HSPH assistant professor to serve as co-principal investigator of center in Guatemala to combat cardiovascular disease

Effort Part of ‘Center of Excellence’ Network Supported by NHLBI 

For immediate release: Thursday, June 11, 2009

Boston, MA — Eduardo Villamor, Assistant Professor of International Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), will serve as co-principal investigator of a research and training center in Guatemala to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the Mesoamerican region, which includes Central America, the Caribbean, and Southern Mexico.

“Chronic non-communicable diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, are among the main killers in the Mesoamerican region,” said Villamor. “Among our goals is to understand current risk factors for CVD in school-age children and their parents, identify ways to intervene, and train graduate students and junior investigators to carry on research.”

Villamor is co-principal investigator with Manuel Ramirez-Zea of the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama-INCAP, Homero Martinez of RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, and Benjamin Caballer of Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.

The center is part of a worldwide network of research and training centers supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to build institutional and community capacity to prevent and control chronic diseases. In a press release, the NHLBI said that is awarding 10 contracts totaling more than $34 million. The NHLBI joins with Minneapolis-based UnitedHealth Group’s existing Chronic Disease Initiative (UnitedHealth CDI) in establishing the “UnitedHealth and NHLBI Collaborating Centers of Excellence” (COEs) network.

Each COE is led by a research institution in a low- or middle-income developing country paired with at least one partner academic institution in a developed country to enhance research and training opportunities.

A comment on the program, “Combating Chronic Disease in Developing Countries — Partners in Progress,” by NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., Simon Stevens, president, Global Health, at UnitedHealth Group, and Richard Smith, M.D., director of UnitedHealth CDI, has published online today in The Lancet and will publish in the June 13 print edition (free registration is required to view the online article).

The NHLBI will fund six centers in Bangladesh, China, Guatemala, India (Bangalore and New Delhi), and South Africa. These centers are also receiving funding from United Health Group’s CDI. The NHLBI is funding three additional centers in Argentina, Kenya and Peru; and United Health CDI funds two centers located at the U.S.-Mexico border and in Tunisia.

Each NHLBI-funded center is also a Fogarty International Clinical Research Fellow or Scholar site.

More information can be found on the NHLBI global health website.