Coreas Saida Headshot_
By Saida Coreas, B.S.
Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow
Division of Intramural Research, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Photo of Saida Coreas, B.S. Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow
Hoping to build a stable life away from civil war, my parents immigrated to the United States from El Salvador. Growing up, I experienced firsthand the barriers to health care access and utilization within my household and in my community. My mother and father suffered from heart disease and cancer, respectively. Like many immigrant families, my siblings and I often served as translators and health advocates when it came to doctor visits or medication use/instructions. As a child, I would have never imagined how these cumulative actions would lead to my pursuit in understanding the need to reduce and encourage the elimination of health disparities in my adult life. Today, I am a part of that driving force to make a positive change for my family, my community, and generations after me.
About a year and a half ago, I packed my bags and moved across the country from Los Angeles to begin my post-baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (Postbac IRTA) fellowship in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIH Postbac IRTA fellowship is a 1-to 2-year research opportunity for recent college graduates interested in applying to graduate or professional health school (e.g., medicine, dental, nursing, veterinary sciences). Continue reading “Carving My Own Path: From First-Generation Latina Undergraduate Student to Minority Health Researcher”
NIMHD Co-authors - COVID-19 PI Forum
Jennifer Alvidrez, Ph.D.
Rick Berzon, Dr.P.H., P.A.
Dorothy Castille, Ph.D.
Nancy L. Jones, Ph.D., M.A.
CDR Nadra Tyus, Dr.P.H., M.P.H.
Division of Scientific Programs
The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak has strained daily life for people living in the United States, affecting nearly every sector including biomedical research. The disruption has also disproportionally affected the lives and livelihoods of populations that experience health disparities, which are also the populations that NIMHD’s research addresses.
To provide an opportunity to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on researchers and research funded by the institute, NIMHD hosted four COVID-19 NIMHD Investigator Forums this summer. NIMHD staff who hosted the events were Drs. Jennifer Alvidrez, Rick Berzon, Dorothy Castille, Nancy Jones and Nadra Tyus. We knew that the COVID-19 pandemic created many challenges for our research community and learned of the creative strategies they developed to navigate these challenges using their extensive connections with health disparity communities. We structured the forum to hear directly from NIMHD Principal Investigators (PIs) about their observations and thoughts in three areas:
1) Impact of COVID-19 on the communities where research is conducted
2) Strategies to modify recruitment, data collection, and/or intervention protocols
3) Understanding and addressing the impact of the pandemic on study outcomes. Continue reading “NIMHD Investigator Forums on the Impact of COVID-19 on Research Communities”
American Indian/Alaska Native Mental Health: Our Voices, Traditions and Values to Strengthen our Collective Wellness
Victoria M. O’Keefe, Ph.D. (Cherokee/Seminole Nations of Oklahoma)
Mathuram Santosham Endowed Chair in Native American Health, Assistant Professor, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Associate Director, Center for American Indian Health
Department of International Health, Social & Behavioral Interventions
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Dr. Victoria M. O’Keefe
My late grandma, Virginia Feather Revas, was a Cherokee Nation citizen, a fluent speaker of ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ (Cherokee language), and a Community Health Representative (CHR) for our tribe. CHRs are embedded within their tribe and serve important roles in health promotion for their communities.1 My grandmother served our tribe proudly and instilled in me the importance of working on behalf of our people. My favorite memories with her, from visits to Oklahoma, were going to our family’s creek to catch ᏥᏍᏛᎾ (crawfish) for dinner, attending stomp dances and pow wows, and admiring her talent for beadwork and quilt making. These memories are important teachings that I value now more than ever.
Continue reading “National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month Blog Series”
By Rada Dagher, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Division of Scientific Programs
Clinical and Health Services Research
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities
Dr. Rada Dagher
Maternal mortality rates in the United States have reached an all-time high. While these rates have dropped globally in the last few decades1, in the United States, they have more than doubled between 1987 and 20152. The picture is even grimmer for racial and ethnic minority communities, where African American and American Indian/Alaska Native women have the highest maternal mortality rates of all racial/ethnic groups2.
