health economics components are due June 22. Awards are expected to be made in September 2004.
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CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.