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$2.3 million grant positions UofL to take lead in pandemic planning

May 27th, 2009

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Paul McKinney will lead the research with Ruth Carrico.

The University of Louisville has received a $2.3 million grant to help communities across the state prepare for possible future pandemics.

The federal National Institute for Hometown Security grant, which was announced at a press conference May 27, will fund five collaborative research projects aimed at detection, preparedness, protection, response and recovery involving future (disease) outbreaks.

“It’s going to help communities across the state — from Pikeville to Paducah,” UofL President James Ramsey said. “This work is going to provide a valuable service to people across the commonwealth.”

Through the projects, researchers will seek ways to more quickly detect a pandemic and share information with community leaders, such as mayors, emergency medical service providers and school superintendents.

Paul McKinney, associate dean, and Ruth Carrico, assistant professor of UofL’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences, are co-leaders of the research team.

This funding could not have come at a more opportune time for research projects, McKinney said, noting that the appearance of H1N1, which he called mild to average in illness severity, affords researchers the opportunity to provide instruction during a teachable moment and allows regions to improve their pandemic preparedness.

“We hope to use this window of opportunity to inform and prepare Kentucky and the region for the likelihood of a much more severe and widespread outbreak,” McKinney said.

The five projects will:

Ramsey thanked Congressman Hal Rogers for helping to secure the funding and for his interest in the project.

The grant was provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through its agreement with the National Institute for Hometown Security, based in Somerset, Ky. The initial contract, part of the Kentucky Critical Infrastructure Protection Program, is for a period of 18 months with the option of an additional 18-month period with a similar amount of funding.

In addition to McKinney and Carrico, other researchers include Robert Esterhay, associate professor and chair of the Department of Health Management and Systems Sciences, SPHIS; Julio Ramirez, chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, professor of medicine, and director of the Infectious Diseases Fellowship Training program at the UofL School of Medicine; David Simpson, Fifth Third Bank Professor of Community Development at UofL’s School of Urban and Public Affairs; and Virginia Sprang, the Buckhorn Professor of Child Welfare and Children’s Mental Health at the University of Kentucky.

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