UNC CDTR Collaboration for Diabetes Research

Written by on June 4, 2012 in Research & Technology - No comments

By Elizabeth Witherspoon

The newly established University of North Carolina (UNC) Center for Diabetes Translation Research to Reduce Health Disparities (CDTR) recently brought together institutional partners and diabetes researchers to foster collaboration during its first annual meeting. One of seven such centers established nationally, it began in September 2011 with a $3 million, 5-year grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The CDTR’s mission is to facilitate research about diabetes and move discoveries more quickly into practice, treatments and the community.

Partnering with UNC-Chapel Hill are institutions that can most directly move this research forward to improve health: Wake Forest University (WFU), East Carolina University (ECU), UNC-Pembroke (UNC-P) and the Robeson County, N.C. Health Department, all of which had representatives presenting at the meeting.

Currently, 1 in 9 adults in the U.S. (about 26.4 million) has Type 2 diabetes. Projections suggest that 1 in 3 people may have the condition by 2050. Diabetes-related annual costs are currently $174 billion and may increase to $336 billion by 2034. Unfortunately, poor, minority and rural populations with limited access to health care suffer disproportionately. Especially in North Carolina, African-American, Hispanic and Native-American populations have a higher rate of diabetes and related complications.

Each partner provided updates on diabetes research at their institution and suggested ways in which to work with one another. Ronny Bell, PhD, represented WFU; Doyle “Skip” Cummings, PharmD, ECU; and Frankie Powell, PhD, and Cherry Beasley, PhD, RN, UNC-Pembroke. “It was very affirming to have a face-to-face meeting with colleagues who are not only impressive ‘on paper’ but who are also very dedicated human beings,” said Powell. “I think the contributions that we will make, collectively, to this state will be great. Given the newly released county health rankings, ours – Robeson County at 99th – will benefit much from our team efforts in addressing the challenges of diabetes in our community.”

Each of the four CDTR leaders presented about their core areas as well. Rich Davis, MD, leader of the Access with Technology Core and co-director, led discussion about the CDTR’s intent to compile a library of emerging technologies useful to diabetes researchers. The core also provides training and consultation to researchers for using technology in their work.
Mike Pignone, MD, MPH, co-director and leader of the Literacy and Numeracy Core, a nationwide resource for investigators who want to study or use low-literacy materials in research, said approximately 10.3 million people are struggling with basic or below-basic literacy. Because of the heavy burden of monitoring, calculations and self-management in diabetes, studies have shown that inadequate literacy increases the risk of adverse outcomes.

Alice Ammerman, DrPH, leader of the Community Connections Core, described ways in which the core can help investigators navigate community-based research, with the following admonition: “Vulnerable communities are often researched, but nothing is left behind. We need to give back and have a positive effect on the community.”

Finally, Beth Mayer-Davis, PhD, leader of the Pilots and Feasibility Core, described the qualifications and process to apply for pilot funding for diabetes research.
Small groups of participants discussed: ways to foster cross-institutional collaborations, ways to promote core resources and programs, institutional challenges to diabetes translational research and possible solutions and suggestions for CDTR consortium projects.

The CDTR also introduced new staff members: Kelley Cardone, Jim Mahaney and Barbara Moeykens, project manager/literacy and numeracy core; Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD, director of community partnerships; and unveiled its new website. “I’m very encouraged by what we’ve been able to accomplish,” said Pignone as he asked participants to build on the momentum of the meeting.

The CDTR leverages existing administrative and other resources at the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute, which is home for the UNC’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Awards (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health. “Without those extensive resources at the CTSA, this center would look very different,” said Davis.

* Article previously published by NCTraCs

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