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Jewish Healthcare Foundation

Jewish Healthcare Foundation Approves Grant to Develop Pilot Education Program on Genetic Diseases and Viruses

April 10, 2014

(Pittsburgh – April 10, 2014) On Wednesday, April 9, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) Board of Trustees approved a grant for the development of curriculum and materials to educate a wide range of community members on genetic diseases and viruses.

In keeping with JHF's longstanding community role in public health, the Foundation is currently working on two public health initiatives: increasing education and screening for Jewish genetic diseases and increasing uptake of the HPV vaccine, which can prevent certain cancers. Both present educational opportunities for students and families of middle and high school age.

Through this grant, JHF will hire Nina Butler, PhD, a seasoned professional educator, and Dr. Jonathan Weinkle, a pediatrician and internist who provides primary care and chronic disease management for patients of the Squirrel Hill Health Center, to work with our Jewish communal agencies to develop curriculum and materials aimed at middle, high school, and college students; parents; and teachers which inform decision-making and action within a Jewish context with respect to genetics and vaccinations.

"We've made it a Foundation priority," says JHF President and CEO Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD, "to raise awareness of the value of genetic screening and HPV vaccination and to encourage screening and HPV vaccination in the appropriate target groups.

"This grant enables us to enhance the Jewish genetics and HPV work we are already doing in the general community to develop a program designed specifically for Jewish youth and their families. Dr. Butler and Dr. Weinkle balance clinical and educational expertise with strong grounding in Jewish tradition and knowledge of our community."

Jewish Genetic Diseases
One in four Jews is a carrier for at least one of 19 genetic diseases. It takes only a simple blood test to determine if you are a carrier.

"Knowing as much as you can," says Feinstein, "especially the importance of getting screened before becoming pregnant, can make all the difference. Although being a carrier doesn't affect you, if both partners are carriers for the same disease, there is a 25% chance of having an affected child.

"There are still options for having healthy children even if this is the case, but you need to be armed with the information in order to make informed decisions that will affect the rest of your life and, potentially the life of your child."

JHF, along with The Pittsburgh Foundation and the Larry and Rebecca Stern Family Foundation, were founding funders of the Pittsburgh Victor Center. The Pittsburgh Victor Center, directed by Dodie Roskies, is an affiliate of the Einstein Victor Center for the Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases in Philadelphia.

The Center's mission is to educate the Pittsburgh community about Ashkenazi Jewish genetic diseases and ensure access to screening for Jewish genetic diseases in order to provide individuals with the greatest number of options. The Victor Center program provides education in the community and at college and graduate school campuses, where screening drives promote awareness and provide testing for Jewish students. The Center hosts screenings throughout the year.

In addition, programs are offered for the general community and for professionals. On April 9, for example, the Pittsburgh Victor Center, in collaboration with UPMC Center for Continuing Education in the Health Sciences and the Allegheny Health Network, developed and sponsored a CME program, "Genetics Will Change Your Office Practice: Carrier Screening in the Genomic Era."

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation is the fiscal agent for the Pittsburgh Victor Center

HPV Vaccination
Every day, about 12,000 people ages 15-24 are infected with HPV. For most, HPV clears on its own; but for some, genital warts or cervical and other anogenital cancers (affecting both females and males) can develop. HPV can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer).

In the past decade, two vaccines were approved for prevention of human papillomavirus (HPV); yet, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 34% of adolescent girls receive the recommended three doses (this number is only 6.8% for boys).

Currently the CDC is recommending that girls and boys aged 11 and 12 receive one of the two CDC-approved HPV vaccines.

"It's distressing," says Feinstein, "that there are safe, effective, approved vaccines that prevent infection by the two most prevalent cancer-causing HPV types, yet so few girls and boys are getting vaccinated."

In 2013, the JHF Board of Trustees approved a planning grant to research the issue and develop a plan for outreach. Under this grant, JHF convened an advisory panel to develop an HPV public health campaign that includes public education and other efforts to increase parents' and of-age teens' acceptance of the HPV vaccine, as well as efforts encouraging healthcare providers to encourage HPV vaccinations. On April 9, in addition to the grant approval for the pilot educational program on genetic diseases and viruses, which is the subject of this release, the Board also approved a grant for implementation of the outreach plan.

For more information on HPV, visit the JHF HPV webpage.

About The Jewish Healthcare Foundation

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) is a public charity that offers a unique blend of research, education, grantmaking and program management to advance the quality of clinical care and health of populations, with a focus on improving the quality, efficiency, and safety of health care. JHF and its three operating arms—the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI), Health Careers Futures (HCF), and the Women's Health Activist Movement Global (WHAMglobal)— are located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and serve a national and global audience. JHF is also a founding member of the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI). For more information, visit www.jhf.org.

David Golebiewski
Jewish Healthcare Foundation
412-594-2553 or 412-216-6305 (mobile)

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