Lung cancer disparities center at HSPH announced as one of ten awardees for Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities

For immediate release: Monday, May 3, 2010

Boston, MA — The Lung Cancer Disparities Center at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has been named one of ten Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities (CPHHD) by the National Institutes of Health as part of a major new effort to understand and address inequities associated with the two leading causes of death in the United States: cancer and heart disease. The Centers will support interdisciplinary collaborations among biological, medical, behavioral, social, and public health scientists. The HSPH center will collaborate substantially with researchers from Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.

As one of the ten CPHHDs, the Lung Cancer Disparities Center will receive a five-year grant of $9 million. See the National Institutes of Health release announcing the ten new centers:

“Lung cancer is responsible for more deaths in the U.S. each year than breast, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers combined,” said David Williams, director of the Lung Cancer Disparities Center at HSPH. Williams is a professor of public health at HSPH and also holds a faculty appointment in the department of African and African American Studies at Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Williams indicated that although extraordinary progress had been made in recent decades in understanding the causes of cancer and developing treatments for cancer, many low-income Americans and racial and ethnic minorities have not fully benefited from these advances.

The Lung Cancer Disparities Center at HSPH will play a major role in the training of a new generation of interdisciplinary researchers in collaborative team science. The goals are to increase the rigor and impact of science that addresses the many factors associated with health disparities.

“We need to encourage the entire scientific community, from basic to applied scientists, to significantly advance our understanding of health disparities–a remarkably complex and stubborn problem in our society,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

The Lung Cancer Disparities Center focuses on one specific condition—lung cancer—and its key marker of high risk: cigarette smoking. The Center will sponsor research that identifies how environmental conditions related to low income and education, as well as race and ethnicity, affect risk patterns for lung cancer outcomes. Interdisciplinary research will span all levels of society, from the genetics of lung cancer to community-based participatory research. It will also include research that seeks to increase media coverage of disparities related to cigarette smoking. Center researchers will identify effective strategies to stop people from starting to smoke tobacco and other strategies to persuade smokers to quit.

The Center will focus on six main goals:

  • To develop and test novel tobacco control interventions to address the social contexts that relate to tobacco use
  • To develop and apply sophisticated concepts, measures, and methods to community-focused research
  • To draw on the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of researchers who will apply a social-determinants perspective to clinical research
  • To refine existing approaches to understanding and describing social disparities related to lung cancer risk
  • To develop a cutting-edge training program for future researchers
  • To fund highly innovative and high-risk pilot projects

For more information:

Todd Datz


Harvard School of Public Health ( ) is dedicated to advancing the public’s health through learning, discovery, and communication. More than 400 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 1,000-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children’s health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights. For more information on the school visit: