A worldwide network of research and training centers will build institutional and community capacity in low- and middle-income countries to prevent and control chronic diseases under the aegis of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and UnitedHealth Group.
Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel
The NHLBI is awarding contracts worth more than $34 million to set up the network, consisting of centers of excellence in nine countries, each led by a research institution and paired with an academic institution in a developed country.
The institute will fund centers in Bangladesh, China, Guatemala, India (Bangalore and New Delhi) and South Africa. These centers also are supported by United Health Group's Chronic Disease Initiative. The NHLBI is funding three additional centers in Argentina, Kenya and Peru and United Health CDI funds two centers at the U.S.-Mexico border and in Tunisia.
"Scientific discovery knows no boundaries—and neither do chronic diseases, which are increasingly affecting the young and the elderly, the rich and the poor, and every ethnic group in every nation," said NHLBI Director Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel.
The network was announced in the journal The Lancet by Nabel; Simon Stevens, president, Global Health, at UnitedHealth Group; and Dr. Richard Smith, director of UnitedHealth CDI.
"Rigorous research undertaken in a collaborative fashion at globally diverse sites will also enrich our basic understanding of disease causation and, in particular, of the interplay between biological, environmental, and sociocultural contributors to public health," they wrote.
"By developing infrastructures for research and training, the centers will apply their considerable expertise to enhance local capacity to conduct population-based or clinical research to monitor, prevent, or control chronic cardiovascular and lung diseases," said Dr. Cristina Rabadán-Diehl, director of the NHLBI program.
The centers will conduct research tailored to their local or regional needs to reduce the burden of chronic diseases, including heart disease, heart failure, stroke, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Related risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity and environmental exposures that contribute to COPD also will be emphasized, as will the centers" collaboration with existing health care systems.
Nabel said her institute has commissioned an Institute of Medicine report on cardiovascular disease in developing countries and has joined with other international agencies to create the Global Alliance for Chronic Disease. (See article on Chronic diseases: a 21st century epidemic.)
The NHLBI is awarding five-year contracts totaling almost $26 million to the following Centers of Excellence and the developed nation partner. In addition, the NHLBI is awarding a six-year $8.8 million contract to Westat of Rockville, Md., to serve as the administrative coordinating center for the NHLBI COEs.
Each center will foster the training and mentoring of scientists, physicians, other health professionals and community health workers in collaboration with their partner institutions. Applicants were required to be a pre-approved Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholars or Fellows site.