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Faculty Member Receives $250K Grant to Address Longstanding Health Disparities for Hispanics in the US


Assistant Professor Sharon Borja is the recipient of a $250,000 federal grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to address diabetes (DM), hypertension, obesity, comorbid depression and anxiety which are longstanding disparities among Hispanics in the United States.

“By 2060, the Hispanic population is expected to represent almost 30 percent of the U.S. population. This rapid growth underscores the urgent need to address health and behavioral health disparities among Hispanics. In particular, improving access to post-discharge community health interventions and strengthening their natural supports can lessen their burden of disease and improve health outcomes,” Borja said.

The grant will fund the two-year mixed-methods study titled, Latino Health Behavioral Health Services Utilization: A Mixed Methods Study Using Experimental Vignette Survey, Qualitative Methods, and Pilot Testing of an Electronic Fotonovela Intervention.

Despite recent advances in understanding barriers to Hispanic health services utilization, Hispanics continue to be over-represented in low service utilization groups and in premature termination of services, both significant predictors of hospital readmissions.

The proposed study attempts to address these gaps by conducting a three-phase mixed methods study in several different aspects: to better understand the experiences, attitudes, and perceptions of Hispanics toward diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and comorbid depression and anxiety diagnosis using an experimental vignette methodology. Moreover, Borja will collaborate with a local federally qualified health center to co-design and pilot a culturally-responsive intervention using entertainment-education (E-E) tools in the form of fotonovelas (FN). E-E is an effective tool to increase health literacy among Hispanics.

“This proposal directly aligns with the GCSW’s vision as it pursues research that impacts minority beneficiaries by engaging Hispanics in the Houston metropolitan area, which has a population of more than two million. Hispanic health in Houston is of particular interest because of the worsening prevalence of obesity, a leading risk factor for DM, in Harris County,” Borja said.