University of Vermont

Office of Health Promotion Research

New Director Named for Research Center

Health-Behavior Researcher Named Research Center Director

Release Date: 02-09-1999
by Rick Blount

Brian S. Flynn, Sc.D., of Shelburne, Vt., has been named director of the Office of Health Promotion Research at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Flynn has been associate director of the office since 1983, when it was founded to develop and test strategies that promote healthy behaviors and prevent disease. In its 15 years, the office has attracted major national awards and some $30 million in research funding.

The appointment was announced Feb. 1 by College of Medicine Executive Dean John N. Evans, Ph.D.

Flynn is best known for his role on a UVM team that received the 1996 C. Everett Koop National Health Award for research showing that media campaigns can reduce teen smoking rates by 30 percent. Children exposed from grade school through high school to both school-based anti-smoking campaigns and specially researched radio and television ads were 30 percent less likely to smoke than children who were exposed to only the school campaigns.

Joining Flynn on the Office of Health Promotion Research staff and project teams are 14 other faculty members from diverse disciplines across UVM and Fletcher Allen Health Care -- including psychology, statistics, radiology, pathology, obstetrics/gynecology, family practice, nutrition, sociology and business administration.

While Vermont communities are the site of much of the office's work, the need for distant comparison groups or for minority populations sometimes creates collaborations with sites stretched from Florida to Montana. Other major research projects include efforts to:
• help women quit smoking;
• promote breast-cancer screening, especially among minority populations;
• evaluate and improve the use of mammography and other breast-imaging techniques;
• assess risk factors for breast cancer;
• educate women who are at high risk for breast cancer;
• test AIDS prevention initiatives among adolescents from low-income families;
• prevent diabetes among Native Americans in northern New York's Akwesasne Reservation, where tribe members are at high risk;
• use mass media to prevent alcohol use among kids;
• determine Vermonters' needs for education regarding cancer genetics.

Many of these studies also contribute to the multidisciplinary cancer-control research programs of UVM's Vermont Cancer Center. Like the cancer center, Health Promotion Research works in an area of research that's currently a national priority.

"Because lifestyle factors contribute so much to the development of disease, the National Institutes of Health have made a major commitment to funding health behavior research, and here at UVM there is a strong interest in developing our resources in this area," said Flynn. "I'm looking forward to exploring new directions that build on the great work that's already been done here."

Flynn earned his Sc.D. (Science Doctorate, a public-health degree) at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1982. In addition to his Office of Health Promotion Research post, he is research professor in the Department of Family Practice and former associate director of the Vermont Lung Center. The author of more than 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals, he also co-authored sections of two forthcoming reports on tobacco-use issues from the surgeon general. He has testified about tobacco and other health issues for federal, state and city government.

Flynn's appointment makes him just the second director of the office. Its founding director is Roger Secker-Walker, M.D., who will be retiring in July.

"I'm delighted that Brian will be the one leading this office through the next phase of its development," said Secker-Walker. "We are at a crucial time with greater awareness than ever of how our lifestyles affect our health and an increasing requirement for research in health promotion -- so this talented group of researchers is needed more than ever."

In announcing the appointment, Evans noted that the office's future looks bright not only because of national priorities and cultural changes, but also because of a growing in interest in UVM's involvement in community matters around Vermont.

"The Office of Health Promotion Research is addressing several of the most important public health issues in Vermont," said Evans. "As Vermont's land-grant institution, it's part of our mission to address problems such as smoking and cancer among our neighbors. Under Brian Flynn's leadership, I'm sure the office will continue to bring its internationally recognized expertise to bear on issues right here in Vermont."

Last modified September 16 2013 04:11 PM

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