While most of the discussions about the maternal mortality crisis focus on the physical causes of death, the relationship between maternal mental health and mortality rates is largely ignored. For example, postpartum depression leads the list of mental health conditions affecting new mothers, and women experiencing this disorder may have suicidal thoughts and thoughts of harming the baby3. The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic that is causing COVID-19 disease outbreaks is another factor to consider. Due to social distancing, women have much lower access to the usual support systems (e.g. family, doulas) that promote their mental health during the vulnerable period of transitioning into motherhood. Recently published data from China on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic suggests increased rates of postpartum depression4 among Chinese women. Moreover, a recent report from a convenience sample of U.S. mothers of children of ages 0-18 months, shows elevated depression (34.1%) and anxiety (34.6%) rates5. Yet, the currently proposed interventions to address maternal mortality do not consider approaches to prevent and/or treat postpartum depression. One such approach is providing paid leave for new mothers. Continue reading “Can Paid Maternity Leave Help Address Disparities in Maternal Mortality?”
By Nancy Jones, Ph.D., M.A.
Scientific Program Officer, Community Health and Population Sciences
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities
Dr. Nancy Jones
Populations that experience health disparities also experience sleep deficiencies, such as insufficient or long sleep duration, poor sleep quality, and irregular timing of sleep. These sleep experiences are associated with a wide range of suboptimal health outcomes, high risk health behaviors, and poorer overall functioning and wellbeing. In 2018, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, along with our NIH colleagues at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research convened a workshop with experts in sleep, circadian rhythms and health disparities to stimulate research that would address two questions, 1) what are the underlying health disparity causal pathways contributing to sleep health disparities (SHDs) and 2) could SHDs, at least in part, explain disparities in other health outcomes for these populations?
The Workshop Report1 published in the Sleep journal is the distillation of hundreds of ideas into five areas and nine strategies. Continue reading “The Way Forward for Sleep Health Disparities Research”
Yukiko Asada, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine
Nova Scotia, Canada
A Lesson from Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Health Disparities Wonderland
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
(Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland1)
Dr. Yukiko Asada
Expressing truth about life, this conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat is beloved and used in many contexts. Its profound power as a metaphor can also be applied to the science of measurement of health disparities. In Health Disparities Wonderland, Alice might ask, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here to put an end to health disparities?” “That depends a good deal on what you mean by health disparities and how you measure and understand them,” would reply the Cat.
In “Harmonizing health disparities measurement” in the special issue of American Journal of Public Health,2 we argued for the science of measurement of health disparities. We believed by now few health disparities researchers and policy-makers would actually answer as Alice would, “I don’t much care about measurement.” But it is not enough for each of us to care. In the article, we urged all of us in the field of health disparities to engage in a community-wide consensus building for harmonization in measurement practice. Continue reading “The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Blog Series”
Obesity Post - school lunch v2
Tanya Agurs-Collins, Ph.D., RD
Health Behaviors Research Branch
Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences
National Cancer Institute, NIH
Susan Persky, Ph.D.
Associate Investigator and Head of the Communication, Attitudes, and Behavior Unit
Immersive Virtual Environment Testing Area, Social and Behavioral Research Branch
National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH
Disparities in Obesity Require Multilevel Approaches
Multilevel Approaches Require More Research
Dr. Tanya Agurs-Collins
Dr. Susan Persky
As part of the NIMHD special issue New Perspectives to Advance Minority Health and Health Disparities Research, we and our co-authors focused on designing and assessing multilevel interventions to improve minority health and reduce health disparities.1 Multilevel interventions, based on the socioecological framework2, involve intervening on at least two levels of influence at the same time. We chose this topic because multilevel interventions are an extremely challenging and often expensive undertaking that require myriad decisions and plans, yet it is becoming clear that such interventions are a necessary approach for overcoming great disparities evident in the public’s health, particularly for conditions like obesity. Continue reading “The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research”
By Arline T. Geronimus, Sc.D.
Professor, Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health
Research Professor, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research
University of Michigan
Understanding Health Disparities through the Life Course
Dr. Arline T. Geronimus
My monozygotic twins—now young men—never engaged in parallel play with each other. Parallel play is a type of toddler-to-preschool play where, even though two or more children are in the same room or even the same sandbox, they each remain absorbed in their own personal activity and do not interact. Yet before they could walk or talk, my sons delighted in playing together, cooperating on projects, and putting on musical performances that they would end by bowing in unison, each one’s arm around the other’s waist. They scaled higher heights, literally, than playing alone. We found them lying on the tops of our highest kitchen cabinets, giggling together, when they were 2. Even strapped into their stroller, they enacted perfectly synchronized and complexly coordinated routines we called “stroller surfing,” which were at once wonderful and hair-raising to watch and noticeably enchanting to passersby. Continue reading “The Future of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Blog Series”