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AHCPR Announces Two Clinical Prevention Centers

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Press Release Date: June 22, 1998

Agency for Health Care Policy and Research Administrator John M. Eisenberg, M.D., today announced the selection of two Clinical Prevention Centers to support the work of the soon-to-be reconvened U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The Centers, already under contract to AHCPR as two of 12 Evidence-based Practice Centers, are Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), and Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU).

"With their combined wealth of experience in outcomes research and in research on prevention across the lifespan, RTI/UNC and Oregon Health Sciences University will bring important expertise to the evidence-based approach of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force," said Dr. Eisenberg. "There is no substitute for clinical practice that rests on the foundation of solid scientific assessment."

RTI/UNC and OHSU have many years prior experience in evidence-based activities, according to Dr. Eisenberg. Under AHCPR's evidence-based practice initiative, they are part of a network of centers that produce comprehensive evaluations of medical treatments and technologies in collaboration with outside partners such as professional organizations, health plans and consumer groups. Their reports provide the foundation for public and private efforts to improve the quality of health care.

The USPSTF, an independent panel of preventive health specialists, was first convened in 1984 by the U.S. Public Health Service to evaluate the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of a range of clinical preventive services (screening, immunizations and counseling for health behavior change) and to produce age- and risk-factor specific recommendations regarding the use of clinical preventive services by primary care clinicians. The Task Force recommendations were issued in 1989 in the Guide to Clinical Preventive Services; revised recommendations by a reconvened panel were issued in 1995 in a second edition of the Guide.

Dr. Eisenberg said the newly designated Clinical Prevention Centers will provide hands-on support to all USPSTF activities, including:

  • Identifying high-priority topics.
  • Reviewing and synthesizing research to assist the USPSTF in making new recommendations.
  • Drafting new chapters for inclusion in the third edition of the Guide.
  • Marshaling appropriate clinical and methodologic staff for topics across the spectrum of clinical preventive services.

The collaboration between UNC and RTI brings the combined expertise of two institutions with distinguished records in prevention research and evaluation. UNC is home to nationally recognized Schools of Medicine and Public Health, the Cecil Sheps Center for Health Services Research, and a CDC-funded Center for Research and Demonstration in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. RTI is an independent, nonprofit organization that works with private, federal and state partners on a wide range of research and development in health policy, public health, medicine and environmental protection.

Russell Harris, M.D., M.P.H., of UNC, and Kathleen Lohr, Ph.D., of RTI, will co-direct the USPSTF activities for RTI/UNC. Dr. Harris is an internist with broad expertise in prevention, and cancer screening in particular. He is principal investigator on a National Cancer Institute grant to improve cancer prevention activities in primary care practice. Dr. Lohr is director of Health Services and Policy Research at RTI.

Among her relevant experiences, she has served as director of the Division of Health Care Services at the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, where she directed a variety of projects analyzing quality of care and health care policy.

The Clinical Prevention Center at OHSU represents a partnership between the OHSU School of Medicine, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research (KPCHR), the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Center for Outcomes Research and Education at the Providence Health System, Portland. The successful history of collaboration between OHSU, a leading managed-care research center, and the VA health system will allow the Task Force to examine some of the implications of implementing new preventive services in different systems of care.

Mark Helfand, M.D., M.P.H., who will direct the Clinical Prevention Center at OHSU, is a primary care internist with a distinguished career in the evaluation of medical technology and screening tests. He has authored screening recommendations developed by the American College of Physicians as well as analyses for panels of the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Helfand also was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar.

Working with Dr. Helfand will be Heidi D. Nelson, M.D., M.P.H., a general internist whose clinical and research interests are in women's health and substance abuse. Evelyn Whitlock, M.D., M.P.H., will lead the work at KPCHR, which has extensive experience in developing and implementing clinical preventive services in such areas as health behavior change, cancer screening and chronic disease management.

According to Dr. Eisenberg, the USPSTF will be reconvened in the Fall of 1998 to update previous recommendations and to evaluate prevention interventions not previously assessed. To speed implementation of new and updated recommendation, the Task Force will release individual reports and recommendations as they are completed. The third full edition of the Guide is anticipated for release in late 2002.

For additional information, please contact AHCPR Press Office: Salina V. Prasad, (301) 427-1864 (

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