$1.24M Federal Research Grant Addresses Latino Health Disparities

TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 24, 2008) – Researchers at the University of South Florida’s new College of Behavioral and Community Sciences (CBCS) and the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) have received a $1.24 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aimed at studying ways to eliminate health disparities in the Latino community. As translational research, the grant looks specifically at ways to better serve underserved members of the Latino community suffering from depressive symptoms and co-occurring chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes), as well as improve their health outcomes. The cornerstone of the research will be community engagement lead by partners such as the Hispanic Services Council (HSC).

“The Latino population in the U.S. represents the fastest growing minority. In the greater Tampa area, the Latino community is estimated to be over 21 percent of our total population,” said Junius Gonzales, M.D., M.B.A., CBCS dean and the study’s principal investigator. “This diverse population (compared to non-Latino whites), with origins in Mexico, Latin American and the Caribbean, suffer from a wide range of health problems, yet studies have shown that they experience disparities in access to the health care system and to appropriate quality care, so because of those disparities, have poorer outcomes.”

An interdisciplinary USF research team, working in concert with community partners and national experts, will work to implement a chronic disease self-management program (CDSMP) in the Latino community. First, however, the researchers will seek to define and better understand, from multiple key stakeholders, what Gonzales calls “barriers and facilitators” to effective adaptation and uptake.

“Once we understand the complex barriers and facilitators to seeking care, step two will be to adapt the chronic disease self-management program to their needs, and step three will be to use trusted lay health workers, or promotores, in Spanish, and the community, to deliver this time-limited group intervention,” Gonzales said.

According to Gonzales, minor depression is co-occurring with chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes.

“The CDSMP emphasizes self-management by providing health education and peer groups, and addresses nutrition, physical activity, patient empowerment and positive behavior change,” he said. “The goal of self-management for patients with chronic diseases is important because people make decisions on a daily basis that influence their health. Our goal is for everyone to learn to take charge of their illnesses and enhance their care through self-management.”

Gonzales noted that this intervention was chosen because it could be delivered by lay people in communities and be held in any setting.

The College of Behavioral & Community Sciences’ new three-year translational research grant, one of the few to be won nationwide, comes out of a variety of federal initiatives, including the Federal Collaboration on Health Disparities Research, the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.6 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 45,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.

– USF –

News release by Randolph Fillmore