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August 18, 2006
DH 06 RH55
Contact: Russ Hudson,
Media Relations Coordinator
(310) 243-2455/2001


Grant Funds Research on Hispanics’ Attitude Toward Diabetes

Carson, CA—Two CSU Dominguez Hills educators were funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the beliefs, attitudes, and behavior toward Type II diabetes held by Hispanic college students who are at high risk for diabetes. NIH is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ primary agency for conducting and supporting medical research.

The $207,000, three-year grant will be used to get the study started, explained the two educators, Associate Professor Maria Hurtado-Ortiz and Professor
Silvia Santos. If the study is yielding results, they can apply for another grant at the end of this one.

The researchers chose this study because type II diabetes is nearly three times more prevalent among Hispanics than among non-Hispanic whites. At the same time, obesity rates among Hispanics is concurrently as high, and obesity is a major factor in contracting type II diabetes. Yet, health-education efforts on obesity and type II diabetes have not been as effective as hoped among Hispanics.

“We need good mental models on this,” Santos explains. “Mental models refer to the beliefs that people have regarding a particular disease which, in turn, impact disease-related behaviors and attitudes. The present investigation will use multi-method design, that is, focus groups and survey measures, to explore the mental models of type II diabetes among Hispanic college students who are high-risk candidates for this disease. By high risk, I mean they have a parent or sibling diagnosed with type II diabetes.

“Accurate knowledge of the mental models of type II diabetes that are unique to specific cultural groups is essential for future development of culturally sensitive and effective risk-reduction interventions,” Santos says.

Santos and Hurtado-Ortiz will have help. They have already recruited as collaborators Professor Pamela Krochalk of the Division of Health Sciences and Karen Mason, who wears two hats: professor in the Division of Health Sciences and coordinator and professor of Clinical Psychology. Another participant in the study is Etna Jimenez, a master’s degree student in the Clinical Psychology program. The study will start almost immediately.

Santos and Hurtado-Ortiz are enthusiastic about the project and went to considerable lengths to plan the project and to go through the difficult process of acquiring an NIH grant. But neither took a direct route to get there.

“My interest in ethnic minority health disparities date back to my undergraduate years as a MARC student [Minority Access to Research Careers] working at the Center for Behavioral Medicine at San Diego State University,” Santos recalls. “Although my research program during my graduate training and tenure at CSUDH has centered on ethnic minority issues—immigrant mental health, ethnic minority college adjustment and ethnic identity processes—I always hoped to one day venture back to the area of minority health psychology, and now that time is here.”

It was a little different for Hurtado-Ortiz … but not much: “Since undergraduate school, I have been interested in conducting research that deals with topics that are directly impacting the lives of minorities. I have worked on several programs of research that have centered on the educational aspirations and achievements of Hispanic immigrants and non-immigrants, and I’ve worked on research on childcare barriers, practices, and preferences of Hispanic and Euro-American women. I’ve also researched the living conditions of Hispanic immigrants living in California and Texas and the role of cultural tools on children's planning behaviors.

“Although my degree is in developmental psychology, I also had some graduate training in the areas of cognitive and social psychology,” Hurtado-Ortiz says. “This project on type II diabetes is a great way to combine my graduate training and my interest in conducting research that positively impacts peoples' lives.”

The NIH grant means that two more CSUDH faculty members have been added to the NIH’s Minority Biomedical Research Support (usually referred to as MBRS) Support of Competitive Research (usually referred to as SCORE) program. They are part of MBRS/SCORE for at least three years. If they are granted more funding they will continue to be a part of the program, which has conducted and supported research on the campus for decades. MBRS/SCORE is aimed at bringing students from minority and underserved populations into strenuous scientific research.

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University Communications & Public Affairs
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& Public Affairs


Media Contact:

Russell Hudson
University Communications
& Public Affairs
(310) 243-2455

rhudson@csudh.edu


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Last updated August 18, 12:41 p.m.,
by Joanie Harmon