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$10M NIH Grant to Study Health Disparities in Breast Cancer May 3, 2010

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Sherri McGinnis González
A $9.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health has been awarded to the University of Illinois at Chicago to study access to care and health disparities among underserved and minority women with breast cancer in Chicago.

The UIC Center for Population Health and Health Disparities is one of 10 sites across the country to receive funding from the NIH to study racial and ethnic disparities in health. The UIC center was established in 2003 with an initial $7.275 million, five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute.

The renewal funding "will allow the center to conduct research that impacts the policies that govern access to mammography and management of breast cancer and assures equal access to the standard of breast cancer care regardless of where it is delivered and who requests it," says Richard Warnecke, professor emeritus in the UIC School of Public Health and co-program director of the center at UIC's Institute for Health Research and Policy.

The grant will fund three primary research projects.

One project will look at whether patient navigation services for breast cancer screening will help women to keep their appointments and ensure they receive proper diagnosis and treatment if cancer is detected. This study will also assess the role that the designation of medically underserved areas has on breast cancer diagnosis in Chicago.

The second project will test a strategy for providing breast cancer risk screening for African-American and Latina women receiving primary care at federally qualified health centers.

"We want to know whether or not doctors in federally qualified health centers can access patients for risk, what risk means to the patients, and how we can deliver risk messages that motivate women to follow
recommended health surveillance and lifestyle modifications," said Warnecke.

The third project will look at the biology of breast cancer, specifically DNA methylation, and how environmental factors play a role in aggressive breast cancer disproportionately affecting women of color.

"We also want to enable women who are poor and underserved to recognize the need to access their care in ways that ensure the best outcomes," said Warnecke. "And most importantly, we're trying to train young scholars in health disparities so that we have a continuing focus in this area."

The UIC Center for Population Health and Health Disparities is a collaboration that involves 21 investigators in 14 disciplines.

Program co-director is Elizabeth Calhoun, associate professor of health policy and administration at the UIC School of Public Health.

An extended interview as MP3 audio file is at

UIC ranks among the nation's leading research universities and is Chicago's largest university with 26,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.