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Northeastern University's Institute on Urban Health Research Awarded $3 Million in Research Grants

Three Major Grants Fund Collaborations with the BPHC andBrigham & Women’s Hospital

Boston, Mass. – HIV, AIDS, substance abuse and mental illness in urban populations are complex issues that affect millions of people, including pregnant and postpartum women. Combating these problems require strong research-community partnerships and a multifaceted approach, including the comprehensive research studies Northeastern’s Institute on Urban Health Research (IUHR) is well-known for. The IUHR announced the funding of 3 grants to conduct two projects in collaboration with the Boston Public Health Commission and another project with the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The grants in the amount of almost $3 million are to design clinical treatment and intervention programs and evaluate their effectiveness for greater Boston area minority populations affected by substance abuse, mental health, HIV/AIDS and other infectious disease problems.

“Our Institute has a long history of close collaboration with the Boston Public Health Commission to design, implement, and evaluate substance abuse treatment programs for African-American and Latina women,” said Hortensia Amaro, Director of the IUHR and principal investigator on the three grants. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity through these grants to continue our work in the areas of treatment, intervention and education of underserved populations.”

“For over 18 years, the City’s Health Department has enjoyed a strong collaborative working relationship with Dr. Amaro and together we have developed and implemented innovative projects and creative solutions to gaps in services for women,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Ph.D., MPH, M.Ed., Executive Director for the Boston Public Health Commission. “We look forward to working with IUHR in the implementation of this project.”

One of the awards, a $2.5 million grant, called Moving on to Recovery and Empowerment (MORE) is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This project is collaboration with the Boston Public Health Commission’s (BPHC) Women and Families Substance Abuse Services Division. Its goal is to develop a new Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOT) program to reduce HIV infection among African-American and Latina women with co-occurring disorders of addiction, mental illness and trauma. The main objectives of MORE include providing comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention and health-care linkage services; creating a much needed IOT site in Boston and state-of-the-art, evidence-based substance abuse services that are accessible to women in need of treatment; and developing collaborations with healthcare institutions and community agencies.

“The activities proposed by the MORE project will significantly expand outpatient substance abuse treatment services for women in the Boston area,” said Rita Nieves, RN, MPH, MSW, Director of the Substance Abuse Services Bureau of the Boston Public Health Commission. “This comprehensive, gender and culturally specific treatment model will fill and urgent gap by increasing access to treatment for an additional 70 African American and Latina women per year.”

The inadequate supply of HIV health promotion and intervention services also contribute to health disparities in HIV infection and treatment access. As part of a $214,663, two-year funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the IUHR will collaborate with clinicians from Brigham and Women’s Hospital to develop and test a program called Health Promotion through Empowerment (HOPE), an enhanced HIV health promotion and adherence intervention being developed using a Community-Based Participatory Research approach This award is a subcontract under a larger collaboration between the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Partners in Health (Boston-based nonprofit) for the Prevention and Access to Care and Treatment (PACT) project directed by Dr. Heidi Behforouz, M.D.

“PACT is an existing community-based HIV health promotion program that has successfully used the concept of peer health promotion to address the needs of this population in Boston’s underserved neighborhoods,” said Behforouz, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School and Associate Physician at Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “This new funding will enable us to tailor and improve our intervention approaches to increase medications adherence among HIV infected patients.”

“At present, few established HIV health promotion interventions exist that comprehensively address the poor, minority, and non-adherent HIV-positive individuals and have been validated in efficacy trials,” adds Amaro. “This study enables the development and pilot testing of an enhanced HIV health promotion intervention primarily designed by community health promoters and marginalized HIV-positive patients.”

The third grant, funded by SAMHSA is for a one-year study on Pregnant and Postpartum Women and their Infants (PPWI) addresses an identified need to expand residential substance abuse treatment services for Latina women within the greater Boston area. The PPWI model will be implemented in Entre Familia, a residential treatment program within the Boston Public Health Commission and will provide outreach, treatment engagement and retention; prenatal/postpartum education and parenting education; and trauma treatment. Amaro and the BPHC team are hopeful that the implementation of this program, lessons learned and outcomes will lead to decreased incidence of substance abuse among PPW Latinas, as well as improvement of pregnancy and birth outcomes, health of mothers and children, and parenting skills.

For more information about the grants and the Institute on Urban Health Research, please contact Renata Nyul at 617-373-7424 or at r.nyul@neu.edu.

About Northeastern

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston. Northeastern is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. The university’s distinctive cooperative education program, where students alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of paid work in fields relevant to their professional interests and major, is one of the largest and most innovative in the world. The University offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in six undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions. For more information, please visit www.northeastern.edu.