Specialized Center of Excellence

Leveraging Bio-Cultural Mechanisms to Maximize the Impact of Multi-Level Preventable Disease Interventions with Southwest Populations

Principal Investigator: Flavio F. Marsiglia, PhD, Regents' Professor and Director, Global Center for Applied Health Research, School of Social Work

Funding: National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, U54 2U54MD002316 (2017-2023)

The Specialized Center advances knowledge on how to prevent cardiometabolic disease and substance abuse disorders among the health disparities populations of the Southwest. The Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center (SIRC) has accumulated invaluable expertise in this area for the past 10 years as ASU's Exploratory Center of Excellence (NIMHD/NIH P20MD002316). The stark unmet health needs of the Southwest communities, the strong transdisciplinary team of researchers assembled for this application, and the existing solid community partnerships make this application highly significant.

The Specialized Center will leverage SIRC's accumulated knowledge on cultural and social determinants of health and health disparities and will integrate biological, sociocultural and other contextual factors into efficacious, culturally grounded and impactful health interventions. Our focus is to understand the protective and risk effects of interpersonal family and household factors, the community environment, and individual health behaviors on specific biological health outcomes.

The Specialized Center will extend SIRC's integrated, multilevel, social determinants approach to include biocultural mechanisms within an Ecodevelopmental Theory framework. The center will significantly enhance SIRC's research impact through a research focus on preventing cardio metabolic disease and substance abuse disorders through culturally appropriate and efficacious interventions. The research is innovative because it will investigate how protective and risk factors that are common to various chronic diseases and disorders manifest themselves among racial/ethnic minority populations of the Southwest, with an emphasis on the sociocultural and biological determinants of health disparities.

The two main research projects (ELSC and FPNG+) will target potentially modifiable youth behaviors associated with cardiometabolic disease and with substance abuse disorders (i.e., physical activity, and quality of diet, access to healthy foods, family functioning, acculturation, substance use, and illegal drug availability). The resulting findings will inform the design and testing of efficacious interventions that can strengthen protective factors and counteract risk factors operating within the multiple ecological domains of a young person's life.

The center will conduct the two related main research projects to increase the impact of efficacious interventions by advancing knowledge on how cultural processes influence biological vulnerabilities (i.e., biocultural mechanisms). Early career faculty and postdocs will increase their capacity to conduct health dipartites research through a comprehensive investigator development and pilots research incubator initiative (Investigator Development Core). The center will implement the research projects and future pilots in close and equitable partnership with communities of the Southwest. In partnership with the SIRC Community Advisory Board, the center will broadly disseminate and translate the knowledge generated by the studies and pilots to policy, practice, and lay stakeholders through an innovative dissemination plan (Community Engagement & Dissemination Core).