Community Health & Chronic Disease

We take a patient-centric approach and use our data to help prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat chronic diseases while promoting community health.

Chronic diseases are long-lasting conditions, and people living with chronic diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or depression) must learn to manage daily symptoms that affect their quality of life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States.

In an effort to mitigate the impacts of chronic diseases, the Primary Care Research Institute (PCRI) promotes community health research and best practices centered around minimizing socioeconomic and environmental risk factors. It is the overarching goal of PCRI researchers to support work at the community level that promotes healthy living, helps to prevent chronic disease, and brings overall health benefits to the greatest number of people in need. By working directly with the community, the PCRI team strives to reduce health gaps caused by social determinants of health, such as differences in race and ethnicity, location, social status, and income.

Current Research Projects

  • Advancing Geriatrics Infrastructure & Network Growth (AGING) Initiative
    Using novel analytic methods with systemwide Health Information Exchange (HIE) data, we will explore new risk factors relevant to Multiple Chronic Conditions (MCCs) in older adults. This pilot study is also using a participatory patient-care partner approach to gain insight on MCC patient experiences and ensure the relevance of risk factors developed for future patient-provider interactions.  
  • An Epidemiological Study on the Health Effects and Coke Oven Emissions from Tonawanda Coke
    This project will conduct a 10-year cohort study of 38,000 residents of Tonawanda and Grand Island to examine the health effects of industrial environmental pollutants.
  • Center for Ecosystems Data Integration and Pandemic Early Warning (PIPP Phase I)
    With an interdisciplinary team, including but not limited to biochemists, epidemiologists, mathematicians, and computer scientists, we aim to develop and implement a robust system to detect signs of a potential pandemic in our environment and within our populations. Early detection is key to responding to public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic quickly, effectively, and thoughtfully as a community. This requires true partnership and trust among researchers, public health officials, government, and the public. We actively, continuously engage and partner with members of diverse community groups to directly inform each other and provide feedback about what changes in the community should be monitored as part of this predictive system. We consider the unique needs of different communities in the event of a future pandemic to promote community strengths and proactively allocate resources. 
  • Community Health Worker Training Program (CHWTP)
    With the overall goal of expanding and enhancing both the existing and upcoming public health workforce, this project has several aims. First, we will offer specialized training with newly-developed or enhanced existing curriculums to increase the skills and competencies of community health workers (CHWs) and health support workers, while offering financial support to offset expenses that would impede success in training. Second, we will improve CHW employment readiness and opportunities by facilitating apprenticeships within a network of partnerships. Third, this project will advance health equity and support for underserved communities by increasing the number of CHWs and health support workers that are employed in integrated care teams that use their expanded skills to reduce health disparities. PCRI will be involved in curriculum development for CHWs and the evaluation of the program.
  • Healthy Cattaraugus County: A Drug-Free Community Coalition
    The primary goal of this grant is to reduce substance use among youth and, over time, reduce substance abuse among adults by addressing the factors in a community that increase the risk of substance abuse and promoting the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse. We will accomplish this by strengthening collaboration among communities, public and private non-profit agencies, and federal, state, local, and tribal governments to support the efforts of community coalitions working to prevent and reduce substance use among youth.
  • Healthy Cattaraugus County: Sober Truth on Preventing (STOP) Underage Drinking Act Grant
    Serving as an extension to the strategic action plan of the Drug-Free Community Coalition grant, funds for this project will be used to prevent and reduce alcohol use among youth and adults aged 12-20 years. This grant seeks to reduce opportunities for underage drinking while also limiting access to alcohol and expanding enforcement opportunities.

Associated Faculty

  • Tumiel Berhalter, Laurene

    Laurene Tumiel Berhalter, PhD

    Director of Community Translational Research

    UB Downtown Gateway Department of Family Medicine 77 Goodell Street, Suite 220N Buffalo, NY 14203

    Phone: 716-816-7278; Fax: 716-845-6899