Nov. 9, 2004 The University of the Virgin Islands will become a major player in researching minority health disparities, thanks to a $1.1 million grant from the National Institute of Health.
UVI's Nursing Division will receive the money over the next three years from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, which falls under the NIH. The grant money establishes UVI as a Center of Excellence in Partnerships for Community Outreach, Research on Health Disparities and Training, also known as an EXPORT Center. The funds will be used to develop resources and infrastructure needed to expand research in education and health in the Virgin Islands, with the ultimate goal of reducing disparities in the health status of residents in the territory.
"Part of it will be building our staff to do major research," Dr. Gloria Callwood, UVI Nursing Division chairwoman, said at a press conference announcing the grant Tuesday. "We will be partnering with persons in the community and outreach to educate the population so we are effective in reducing the health differences."
Nursing faculty will also be partnering with researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Florida and the University of Pittsburgh.
According to Callwood, part of the focus will be on the major health risks faced by Virgin Islanders, made up of 80 percent minorities. Residents are therefore disproportionately affected by hypertension, diabetes and cancer. But it may also expand to researching how socioeconomic conditions, cultural differences and insurance availability affect the population.
"Established researchers will help to guide us in the process so we are looking at the things we need to look at. What we have to do is sort out what is contributing to disparities in health," Callwood said.
Dr. John Ruffin, director of National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, said UVI is uniquely positioned because of the large minority population. He said the findings here could be used to help other areas of the country.
"I am convinced the work we do supported by this grant will make a difference in the health status of the people of the community," Callwood said. "It's going to be a lot of work, but we're excited about the opportunity." Delegate Donna M. Christensen also attended the press conference.
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