UTHealth Houston School of Public Health researchers will participate in a national initiative to help combat cancer disparities fueled by persistent poverty. The five-year grant was awarded to collaborators at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center from the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. Nearing $10 million in funding for five years, UTHealth Houston researchers will receive nearly $2 million as co-investigators to foster cancer prevention research and strengthen community-based programs in low-income areas.
Shreela Sharma, PhD, professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences, will be principal investigator of the subaward to UTHealth Houston partnering to establish Acres Homes Cancer Prevention Collaboration. “We are delighted to partner with MD Anderson Cancer Center on this important work to improve obesity-prevention behaviors for cancer prevention among Acres Homes residents in Houston, Texas,” said Sharma.
The Biden-Harris administration launched a $50 million initiative to reduce the relationship between poverty and adverse cancer outcomes in areas with an increased chance of cancer, lack of access to preventative and post-care, and a higher mortality risk than those in high-income areas.
Sharma, along with a consortium of school faculty and non-profit Brighter Bites, will work to provide implementation science, geospatial analysis, and community engagement support on the project. Faculty members Ryan Ramphul, PhD; Brett Perkison, MD; Maria Fernandez, PhD; Christine Markham, PhD; Andrew Springer, DrPH; Ru-Jye Chang, DrPH; and Cici Bauer, PhD will join this project alongside Brighter Bites as part one of the center’s initiatives to increase nutrition and activity in these communities to prevent obesity-related cancers and improve cardiometabolic health.
“A transdisciplinary team of UTHealth Houston School of Public Health faculty is bringing diverse public health expertise to this collaborative effort, as well as building partnerships with social service agencies such as Brighter Bites to assess the cardiometabolic health impact of improving access to fresh produce plus nutrition education among children and families residing in Acres Homes,” Sharma said.
Under the Acres Homes program, one-of-five new centers designed to aid underserved communities, this project will address cancer prevention by targeting intervention, improve access to care, and post-care for survivors.