Redes Investigators to Direct Major New Research Projects

Redes En Acción Consultant and Investigators (L-R, Drs. Lucina Suarez, Maria E. Fernandez, Frank J. Penedo, Gregory A. Talavera, Amelie G. Ramirez, Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable and J. Emilio Carrillo)


November 28, 2007. Leading Redes En Acción investigators and network researchers have received a variety of major grants to study wide-ranging and far-reaching health issues -- from tobacco control to clinical trials participation to childhood obesity.

The research involves Redes scientists at work in regions around the country. Projects receiving funding include:

  • Tobacco control research and training interventions in partnership with researchers in South America.
  • A comprehensive study of disparities, barriers and facilitators to participation in cancer clinical research trials in Florida.
  • A collaborative program to improve cardiovascular outcomes in low-income Latinos living along the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego, California.
  • A new approach seeking environmental and policy solutions to escalating obesity rates among Latino children in the United States.

Northwest Region. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, MD, is the Principal Investigator (PI) of a 5-year, $1.5 million study funded by the Fogarty International Center and National Institute on Drug Abuse titled Tobacco Control Research and Training in South America. Dr. Pérez-Stable is Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) for the Northwest Region of Redes En Acción.

The research will be conducted in collaboration with investigators based in Jujuy, Tucuman and Buenos Aires, Argentina. The initial project is a community-based intervention that will target smoking initiation among adolescents in randomly selected schools in Jujuy (no smoke-free laws) and Tucuman (strict smoke-free laws).

The second project is a randomized intervention with clinicians in Buenos Aires to enhance their skills at smoking cessation treatments and evaluate outcomes in a sample of their patients. In addition, the grant features a training component bringing Argentine researchers to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) for six to 12 weeks for specific projects and skill enhancement.

Dr. Pérez-Stable, UCSF Professor of Medicine, received his first grant from the NIH/Fogarty International Center for Tobacco Use Among Argentinean Youth: A Cohort Study in 2002, and the latest R01 grant represents a competitive renewal of that project. The initial 5-year study collected data on 3,400 students (13 to 15 years old) to ascertain factors that predict smoking initiation.

Southwest Region. Gregory A. Talavera, MD, MPH, Co-PI for the Redes En Acción Southwest Region, is the Principal Investigator of a 5-year study, San Diego Partnership to Reduce Diabetes and CVD in Latinos: Establishing Exploratory NCMHD Centers of Excellence. The $6.2 million project is supported by the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The San Diego Latino Research Center of Excellence is a trilateral collaborationn of San Diego State University (SDSU), the San Ysidro Health Center (SYHC) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). The study represents a major new effort to promote and expedite intervention research that improves cardiovascular outcomes of Latinos in the Southern California border region.

In partnering with the San Ysidro Health Center, the intervention aims to provide significant service to 1,700 Latino diabetics.

Earlier this year, Dr. Talavera and Redes En Acción researchers Frank J. Penedo, PhD, Co-PI of the Southeast Region, and John Elder, PhD, MPH, a member of the Redes National Steering Committee, assumed key roles in the largest long-term epidemiological study of health and disease in Latino populations in the United States. The multi-site Hispanic Community Health Study was funded by a $61 million grant over 6-1/2 years by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and other NIH components.

National Network Center. Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, Redes En Acción PI and Director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, will direct a nationwide effort to fight obesity in Latino youths. The project, Salud America! The National Latino Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Network, is funded by a 5-year, $5.2 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Based at IHPR, the network aims to unite and increase the number of Latino scientists engaged in research on Latino childhood obesity. The study will seek environmental and policy solutions to the epidemic.

"At least 15 percent of Latinos under age 19 are obese, heightening their risk of heart disease, cancer and other chronic disease," said Dr. Ramirez, the project's PI. "Many factors, from genetics to poor diet to low family income and no health insurance, contribute to the problem."

Initially, Salud America! is forming an executive workgroup of a dozen stakeholders committed to Latino childhood obesity research. The workgroup will identify and prioritize key issues, recruit a network of 150 members by the end of the program's first year, survey those members to further refine priorities, and plan a summit to draft a Latino childhood obesity research agenda in fall 2008.

Salud America! is also developing a system to support up to 20 pilot research projects, each funded up to $75,000. The goal of these projects will be to inform obesity-prevention efforts tailored to the specific needs of Latino children, their families and communities. