Professors receive NIH grant for research on health disparities

Professors receive NIH grant for research on health disparities

This article has been updated since its original publication.

Members from Kennesaw State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the WellStar College of Health and Human Services received the university’s first grant focused on the social sciences from the National Institutes of Health in nearly a decade in February for their bid to research health disparities among African-American men.

Assistant Professor of Sociology Evelina Sterling along with associate professors of social work Carol Collard and Dr. Vanessa Robinson-Dooley were awarded a $404,000 grant over three years to develop a new self-management and support intervention program for low-income black men with multiple chronic conditions.

The trio will identify how race, gender, culture and low socioeconomic status affects both mental and physical illness management among African-American men. Participants suffering from physical ailments such as diabetes, arthritis, HIV, high blood pressure and cholesterol will be studied and educated in the program. Men suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and alcohol addiction will also be examined.

Sterling said participants within this target population will be interviewed along with the physicians that treat them to gather data and uncover the opportunities and barriers they both face. A system will be established to enable lines of communication for men who often do not have access to outlets to deal with physical or emotional trauma. A workshop or “pilot test” will also be included to examine the results of the study in a real-world environment of their peers.

Sterling said people with chronic conditions would fare better if they are equipped to manage their condition themselves so that any question they might have does not become a medical emergency.

Sterling said African-American men are “a very underserved population” within the field of medical research and that she and her colleagues did not feel the current programs were “culturally appropriate.”

Sterling claimed that black men are “disproportionally affected by systemic racism.”

“Things such as hesitancy to ask questions and seek medical attention as well as an inability to receive treatment due to lack of adequate income create and sustain the problem,” Sterling said.

Medication management, communicating with physicians, using friends and family to build networks and combating isolation while emphasizing maintaining a healthy lifestyle that promotes wellness, nutrition and exercise while on a limited budget will all be implemented by the third and final year.

According to the NIH website, the organization is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and serves to seek vital information and apply it towards enhancing health, lengthening life and reducing illnesses and disabilities.

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