SDSU receives $15 million to fund research on Latinx disparities
Speaker 1: (00:00)
The Latin X community is disproportionately impacted by health disparities from environmental injustice, to a lack of healthcare access, longstanding issues have created health challenges like obesity and even cancer. For many people. Now a program called SDSU forte has received a $15 million grant from the national institutes of health to research and find solutions to those health disparities. Joining me to talk about the research is Maria Luisa. Sunida a professor at the SDSU school of social work and co-principal investigator of Fuerte Maria. Welcome.
Speaker 2: (00:38)
Thank you very much. So
Speaker 1: (00:40)
Can you tell us more about the SDSU forte program and why the national institutes of health said they selected the program for this grant?
Speaker 2: (00:49)
I think go state university has a very strong track record in health disparities research to promote Latin X and minority health. So over the course of many years, uh, our researchers have devoted many hours and time to reducing health disparities and really understanding some of the nuances that are, are important to Latin X and minority health. So, uh, we're very proud where there, which means strong in Spanish faculty United towards excellence and research and transformational engagement. We were funded by NIH because we're also home to Latin X cancer, disparities researchers, uh, specialists in environmental health, obesity, and addiction and HIV. These are all the types of areas and health problems that deeply impact Latinos, both at regionally and nationwide in
Speaker 1: (01:45)
Search online. Next disparities will be conducted by a group of 11 new faculty members. Talk to me about the reasons for recruiting new faculty members to do this research.
Speaker 2: (01:55)
Absolutely. So this is, uh, probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to select and reach out to some of the best researchers across the nation with a passion for Latin X health and their research focus area in the areas of either cancer, uh, environmental health, nutrition, um, activities and health disparities in Latin X help. So it's really a golden opportunity to elevate the work that we've already been doing by hiring a group of individuals who will come in and be part of our community. My role will be to help provide the supports that researchers need, including researchers from underrepresented groups. And there's a tradition and it's unfortunate but many times, uh, because there are fewer researchers from underrepresented groups, Latin X, black, other underrepresented communities. We need to make a stronger effort at supporting these researchers to succeed, especially because of their specialization in minority health and reducing health disparities.
Speaker 1: (03:11)
Three of the faculty members will be working from the universities Imperial valley campus do Imperial valley, Latin X residents face more health disparities than those in other areas,
Speaker 2: (03:23)
The disparities they face are different because of their environment. So environmentally, we, you know, when we should really think about, uh, San Diego state university's program will be across the border, which is very exciting. Imperial valley is an agricultural area and it is next to, uh, the capital of Baja, California, Mexico. So the dynamics and the region itself is different. That exposure as well, the environmental exposures may be different in this area, so that a focus on environment will allow us to really understand better where might be the best places to intervene and support the best health of individuals and communities living in the Imperial valley
Speaker 1: (04:10)
And 85% of Imperial county residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. How big is the community in San Diego county? And is it growing?
Speaker 2: (04:19)
Yeah, so San Diego county is about a third Latino, 34%, according to the last census estimates. And we're just under the California, uh, which is almost 40%. So 39% Latinos in San Diego, we are growing. And also, I think there's an important element of the vibrancy of being a border community. So we have a very vibrant relationship with Tijuana and our institutions to the south and just that cross border mobility is part of who we are as well. So really understanding that not only as Latin X health in the region, uh, impacted by our own our, or the communities, but that our community has really broader.
Speaker 1: (05:07)
What are some of the disparities among Latin X households across both counties that we know exist?
Speaker 2: (05:14)
So certainly we learned if nothing else that COVID exposed, but the pandemic COVID 19 pandemic exposed, and it sort of took this blanket off of what health disparities is really looking in. And what are some of the issues of health disparities in Latin X communities? So regionally we have high levels of uninsured, uh, nationally about, uh, half of Latin X families have private insurance compared to 75% in Latin X whites. Uh, we have high levels of obesity and low physical activity in both parts of the region. Imperial valley suffers tremendously, uh, diabetes and other, uh, chronic diseases that can be prevented through better lifestyle, nutrition, and exercise. Um, we also have a disproportionate number of, uh, cancers relating to stomach and liver cancers among Latinas in Latin X women in our region. We also have a high level of human papilloma virus and cervical cancers. And this is very concerning because it has to do with a lack of access to care and low participation in screening for cervical cancer. Uh, so this, in addition to asthma, and as you'd mentioned, environmental exposures, these are all areas of incredible need for research and interventions to improve community health.
Speaker 1: (06:51)
And overall, how do you hope this fund will have an impact on Latin X health disparities, regionally, nationally, and globally?
Speaker 2: (06:59)
Well, this is very exciting because it is an opportunity to bring a group of individuals that in and of themselves have a lifelong passion towards reducing health disparities in the Latin X community. So if we can think about this as energizing and working in synergy with the foundation that San Diego state university already has in addressing health disparities and, and our high level research capacity, this is just an opportunity to really launch and make a significant step towards bolstering our efforts to promote the full health of Latin X and other underserved communities.
Speaker 1: (07:45)
I've been speaking to Maria Luisa Sunni yoga, a professor at the SDSU school of social work and co-principal investigator of Fuerte. Maria. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Speaker 2: (07:57)
Thank you very much, Jane.
Speaker 3: (08:00)
The San Diego State University Faculty United Towards Excellence in Research and Transformational Engagement program, also known as “SDSU FUERTE,” on Wednesday announced it received a $15 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to research Latinx health disparities.
The goal of the research is to have a regional, national and global impact on lowering those disparities, which include cancer, environmental health, obesity, physical activity and nutrition.
María Luisa Zúñiga, a professor at the SDSU School of Social Work and co-principal investigator of “FUERTE,” spoke with KPBS Midday Edition on Monday about the group being put together to conduct the research.
Eleven faculty members will be hired to conduct the research. Three of the faculty members will be working from the university's Imperial Valley campus. Eighty-five percent of Imperial County residents are Hispanic or Latino, according to the Census Bureau.
Zúñiga said the grant is a great opportunity to take health disparity research to the next level.
"It's really a golden opportunity to elevate the work that we've already been doing, by hiring a group of individuals who will come in and be part of our community," she said.
Zúñiga said SDSU was chosen for the grant by NIH because of the school's strong track record in health disparity research.
"Over the course of many years, our researchers have devoted many hours ... to reducing health disparities and really understanding some of the nuances that are important to Latinx and minority health," Zúñiga said. "We were funded by NIH because we're also home to Latinx cancer disparity researchers, specialists in environmental health, obesity, addiction and HIV. These are all the types of areas and health problems that deeply impact Latinos both regionally and nationwide."