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NIH, CDC Officials Convene at UT to Address Health Disparities

Vice Chancellor for Research Victor McCrary welcomes attendees at the 2018 21st Century Cures: Southeast Conference at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Vice Chancellor for Research Victor McCrary welcomes attendees at the 2018 21st Century Cures: Southeast Conference at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

UT hosted a conference today that brought researchers together to focus on how to use big data to overcome health disparities. The second annual 21st Century Cures: Southeast Conference was held at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and included speakers from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 130 researchers from 19 institutions across the Southeast came together to learn about the state of the science from thought leaders at regional universities. This year’s conference included scientists from computer science, geography, civil engineering, and population dynamics, fields not traditionally considered a part of the biomedical sciences.

Keynote speaker Judith Lee Smith speaks with Allen Pannell, lecturer in UT's Haslam College of Business, at the 2018 21st Century Cures: Southeast Conference at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Keynote speaker Judith Lee Smith speaks with Allen Pannell, lecturer in UT’s Haslam College of Business, at the 2018 21st Century Cures: Southeast Conference at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Hosted by the Office of Research and Engagement, the conference is an opportunity for researchers to hear from federal agency representatives on trends, national resources, and funding priorities.

“Ultimately, this event is an opportunity for researchers to meet face to face and share ideas with others who are passionate about addressing the grand challenges that affect human health,” said Victor McCrary, UT vice chancellor for research. “We need to catalyze new partnerships to pursue solutions to complex questions, and I am encouraged by the strong interest in engagement and collaboration demonstrated by these talented scientists.”

The 2018 conference featured an opening keynote address from Judith Lee Smith of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a closing keynote from Nancy Breen of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Both emphasized the interconnectedness of social determinants of health, health disparities, and cancer care and survivorship, noting the impacts of health literacy, food security, and stable housing on long-term health outcomes.

Paul Fearn, chief of the Surveillance Informatics Branch for the National Cancer Institute Surveillance Research Program, presents to attendees of the 2018 21st Century Cures: Southeast Conference at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Paul Fearn, chief of the Surveillance Informatics Branch for the National Cancer Institute Surveillance Research Program, presents to attendees of the 2018 21st Century Cures: Southeast Conference at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

Other conference speakers explained how data could be used to generate insights in understanding and combating health disparities. David Berrigan of the National Cancer Institute discussed how community transportation systems and construction can change health behaviors by impacting air quality, physical activity, and diet. Attendees also heard from Rebecca Clark of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and from Paul Fearn and Erin Kent of the National Cancer Institute, in addition to presentations and posters from academic institutions and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The theme for the event was inspired by the 21st Century Cures Act, passed by Congress in 2016, which mandates that all Americans benefit from and be included in unlocking cures for diseases using large-scale demographic information. The initiatives described in the act have the potential to improve outcomes for underrepresented groups and reduce health disparities between populations.

CONTACT:

Erin Chapin (865-974-2187, echapin1@utk.edu)