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$2.8M Study to Develop Family-Based Intervention Program for Chronic Disease Prevention among American Indian Youth

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

TUCSON, Ariz. – A new study led by the University of Arizona Department of Family and Community Medicine in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson aims to develop a culturally relevant and community-led intervention to support and improve the health of American Indian youth – and reduce their risk for obesity and related metabolic diseases – through the adoption of healthier behaviors.

The American Indian Youth Wellness Camp established in 1991 in Prescott, Arizona, teaches kids at risk for or diagnosed with type 2 diabetes healthy lifestyle choices. Such camps are just one way to help develop positive body images and practices that can prevent chronic disease.The project is supported by a five-year, $2.8 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The grant, “Achieving American Indian Youth Energy and Mental Health Balance,” is led by Francine C. Gachupin, PhD, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and assistant director of the department’s Native American Research and Training Center.

“We know that American Indian youth have the highest prevalence of obesity of all ethnic groups in the United States,” Dr. Gachupin said. “This puts them at a much higher risk for adult obesity and obesity-driven diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer.”

In response, Dr. Gachupin, her team and tribal partners will develop and test a culturally relevant, community-led intervention that incorporates principles of mind-body medicine (MBM) skills training and parental/caregiver engagement to support American Indian youth in reducing their risk for obesity and related metabolic diseases.

The program builds and expands on her highly successful American Indian Youth Wellness Camp, a weeklong intensive program that includes health screenings, nutrition education, physical activities and MBM skills training. Historically, about 25% of camp participants meet the criteria for severe obesity. The study will extend activities post-camp by continuing contact with youth and involving parents/caregivers. 

Francine C. Gachupin, PhD, MPH“American Indian youth are disproportionately impacted by adverse childhood events, trauma, poverty and stress, and a responsive intervention must address individual, interpersonal, community and societal influences over the life course,” Dr. Gachupin said.

“Physical well-being and mental well-being are critically important for all of us, but especially for young people, who are establishing habits that could stay with them for life,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD. “This NIH grant underscores the important work Dr. Gachupin is doing to create healthy lifestyles in culturally relevant ways that leverage the strengths of family and community. I am hopeful the efforts being undertaken by Dr. Gachupin, her team and the tribal partners will help have a positive impact in these young peoples’ lives.”

Over the past six years, Dr. Gachupin and her tribal partners have organized American Indian youth summer camps to promote healthful eating and physical activity, resulting in improved cardiometabolic health.

“To build on this success and to enhance the impact of our efforts, we recognize the intervention must transfer camp-acquired knowledge, skills and behaviors to the home setting,” Dr. Gachupin explained. “Parental support and attention to emotional well-being and coping skills are essential additions to the current programming to ensure changes are enacted and sustained in youth over time.”

In partnership with select Arizona tribes, the program will be developed and delivered using a community-based participatory framework, with respect for tribal sovereignty and governance.

UArizona researchers look to incorporate creative interventions in family-caregiver engagement approach to mind-body medicine skills that build a positive body image.

If successful, the program “will be the first family-based intervention for chronic disease prevention in American Indian adolescents,” Dr. Gachupin said.

“This grant is a testament to Dr. Gachupin’s leadership and dedication to improve the health of American Indians through culturally relevant research, conducted in true partnership with tribal communities,” said Myra Muramoto, MD, MPH, professor and chair, Department of Family and Community Medicine.

The team involved with the new program includes: Melanie Hingle, PhD, MPH, RD, associate professor,  Department of Nutritional Sciences; Cynthia Thomson, PhD, RD, professor, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health; Denise Roe, DrPH, MS, professor, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health; Noshene Ranjbar, MD, assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry; Teresia O'Connor, MD, MPH, FAAP, Baylor College of Medicine; and Vernon Grant, PhD, Montana State University.

The study is funded by NIH grant 1R01MD014127-01A1.

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NOTE: Photos available upon request.

About the University of Arizona Department of Family and Community Medicine
The Department of Family and Community Medicine at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson is one of the top-ranking family medicine programs in the country. The department is known for outstanding pre- and post-doctoral education, groundbreaking research and innovative community outreach programs designed to improve the health of individuals, families and communities in the region and beyond. The department places strong emphasis on research, particularly in the fields of tobacco cessation, substance abuse, obesity and related diseases, cancer survivorship, behavioral health and disabilities, and Native American and Latino health. For more information: https://www.fcm.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | YouTube).

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

About the University of Arizona College of Medicine –Tucson
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is shaping the future of medicine through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research and advancements in patient care in Arizona and beyond. Founded in 1967, the college boasts more than 50 years of innovation, ranking among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care. Through the university's partnership with Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, the college is leading the way in academic medicine. For more information, visit medicine.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn).

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