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Washington, DC, Research Institutions Partner on the Development of New Online Tool to Engage Communities in Addressing Health Disparities

January 05, 2012

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC—The Clinical and Translational Science Institute-Children’s National (CTSI-CN) and the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS) have received a $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences to develop an information system that will provide the community with timely and actionable local health metrics to address adult and pediatric health disparities in the nation’s capital.

While there have been significant advances in healthcare technology for many Americans, racial and ethnic minorities in the District of Columbia continue to face staggering health disparities. In 2009, disparities in the prevalence of obesity were alarming; obesity was significantly more prevalent in African Americans (65 percent) and Hispanics (44 percent) than Caucasians (37 percent). Obesity is but one example of the extreme health disparities in the nation’s capital.

Led by Chaya Merrill, DrPH, a researcher from the Child Health Advocacy Institute at Children’s National, the web-based information system will provide a living, citywide “community health needs assessment” and encourage community action to address critical health issues in the District. The system, known as the DC Healthy Communities Network (DC-HCN), will be a bilingual, community-driven, interactive web-based portal that will enhance community-based organizations’ ability to identify information, share and seek expertise and research, and access tools to impact health in local communities. The site is expected to be launched in the Fall of 2012.

In determining how to create a web portal that best meets the community’s needs, focus groups were held with several community organizations and residents throughout the District. Community feedback clearly indicated the need for robust local health data that would help community organizations gather philanthropic support for advocacy and policy in the city. One person, representing a community-based institution, indicated, “We will share [this] with our Board members to [drive] funding decisions.”

“There is a need within the Washington, DC, community to be more transparent with our health data. The DC Healthy Communities Network is an innovative opportunity to work with our local universities, area hospitals, and other community-based organizations to disseminate timely and relevant information to impact community health,” stated Dr. Merrill.

Joseph Wright, MD, MPH, Senior Vice President of Children’s National’s Child Health Advocacy Institute, added: “This NIH funding enables us to pursue a community-driven model of research. This work is a vital part of the Children’s National commitment to improving the health of the children and families in our community through creative connections, innovative solutions, and modeling best practices.

Mary Ann Dutton, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, Georgetown University Medical Center and GHUCCTS co-principal investigator for the project, stated: “The health care community cannot address racial and ethnic health care disparities in isolation. The DC Health Communities Network will increase the potential for collaborations between academic researchers and the communities affected by these health care disparities to improve the health of DC residents.

CTSI-CN and GHUCCTS are both Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Institutions, a consortium that is funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

“It is clear from the statistics that we have health disparities that disproportionally affect racial and ethnic minorities in the District,” stated Karen McDonnell, PhD, Associate Professor of Prevention and Community Health, The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. “We are fortunate to be working with an organization like the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science to enable the DC Health Communities Network access to a deeper pool of data and research findings to collaboratively develop action plans, improving the health of our local community.

About Clinical and Translational Science Institute-Children’s National:

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Children's National is a joint effort by Children's National Medical Center and The George Washington University Medical Center with several goals:

  • To help researchers and physicians work together to develop new treatments for a variety of medical disorders
  • To make it easier for new medical discoveries to move from the laboratory to the patients who need treatments
  • To teach a new generation of medical professionals and scientists the importance of team science and collaborative approaches in pediatric diseases

For more information, visit

About Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Transnational Science (GHUCCTS):

The Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS) is a multi-institutional consortium of medical research institutions forged from a desire to promote clinical research and translational science.

Through multiple partnerships and collaborations among the member institutions, GHUCCTS is transforming clinical research and translational science in order to bring new scientific advances to health care. The members of the GHUCCTS consortium are: Georgetown University, Howard University, MedStar Health Research Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Washington Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center. To learn more, please visit


Emily Hartman

Children’s National Medical Center

A. Victoria Rivas-Vazquez
Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science

About Children's National Health System

Children’s National Health System, based in Washington, D.C., has served the nation’s children since 1870. Children’s National is one of the nation’s Top 5 pediatric hospitals and, for a second straight year, is ranked No. 1 in newborn care, as well as ranked in all specialties evaluated by U.S. News & World Report. It has been designated two times as a Magnet® hospital, a designation given to hospitals that demonstrate the highest standards of nursing and patient care delivery. This pediatric academic health system offers expert care through a convenient, community-based primary care network and specialty outpatient centers in the D.C. Metropolitan area, including the Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia. Home to the Children’s Research Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Children’s National is the seventh-highest NIH-funded pediatric institution in the nation. Children’s National is recognized for its expertise and innovation in pediatric care and as a strong voice for children through advocacy at the local, regional and national levels. 

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