Research Areas

The ICH has six areas of research focusing on the current challenges of public health and the practical application of those challenges to the growing needs of populations in the State of Texas. The ICH, therefore, identifies the broad areas of chronic diseases, HIV/AIDS, neoplastic disorders, health disparities and health services research, as areas where investigators that are associated with the center will develop research expertise.

1. HIV/AIDS prevention research: The research in this field is focused primarily on designing and implementing intervention studies to reduce HIV incidence and prevalence in Texas, especially among ethnic minorities. In addition, this research component will compete for grants to design and conduct HIV/AIDS intervention studies globally in countries where there is high HIV prevalence.

Currently, there are two National Institutes of Health funded HIV prevention intervention research projects in the college. The first project is designed to test the efficacy of video-based culturally sensitive and developmentally appropriate HIV prevention programs among African Americans in Houston. The second project is designed to examine the effectiveness of a situationally-focused HIV prevention program among service personnel in the Nigerian Uniformed Services. The HIV/AIDS prevention research core is directed by E. James Essien, M.D., Dr.P.H, an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences and Administration.

2. Medication use and effectiveness research: Appropriate use of medication is fundamental to achieving desired therapeutic outcome. The knowledge of medication errors, adherence, and compliance are areas of research that require current attention as the US population ages and decrease in medication compliance continues. Therefore, fostering research in this direction remains a sine qua non in meeting the growing demands of the body of knowledge required in appropriate dispensation and proper utilization in therapeutics. The research in this field is directed by Sujit Sansgiry, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences and Administration.

3. Population-based pharmaceutical care research program: Population-based pharmaceutical care is aimed at developing and implementing population-specific, evidence-based disease management programs to improve the quality of pharmaceutical care. With increasing medication use, there is a need to develop these programs based on analysis of epidemiologic and pharmacoeconomic data, medication use criteria, medication use review, and risk reduction strategies. Professor Rajender Aparasu, Ph.D., directs research activities in this field.

4. Quality assessment of medication use by patients with chronic conditions: As the US population undergoes a dramatic expansion or transition in people 65 years and older, chronic disabilities and diseases become a high priority for the healthcare delivery system. Elderly persons require multiple medications in sustaining the aging physiologic system very clearly defined by decline in biologic function.

Therefore, as we approach the year 2040, an estimated 20 percent of the U.S. population will be placed on medication required to manage chronic diseases. Because polypharmacy would characterize the aging population in Texas, there is a need for quality assessment of medication use research in reducing the unwanted effects of drug interactions and optimizing the care required for elderly and persons with chronic diseases and chronic disabilities. Michael Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of clinical sciences and administration directs research activities in this field.

5. Health services research among populations with mental disorders: Psychiatric morbidity as a result of behavioral impairment and organicity often go unrecognized by the healthcare system due to the stigma placed on mental disorders. In addition, behavioral health problems are rarely covered by the health insurance services. Given the growing social and psychological problems in the pluralistic US society and the ethnic minority communities, there is a need to increase screening for mental disorders through access and utilization of psychiatric healthcare services.

In order to advance our understanding of the patterns of health services among the different ethnic groups in Texas, the ICH proposes to design and conduct studies on questions regarding access and utilization of health services among populations with mental disorders. Hua Chen, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical sciences and administration, serves as the lead faculty member for this area of research.

6. Smoking Prevention research: Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US and around the world, killing an average of one person every six seconds. Smoking produces a substantial health-related economic cost to society in direct medical costs as well as lost productivity and years of potential life lost (YPLL). Waterpipe smoking mostly used in the Middle East, India, and parts of Asia, has been introduced to western nations. The youth believe this fashionable trend is relatively safe, however it has been shown to cause nicotine absorption similar to cigarette smoking, association with more CO, and dramatically more smoke exposure, thus sharing some of the health risks of cigarette smoking, and some unique risks.

The purpose of the research is to gain insight into why some individuals smoke through studying predictors for both cigarettes and waterpipe smoking, as well as predictors of willingness to quit. Disparities in smoking habits among different ethnic groups are also investigated. The aim is to identify strategies to prevent smoking and strategies to help smokers quit. Susan Abughosh, Ph.D., directs research activities in this field.