The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans to spend more than $34 million to create a worldwide network of research and training centers that will build institutional and community capacity to prevent and control chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular, lung diseases, and diabetes. A total of 10 contracts will be awarded through the multimillion dollar funding.

According to an announcement from the NHLBI, the organization 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.
A research institution in a low- or middle-income developing country paired with at least one partner academic institution in a developed country will lead each COE 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, MD, and others appears online in The Lancet.

“Rigorous research undertaken in a collaborative fashion at globally diverse sites will also enrich our basic understanding of disease causation and, in particular, of the interplay between biological, environmental, and sociocultural contributors to public health,” wrote the authors.

“Scientific discovery knows no boundaries—and neither do chronic diseases, which are increasingly affecting the young and the elderly, the rich and the poor, and every ethnic group in every nation,” said Nabel in the announcement.
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. Additionally, the NHLBI funds three additional centers in Argentina, Kenya and Peru; while United Health CDI funds two centers located at the US-Mexico border and in Tunisia.
“Unless we make chronic disease prevention a worldwide priority, the personal, social, economic, and political consequences will reverberate throughout the globe,” said Simon Stevens, president, Global Health at UnitedHealth Group.“The time has come to increase resources to counter the pandemic of chronic disease sweeping through low- and middle-income countries.”

“By developing infrastructures for research and training, the centers will apply their considerable expertise to enhance local capacity to conduct population-based or clinical research to monitor, prevent, or control chronic cardiovascular and lung diseases,” said Cristina Rabadán-Diehl, PhD, MPH, director of the NHLBI Centers of Excellence Global Health Program. “We look forward to long-term sustainability of this seed investment – and improved global health.”
Each center will cultivate raining and mentoring of emerging scientists, physicians, and other health professionals, and/or community health workers in collaboration with their partner institutions.