Center to Launch Study for Nebraska Health Surveillance System Development
The Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition will conduct a study to evaluate ways in which Nebraskans’ individual health behaviors are tracked, shared and accessed by health care professionals, researchers and community-based programs throughout the state. Pilot project funding has been awarded by the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) Eppley Cancer Center. The study will focus more specifically on cancer-related behaviors such as diet, physical activity, smoking and screening behaviors.
Serving as a model for this effort is the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), which has provided comprehensive health data, including vital information about cancer control and prevention, to researchers and policymakers since 2001. This information has allowed California to effectively address high need topics such as obesity prevention and specific populations to help prevent cancer and other chronic diseases and improve health. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research has recently received further funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help other states such as Nebraska in developing similar state level surveys.
“We will evaluate existing data to identify what health behaviors are currently assessed, to what degree, and who has access to this information. In addition, we will administer a survey to stakeholders throughout the state to identify gaps in research and trends as they relate to Nebraskans’ health and cancer risks. We are pleased about the opportunity Eppley Cancer Center’s pilot funding provides, and the timing is ideal to link in with UCLA experts as they connect other states working in this area,” Dr. Courtney Pinard, Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition research scientist, said.
To fully examine the best practices for monitoring health behaviors, new data will be collected in Douglas County. This data will be instrumental in helping to guide future health-related programming in Nebraska, as well as aiding in leveraging other funding to expand this project.
“We have awarded this seed grant so that we may together identify areas for intervention and broader data collection needs throughout the state. Health disparities are often reflected in data disparities, so this will allow us to pinpoint real-life health service needs and risks in Nebraska,” Dr. Kenneth Cowan, UNMC Eppley Cancer Center director, said.
Health surveillance systems help to inform public health practice. “When we can identify indicators that predict the health of our state’s residents, we can more clearly implement programs that should be of immediate concern, prioritize funding, and work together in a more efficient, effective manner,” Dr. Amy Yaroch, Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition executive director, said.
The Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition provides scientific expertise and technical assistance in areas of childhood obesity prevention, food insecurity, local food systems and survey development and program evaluation. This is accomplished through outreach and research efforts often partnering with various entities such as universities, nonprofits and other community organizations. In addition to an endowment, the Center garners further funding through the submission of grants and contracts to build the research infrastructure at the local, state and national levels. Located on the campus of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition is one of the few national nutrition research centers with complete independence to pursue projects with an adaptive approach in response to society’s needs.
The mission of the UNMC Eppley Cancer Center is to coordinate basic, translational, and clinical cancer research, as well as patient care and educational programs and to facilitate the application of new knowledge about the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer. The UNMC Eppley Cancer Center is a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The Cancer Center was initially established in 1984. It is one of only 66 NCI-designated cancer centers in the country, and the only NCI-designated cancer center in the central region of the U.S. from North Dakota to the Texas border. The Eppley Cancer Center incorporates the expertise and resources from each of the Colleges and Institutes that comprise the University of Nebraska Medical Center and its affiliated hospital (The Nebraska Medical Center). In addition, the Cancer Center integrates cancer research resources from other academic units of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Currently the Eppley Cancer Center has over 250 members.