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Arnold School of Public Health

Prevention Research Center awarded CDC funding to re-up for another five years

September 18, 2019 | Erin Bluvas,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced recipients of the 2019-2024 funding cycle for the Prevention Research Center (PRC) network. UofSC was among the 25 academic institutions in 20 states to receive the grants, which provide funding support in the amount of $750K per year to conduct applied public health prevention research.

Funded PRCs will develop, test, and/or evaluate public health interventions for wide application, particularly in underserved communities, based on the latest science, according to the CDC’s program description. Housed in the Arnold School since it was established, the USC Prevention Research Center will mark its 25th-30th years during the upcoming cycle.

“Our Center has been continuously funded in consecutive competitive funding cycles since 1993,” says exercise science professor Sara Wilcox, who has directed* the PRC since 2011. “We’re quite proud to continue that trajectory.” 

Throughout its history, the PRC has completed more than 40 research projects that promote physical activity and healthy eating through community-engaged intervention, training and dissemination. Completed projects include the creation of walking programs in rural communities, conducting mHealth interventions, developing a network to enhance tobacco control activities, improving women’s cardiovascular health and many others.

The Nutritious Eating with Soul (NEW Soul) Study, Health in Pregnancy and Postpartum, and the South Carolina Healthy Brain Research Network are among the Center’s current projects. In addition to providing an infrastructure that includes community collaborations, training and technical assistance, and prevention research, the PRC leads a core research project. Since 2014, and continuing through the upcoming funding cycle, this project has been Faith, Activity, and Nutrition (FAN), a program developed and tested in partnership with the 7th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church that targets organizational change within the church to be more supportive of physical activity and healthy eating. 

Originally funded through the National Institutes of Health, FAN was shown to significantly increase leisure-time physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake among AME church members. The 2014-2019 CDC funding cycle enabled the PRC to partner with additional groups and denominations to study the dissemination and implementation of FAN in South Carolina using a train-the-trainer model, with similar positive findings. As a result of the success of these projects, FAN has been indexed in the National Cancer Institute’s Research Tested Intervention Programs, a searchable database of evidence-based programs, and included as a promising intervention by the Rural Health Information Hub.  

“As a result of FAN’s inclusion in these two evidence-based dissemination sites and our presentations at national academic, community, and faith-based meetings, we have experienced increasing demand to provide FAN training to churches both inside and outside of South Carolina,” Wilcox says. The 2019-2024 funding cycle will be used to meet this demand by developing and disseminating a web-based training and support program to prepare church committees to implement FAN on a national scale. 

“Churches, which are integral institutions within nearly every community, exert powerful influences on the lives of individuals and communities,” says Wilcox, who notes that 77 percent of the U.S. population is religiously affiliated (71 percent identifying with Christianity), with older adults, non-Hispanic blacks and those with less than a college education reporting the highest rates. “These groups also experience disproportionately high rates of chronic health conditions, which means that churches have great potential for addressing health disparities. The focus on physical health, in addition to spiritual and emotional health, is a holistic approach embraced by many churches.” 


South Carolina Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network

Additional efforts to address health disparities will take place through the PRC’s continued administration of the South Carolina Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network, the funding of which has also been renewed ($300K/year) for the 2019-2024 funding cycle.  The South Carolina center, which has been continuously funded since 2009,  collaborates with other funded centers across the country that comprise the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network – a national network of academic, public health, and community partners who work together to reduce the burden of cancer, especially among those disproportionately affected. 

“The South Carolina Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network uses evidence-based approaches for the dissemination and implementation of effective cancer prevention and control messages, guidelines, and interventions,” says health promotion, education, and behavior professor and chair Daniela Friedman, who serves as principal investigator** for the center. “The relevance of our efforts in South Carolina is strengthened considerably through our established partnerships with stakeholders statewide, ultimately providing individuals, families and communities with valuable information and programming for reducing cancer-related health disparities.”

Friedman and her team’s community mini-grants initiative was featured recently in the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health’s Friday Letter.  The article features a Columbia-based church that was awarded funds through the center to create a theatrical production focused on increasing awareness about colorectal cancer screening. For the next iteration of the mini-grants program, the center will focus on rural areas of the state.

*Additional PRC investigators for this funding cycle include Patricia Sharpe (PRC), Ruth Saunders, Andrew Kaczynski, Caroline Rudisill (Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior), Brooke McKeever (School of Journalism & Mass Communications)

**Additional South Carolina Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network investigators include James Hebert (CoPI), Jan Eberth, Tom Hurley (Epidemiology and Biostatistics), Swann Arp Adams (Nursing/Epidemiology and Biostatistics), Heather Brandt (Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior), and Sue Heiney (Nursing). The program coordinator is Sam Noblet. 


Exercise science professor Sara Wilcox elected Board of Trustee member for American College of Sports Medicine

Exercise science researcher improves public health by developing faith-based programs that resonate with participants’ beliefs and fit into everyday life

Sara Wilcox (EXSC) elected to fellowship in the Society of Behavioral Medicine

Sara Wilcox elected to join the National Academy of Kinesiology

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