Hampton University Establishes Center for Caribbean Health Research

HAMPTON, Va. (April 6, 2018) — On April 1, 2018, President Dr. William R. Harvey proudly announces the creation of the new Hampton University Center for Caribbean Health Research (HU-CCHR).  The HU-CCHR will serve as the convening and coordinating center for research and programmatic activities aimed at eliminating health disparities in both the United States and the Caribbean.  The HU-CCHR has established a distinguished and diverse Steering Committee Advisory Board that is composed of progressive and engaged experts in the fields of Public Health, Population Health, Clinical Health, and Research.

Hampton University is partnering with the University of the Bahamas, St. George’s University in Grenada, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency in this initiative. “This new Center ushers in an innovative era of utilizing the tremendous capacities of Hampton University-based researchers to partner with their colleagues from across the Caribbean in forging meaningful and sustainable solutions to conditions that give rise to health disparities” states Dr. William R. Harvey.  “We at Hampton measure our successes by the contributions and services that we provide to our community, our nation, and the world,”   Dr. Harvey views the establishment of the Center as an initial, but significant step towards meaningful research that  will lead to viable health outcomes in addressing health disparities in both the United States and the Caribbean.

Data suggests that health disparities in the U.S. and in the Caribbean share similarities in terms of underlying causes.  However, there are unique cultural, political, social, and environmental factors in both regions that influence health status and outcomes that are not well understood.  In the U.S., African Americans experience a disproportion in incidence, prevalence, and pre-mature mortality for many preventable diseases and conditions. Interventions to reduce health disparities among African Americans have not been as effective as we need them to be, and generally do not consider the heterogeneity of the African American population. An example of a condition for which we will seek solutions is: Cancer – Cancer is the leading cause of death in the Caribbean.  The islands of the Bahamas and Barbados rank fifth and eighth, respectively, for countries in the global hemisphere with the highest incidence of breast cancer, followed by the U.S. in ninth place.  The highest rate of endometrial cancer is in Barbados, which ranks number one in the world.  Trinidad and Tobago rank fourth, and Barbados ranks fifth for prostate cancer among the top twenty developed countries in the world. The Co-operative Republic of Guyana ranks   tenth for cervical cancer.

Hampton University, through its Center for Caribbean Health Research, will work with its partners to study the etiology of health disparities among U.S. born African Americans and Caribbean immigrants, and will lead in the implementation of effective interventions and activities to improve health, and advance health equity in both regions.  A key goal of this new Center is to leverage research to answer complex questions and to engage communities in addressing those issues identified in a culturally respectful and sensitive manner.

The Hampton University Center for Caribbean Health Research will be led by HU’s Chief Health Officer Warren A. Jones, MD.  Dr. Jones is a Residency trained Family Physician and Fellowship trained Adolescent Medicine specialist with a rich background in research, population health, and education.  He founded the Health Disparities Institute at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he remains Professor Emeritus. His career in the U.S. Navy and his service as the senior medical director to the worldwide TRICARE program, gives him a unique perspective on addressing global health issues.  He also possesses a strong research base after serving as chair of the National Advisory Council to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

In addition, Dr. Michelle Penn-Marshall, Vice President for Research, Dr. Simone Heyliger, Associate Professor of Immunology/Microbiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology and Dr. Luisel Ricks-Santi, Director of the Cancer Research Center at Hampton University were instrumental in the core development of the HU-CCHR research initiatives as conceptualized by President Harvey. This team was a key factor in the foundational implementation of the HU-CCHR with their collective years of extensive academic, clinical and professional research expertise, and the development of effective research design studying disease disparity and negative health outcomes among African Americans and persons of color.

The resources of the Hampton University Proton Institute, the largest free-standing proton therapy facility in the world, will serve as a focal point for discovering new approaches for managing cancers in regions that are identified with resource deficiencies.   The Schools of Pharmacy and Nursing will assist in developing team-oriented approaches to managing complex diseases and conditions.

The Hampton University Center for Caribbean Health Research will provide significant opportunities for early career researchers and motivated students to initiate their own creative, independent research study, as well as interact and collaborate with prominent researchers for engaging and creative study to alleviate health disparities in Caribbean countries.

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