The University of Guam has been awarded a $2.7M grant from the National Institute of Minority Health and Disparities (NIMHD) through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to address the lack of health information specific to Pacific Islanders for whom non-communicable diseases, especially cardiometabolic diseases, are the leading cause of death.
Specific to the region, the five-year, federally funded grant looks to build capacity to conduct population health research in U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPIs), which are often excluded from many national health surveys.
The data collected will help researchers better understand the health disparities experienced among USAPI populations, while the institutionalization of the proposed epidemiologic cohort will ensure the sustainability of population health data collection.
“Health models developed from research findings conducted in other populations don’t always translate to our USAPI communities. Since we’re excluded from national longitudinal health surveys, it’s really hard to understand the challenges that can be said of our health infrastructure system,” said Dr. Yvette Paulino, Associate Professor of Health Science and Principal Investigator for the grant. “What we want to do is better understand the extent of our non-communicable disease burden, build and test our own models, and eventually develop programs or identify intervention strategies tailored to the needs of our community.”
Paulino said the most significant contribution of the proposed study is an understanding of the extent of diabetes and cardiovascular conditions and related risk factors in our USAPI populations. The data collected in the proposed study will be among the first to look at health indicators across generations. The hope is to track each individual’s health over time and use the information to create appropriate programs, interventions, and health policies relevant to USAPI communities.
Throughout the course of the five-year cycle, students at both UOG and the College of Micronesia will be trained to help collect, analyze and disseminate this information in a timely manner so that the research continues long after the culmination of the grant cycle.
“This grant from the National Institutes of Health shows that our program has grown from our earlier Cancer Health Disparities partnership with UH Manoa into a serious provider of research and teaching engagement in Micronesia,” said Dr. John Peterson, Assistant Vice President of Graduate Studies, Research & Sponsored Programs. “We hope to continue building this capacity and this grant will be a significant step toward a sustainable health sciences contribution to students and research in the region.”
The team from UOG includes Paulino, Associate Professor of Mathematics Dr. Grazyna Badowski, Associate Director of Telecommunication and Distance Education Operation (TADEO) Manuel Hechanova, Assistant Professor of Nutrition Dr. Tanisha Franquez Aflague, Associate Director of the Western Pacific Tropical Research Center Dr. Rachael Leon Guerrero, the UOG Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service (CEDDERS), and representatives from the School of Nursing and Health Science.
Regional and local partners include the College of Micronesia in Pohnpei, the University of Hawaii, the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services, the Guam Diabetes Association, and the Guam Non-Communicable Disease Consortium and Quansheng Song, who works with CEDDERS on the Guam Early Hearing Detection & Intervention database.
“This grant award is excellent addition to our research portfolio,” said UOG President Dr. Robert Underwood. “We have a great opportunity to become a major player in health research, continuing our efforts to become a university with a robust research agenda.”
This research is supported by the National Institute On Minority Health And Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U24MD011201.