February 22, 2021

Heart and lung disease are leading causes of illness and death in the United States, and the disease burden is unequal across groups defined by race/ethnicity, sex and/or gender, and socioeconomic status. Numerous programs have been proven to reduce heart disease, but too often they are not put into practice in the communities where they are most needed.

To address this public health problem, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has invested more than $56 million over seven years to form the Disparities Elimination through Coordinated Interventions to Prevent and Control Heart and Lung Disease Risk (DECIPHeR) Alliance. The overarching objective of the DECIPHeR Alliance is to identify and test implementation strategies that will effectively deliver evidence-based interventions to the most affected communities, ultimately improving the health of underserved populations and reducing disparities.

Dr. June Stevens

Dr. June Stevens

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, led by June Stevens, PhD, AICR/WCRF Distinguished Professor in the Gillings School’s Departments of Nutrition and Epidemiology, will receive more than 4.4 million dollars to serve as the Coordinating Center for the DECIPHeR Alliance.

The DECIPHeR Alliance also includes seven research centers across the U.S. that will test strategies to increase the reach and uptake of proven programs in high burden communities. The centers are hosted at the University of California at Los Angeles; University of Colorado Denver; University of Illinois at Chicago; Johns Hopkins University/University of Michigan; Northwestern University; New York University School of Medicine; and Tulane University.

In Chapel Hill, the Coordinating Center will provide organizational support as well as scientific contributions. A key goal is to encourage synergies between investigators that can enrich the overall research.

“Our team brings decades of experience in coordinating multicenter studies, as well as experience in study design, behavioral interventions, implementation science and community engagement,” said Stevens. “We find that when we provide a setting for investigators to share ideas, exciting innovations often result.”

Dr. Kimberly Truesdale

Dr. Kimberly Truesdale

Stevens will work closely with Kimberly Truesdale, PhD, associate professor of nutrition in the School.

“This research is extremely timely and needed given widening health disparities, especially during the pandemic,” said Truesdale, who is serving as research director for the grant. “We expect the scientific research conducted by the DECIPHeR Alliance to have a meaningful public health impact on heart and lung disease, especially in communities that experience a higher burden of disease.”

Other co-investigators from UNC include: Jennifer Leeman, DrPH, associate professor in the School of Nursing; Kurt Ribisl, PhD, Jo Anne Earp Distinguished Professor and chair of the Gillings School’s Department of Health Behavior; Leslie Lytle, PhD, adjunct professor of heath behavior at Gillings; Sarah Mills, PhD, assistant professor of health behavior at Gillings; Feng-Chang Lin, PhD, associate professor of biostatistics at Gillings; and Maihan Vu, DrPH, assistant professor of health behavior at Gillings.

The grant number for this work is 1-U24-HL151308-01. The project sponsor is the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute with the National Institutes of Health.

Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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