Penn Medicine Researchers Receive Funding from CDC to Advance Brain Health

PHILADELPHIA – Researchers affiliated with Penn’s newly-created Prevention Research Center (PRC), have received two grants totaling over $860,000 from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Special Interest Project (SIP) to advance the CDC’s Healthy Brain Initiative.

The UPenn PRC conducts innovative public health and disease management research aimed at preventing chronic disease and reducing health disparities in Southeastern Pennsylvania. In June, the University of Pennsylvania received a five-year, $4.35 million grant from the CDC to establish the PRC at Penn as one of 26 in the nation and the first in Philadelphia. These most recent grants make it possible for Penn to become a Collaborating Center within the CDC’s “Healthy Brain Initiative Network.” Funding will also support the development of culturally-relevant messages and strategies to promote awareness about dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Both of these programs will exist within the PRC.

“We are thrilled that the CDC selected our proposals for funding," says Jason Karlawish, MD, co-principal investigator and associate director of the Penn Memory Center and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s Outreach, Recruitment and Education Core  "The Healthy Brain Initiative is an important national effort to promote brain health for older Americans. These awards are a great opportunity for people of Philadelphia, the state and region and will connect the many smart, talented and motivated leaders in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania with a national effort to promote brain health.”

The goal of Penn’s Healthy Brain Initiative Network Collaborating Center is to advance research and service in cognitive health and healthy brain aging, and support doctoral and postdoctoral education and training in cognitive health and healthy aging. The Center will develop a course and a certificate program on the public health implications of cognitive aging within the Masters in Public Health program, and the “Healthy Brain Initiative Scholars” program for doctoral and post-doctoral students whose research focuses on cognitive health, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

“Public Health Communications: Culturally-Relevant Messages and Strategies to Promote Awareness about Dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease” will identify key issues related to communicating about cognitive health and Alzheimer’s disease. As part of the project, the team will design and develop public health messaging focused on promoting cognitively healthy behaviors, with a focus on African Americans and non-Latino Whites, the most common ethnic groups in the Philadelphia area.

“Effective messaging to promote healthy behaviors must be done in a solid framework of evidence that supports the targeted behavior and the messages people see,” says Amy Jordan, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator with Karlawish and associate director of Policy Implementation for the Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn. “With the CDC’s support we have the opportunity to start a national dialogue about brain health.” Jordan co-directs the communication and dissemination core within the UPenn PRC.

In addition to the Healthy Brain-related awards, the UPenn PRC received $2.83 million in Special Interest Project funding from the CDC.