In 2015, the Institute for Child Health Policy capitalized on new academic strengths and synergies to gain increased national prominence in pediatric translational research and to expand its statewide collaborations.
National and Statewide Momentum
Building upon years of research in children’s health, pediatric cancer outcomes and health disparities among vulnerable populations, Betsy A. Shenkman, Ph.D., was appointed to serve as national co-chair of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute’s Pediatrics Collaborative Research Group. The group will help to set PCORI’s national priorities for pediatric research across the entire clinical data research network — PCORnet, which seeks to link patients, health care systems, clinicians and researchers to accelerate the translation of findings into patient-centered care. Shenkman also will serve as a member of the 30-person Research Committee, which will help set the national research agenda for PCORnet.
The OneFlorida Clinical Research Consortium, which is dedicated to conducting community-based pragmatic clinical trials and implementation studies across the lifespan, received a $7.9 million funding award from PCORI to become one of 13 clinical data research networks nationwide. William Hogan, M.D., M.S., ICHP faculty member and director of biomedical informatics at the UF CTSI, and Betsy A. Shenkman, Ph.D., who also co-directs the UF CTSI, serve as the principal investigators for the funding award and play a strategic leadership role within the consortium. Already ICHP investigators like Ramzi Salloum, Ph.D., and Stephanie Staras, Ph.D., are using the consortium and its clinic and patient network for their pediatric studies, including one on tobacco cessation among adolescents diagnosed with cancer and an NCI-funded study on HPV prevention, respectively.
ICHP biostatistician Keith Muller, Ph.D., and University of Colorado Denver co-principal investigator Deborah Glueck, Ph.D., have received NIH funding to develop and offer a course on how to calculate power and sample size for multilevel and longitudinal studies, which are typically used for following cohorts of children in nested relationships, such as schools or clinics.
In addition to these new national opportunities, the institute continued to expand its statewide collaborations examining quality and outcomes of care for high-risk populations. For instance, the institute holds several competitive awards to evaluate Florida’s Medicaid programs for the quality and outcomes of care for children who are the most vulnerable due to their income, poor health status and racial/ethnic minority status. In addition, Mildred Maldonado-Molina, Ph.D., and Chris Delcher, Ph.D., have growing portfolios examining Florida data related to maternal and child health, including a new partnership with the March of Dimes that mapped premature births throughout the entire state and identified “hot spots” in need of additional resources. The institute also continues to grow its statewide collaborations around oral health research with a grant from the NIDCR, which will examine the feasibility of implementing health risk assessments in dental practices across the state.
Finally, the five-year, NIH-funded collaborative community-based trial with Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health in Oklahoma and several institute faculty members, including Kelli Komro, Ph.D., and Alexander Wagenaar, Ph.D., has ended its active intervention phase among Native American and other youth living in rural, high-risk communities. Preliminary findings are positive, with a community-based intervention showing much promise in reducing adolescent alcohol consumption.
Growing Research Synergies
The Institute for Child Health Policy also enjoyed tremendous growth in 2015, with 12 new faculty joining the institute as well as strengthening collaborations with the Department of Pediatrics, the Diabetes Institute and the Anita Zucker Center for Early Childhood Studies. Several of the additions created new research synergies between existing areas of academic strength, such as pediatric intervention design and health outcomes analysis, and the fields of biomedical informatics, early childhood and maternal health, and childhood nutrition and obesity.
William Hogan, who joined UF in June 2014, spent the year building a dynamic team of diverse biomedical informaticians with expertise in electronic health records data, mHealth, research data management, ontology and data security. Collaborating across UF Health and the state, the team will provide crucial expertise in the creation of computable phenotypes for obesity, hypertension and rare pediatric diseases, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, as well as in data security and the development of mobile health-related applications. In addition, the institute welcomed new faculty with expertise in child obesity and nutrition, tobacco cessation, and child and maternal health.
Building upon its expertise in biostatistics and the design of pediatric clinical and observational studies, the institute also welcomed Matthew J. Gurka, Ph.D., as the institute’s new associate director. Gurka, who was hired as part of UF Preeminence, brings with him a National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute R01 to fund his research on better ways to measure the severity of a person’s metabolic syndrome, which affects one in three adults and a growing number of children. Gurka also will work closely with members of the Anita Zucker Center for Early Childhood Studies to examine intersections between children’s health, learning and development as well as with Lindsay Thompson, an associate professor in the department of pediatrics and the institute’s assistant director of clinical research, to continue to strengthen the institute’s clinical collaborations across the university and statewide.
In addition to providing a collaborative space for child health researchers across UF’s campus, the institute’s faculty members have expanded their diverse funding portfolio with a total of $41.4 million in newly garnered grant funding in fiscal year 2014-15 and an additional $10 million to fund lifespan research through the department of health outcomes and policy. ICHP faculty also continued to increase their research productivity with 111 publications in the past fiscal year.