COPH lands two large grants with rural focus

by Elizabeth Kumru, UNMC public relations | October 24, 2011

As part of a big news morning for the UNMC College of Public Health, the college announced that it has secured two large grants that stand to improve health for rural Nebraskans.

Such announcements could become more common for the college as its newly-acquired accreditation makes its faculty eligible for more funding opportunities, said dean Ayman El-Mohandes, M.B.B.Ch., M.D., M.P.H.

Help for greater Nebraska

The two national grants total $7.6 million and fund two new regional centers to improve the health of rural Nebraskans.

The two newly funded centers are:

  • The Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health; and
  • The Great Plains Public Health Training Center.

Center takes on agricultural hazards

The Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health -- one of nine national centers funded by a five-year, $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health -- serves seven states and nearly one quarter of American farmers, said Risto Rautiainen, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental, agricultural and occupational health and administrator of the grant.

The key projects for the center will include research on:

  • Asthma;
  • Agricultural injury surveillance; and
  • Health and safety education of farmers.

During the past 10 years, agriculture has outpaced mining as the most hazardous industry in the nation, based on occupational fatality rates.

More training needed

The Great Plains Public Health Training Center at UNMC is funded by a four-year, $2.6 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. It is under the direction of Magda Peck, Sc.D., associate dean for community engagement and public health practice.

Since 2002, the number of health departments has grown significantly in Nebraska as has the need for expanded training of the public health workforce. The center will:

  • Assess public health workforce needs throughout the state;
  • Fund collaborative projects;
  • Place students in the field; and
  • Expand continuing professional education opportunities.

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