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UMass Chan Prevention Research Center funding renewed

Milagros Rosal, PhD, and Stephenie Lemon, PhD, are co-directors of the Worcester Prevention Research Center at UMass Medical School.

The UMass Chan Prevention Research Center at UMass Medical School has been awarded a $3.75 million, five-year grant renewal from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The center, co-led by Stephenie Lemon, PhD, and Milagros Rosal, PhD, has been part of the nationwide Prevention Research Center consortium since 2009.

“Working collaboratively with groups like the Worcester Division of Public Health and other organizations throughout the area, we have spent the last 10 years integrating the center as part of the fabric of the local collaborative public health infrastructure in Worcester,” said Dr. Lemon, professor of population & quantitative health sciences and chief of the department’s Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine. “This funding gives us a unique opportunity as an academic center to work very closely with boots-on-the-ground public health practitioners to better understand the issues that communities face and conduct work that addresses these issues in partnership with those communities.”

The UMass Chan Prevention Research Center has already conducted several public health studies to promote health and well-being, with a focus on health equity. Its far-reaching collaborations with the Worcester Division of Public Health and other local community organizations promote healthy eating and physical activity and the prevention and management of chronic conditions.

For the grant’s applied research project, Dr. Rosal will implement and evaluate the effectiveness of an evidence-based intervention to assist community health centers improve medication adherence for patients whose hypertension is uncontrolled. The intervention embeds processes in electronic health records that prompt medical assistants to flag uncontrolled and nonadherent patients, then refer them to community health workers. The community health workers will coach and track patients’ progress in the electronic health record to facilitate communication between providers.

“Moving from translating evidence into best practice to implementing the evidence into routine practice, as a model for systematizing care, has a lot of potential for other conditions,” said Rosal. “This kind of work provides so much potential to improve quality of life and avoid preventable deaths.”

Prevention Research Centers were authorized by Congress in 1984 to identify public health problems and to develop, test and evaluate public health interventions that can be applied widely, particularly in underserved communities. Lemon and Rosal said they are proud that UMass Medical School can serve a vital role within the public health system at the scientific forefront of translating and implementing evidence-based programs. “We’re incredibly excited to be able to continue this impactful work,” said Lemon.

Lemon and Rosal are joined by a team of faculty, staff and students who bring a wide range of expertise to the Worcester Prevention Research Center.

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