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UC San Diego Gets $3 Million To Reduce Latino Childhood Obesity

 July 13, 2021 at 10:16 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:01 There's an epidemic of childhood and adolescent obesity in this country with 17% of children presenting that number is much higher for Latin X children with nearly 26% of them struggling with obesity. A new study is looking at how childhood trauma could be the culprit it's called the California initiative to advance precision medicine study at UC San Diego. Dr. Gary Firestein the senior principal investigator on the project and block a Mellon dress. A co-principal investigator are joining us. Welcome to you. Thank you very much. Speaker 2: 00:36 Good morning. Thank you. Speaker 1: 00:38 I'll start with you. The childhood trauma you are looking at in this study is what you're calling adverse childhood experiences. Can you explain to us what that is? Speaker 3: 00:48 Yes. So, um, during childhood, there are a variety of stresses that, uh, children can experience. And one of the things that we've learned is that these early experiences can have a long-term consequences for health, whether it's related to hunger abuse, exposure to, uh, to, uh, individuals who are taking drugs or any of a variety of other types of, uh, exposures. And the surprising aspect of this is how longterm the consequences can be. And our goal is to try to intervene and prevent some of those long-term consequences Speaker 1: 01:29 And Blanca what causes these adverse childhood experiences? Speaker 2: 01:34 Yes. Um, like Gary mentioned, um, adverse childhood experiences are caused by, uh, abuse incarceration of a parent on stable living environments and emotional detachments from caretaker givers. So this is really, um, uh, expansive traumatic events in the life of the child. And there is the link between childhood trauma that lead to chronic illnesses. In this case, we're looking at toxic stress and how these type of adverse experiences, um, release an overabundance of stress hormones and how that impacts, um, the health and wellbeing of our kids and our communities. So really this study is, is transforming the way we view we talk and we treat obesity. It's understanding how trauma is often the underlying cause. And in San Diego county, we historically have done an amazing job at addressing childhood obesity through the obesity initiative and many, many other partners. But in this case, we're looking at root causes and how trauma and chronic stress contribute to the obesity problem. Speaker 1: 02:38 And I want to dig into those root causes more Blanca. I mean, why are so many Latino or Latin X children experiencing these adverse childhood experiences? Speaker 2: 02:48 Part of the way that we're looking at addressing obesity, it's looking at racial inequities in health disparities. And we know the statistics that, um, you know, 33% of our communities are overweight or obese. One out of three children are overweight or obese, and there's always health disparities among children and families with racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. So these inequities, um, are seen in our Latino students for instance, 43% of them, uh, were and Hispanic students, um, and a steady we're overweight compared to white students with an overweight of, um, of 24%. So we, um, have not really addressed the root causes of these health diseases in this case of obesity. Um, so we're looking at children with TruSeq toxic stress, um, and how they live their lives in a constant state of fight and flight mode. So many times our kids that are suffering from the greatest health disparities are going through a series of traumas and they respond to the world from a place of constant danger and their brains are overloaded with, um, these stress hormones that, um, are enabled to function appropriately. Speaker 2: 04:01 So that's when we start seeing that many of our students fall behind, um, they can focus in school. Um, they, they have issues with, uh, relationships with, with their peers. Um, and with this, you know, we start seeing certain behaviors, you know, we, they turn to food or alcohol or tobacco or other things, and they don't regard these coping methods as problems. Um, they see them as a way to obtain relief from these stressors. So that's what we're looking in this study. Um, you know, that obesity is not necessarily perceived as a problem, but a solution to toxic stress. Speaker 1: 04:39 Uh, and this question is for the, both of you while the, the money you received will go to help address the health problems caused by these adverse childhood experiences. Talk to me about how important it is to not only address the symptoms, but to really get to the cause of these problems. Speaker 3: 04:55 There are a variety of challenges to understanding and steadying and determining these root causes. There is a history, a long history of trust issues amongst the underserved, um, both for access to healthcare, but particularly, uh, research. Oftentimes there is, uh, a reluctance to participate. And so it makes it extremely difficult to try to, uh, study the root causes and then develop, um, answers and treatments that would be specific for individual populations. So one of the ways that we are trying to address this is by having a very robust community engagement component to this in order to begin to develop trust with the community, uh, and develop the interventions in collaboration with, uh, with the community in this way, the families, the participants and the community are our partners. Speaker 2: 05:57 Also want to just go back to your, your question in relation to help. I do want to say that, you know, studies have demonstrated that high doses of adverse childhood experiences affects directly the brain development, the immune system, the hormonal system, and the way our DNA is read and transcribed. So individuals exposed to high doses of adverse childhood experiences and stress triple their lifetime risk of heart disease and lung cancer. And there's a 20 year difference in life expectancy. Do Speaker 1: 06:27 You think? I think that systemic racism could be a cause of so much of this childhood trauma. Speaker 2: 06:34 Definitely. Um, as part of the childhood obesity initiative, we have made a commitment to look at obesity from an equity racial lens. Uh, we know that, uh, we have not necessarily look at structural racism and how racism impacts our health and wellbeing. And there's definitely multiple studies, um, and multiple efforts across the country and in San Diego county to address racism in the health system and the academic system and the government institution holistically. So this is why we are super excited about this approach, because this is a community academic partnership in collaboration with the Latino community and our premature Torres and resident leaders are going to be sharing with us what their lived experience looks like. What are the social determinants of health that are impacting their health and wellbeing? We have some data set strategies to use technology so that the community could be uploading in real time, their lived experience and that data set is going to be used to inform our interventions. So I am sure that racism and health disparities are at the top of that list. And Speaker 1: 07:44 Gary, as you all research this, how will your interventions be implemented communities? Speaker 3: 07:49 The interventions and the treatment will be provided by the community themselves, communities themselves, particularly Promontory is, uh, and the community clinics. This is not an example of where academic, uh, researchers are going to move into and into the community clinics and provide the care. This is a partnership where the community clinics, uh, and the community of self will be taking the lead. Uh, so, uh, um, it will really be the, the communities and the clinics themselves that will be providing the interventions that have been co-developed in collaboration with various agencies and community groups. Speaker 1: 08:38 I've been speaking with Blanca Melendez and Dr. Gary Firestein principal investigators on the California initiative to advance precision medicine. Thank you both for joining us. Speaker 3: 08:48 Thank you very much. Thank you.

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Researchers at UC San Diego, led by the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute, will receive about $3 million to develop approaches to mitigate childhood trauma within the Latino community and reduce childhood obesity, officials said Wednesday.
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