USC receives $7.5 million for Comprehensive Center of Excellence in Minority Health

In an effort to stem the rise of childhood obesity and related health risks, the University of Southern California (USC) has received a $7.5 million grant to launch a Comprehensive Center of Excellence in Minority Health.

This is USC's first major grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), which is a part of the National Institutes of Health.

The focus of the center is to understand why obesity and associated factors increase the risk for certain diseases among minority populations. Directed by Michael Goran, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the center will focus on reducing the risk for type 2-diabetes and cardiovascular disease within these populations.

“Obese children have gained incredible national attention as of late. Recent data have shown that 34 percent of Hispanic adolescents and 37 percent of African-American adolescents are considered at risk of being overweight,” says Goran. “The new center for minority health is a collaborative effort between USC and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles to research and develop preventive strategies to offset the obesity epidemic.”

The USC Comprehensive Center of Excellence in Minority Health is one of 13 institutions across the country supported by NCMHD to conduct research exploring the multiple and complex factors contributing to minority health disparities. The center will consist of programs designed to analyze fitness activity, nutrition education and body weight to determine if long-term control of obesity and obesity-related diseases in minority children can be addressed before adulthood.

“We are very pleased to see that Michael Goran has been awarded this grant. His commitment and dedication to childhood obesity research continuously contribute to better management of this condition,” says Brian Henderson, M.D., dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “We are now able to build a world class research program that focuses on minority populations in Los Angeles. USC has long been recognized for its commitment to the community and implementing aggressive social-outreach programs.”

The center will support three research projects led by Donna Spruijt-Metz, Ph.D., Christian Roberts, Ph.D., and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles' Vicente Gilsanz, M.D., Ph.D., The center will also provide funding to support a central data support core headed by Kiros Berhane, Ph.D., and a new pilot study program. Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, Ph.D., MPH, from USC's Institute for Prevention Research will serve as the associate director of the center.

“It's wonderful to see the USC community coming together to tackle childhood obesity,” says Roberta Williams, M.D., professor and chair of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the vice president of pediatrics and academic affairs at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, which is staffed by USC faculty physicians and researchers. “The research conducted at the center will have a far reaching impact on populations that have been severely affected by this epidemic.”

USC's Office of Research Advancement assisted Goran in the application process. The office maintains ties between the university's investigators and federal and philanthropic research sponsors, and assists faculty in proposal development.

"Our Washington, D.C., office aims to help faculty with major interdisciplinary proposals that target critical societal issues, such as minority health," says Randolph Hall, vice provost for research advancement.

"We're here to help our faculty do great things," says Steven Moldin, executive director of the DC office. "With this grant, Dr. Goran will not only do outstanding research, but also will help minority youth lead healthier lives."

The Comprehensive Research Center of Excellence in Minority Health will be located at USC's Health Sciences Campus in East Los Angeles.

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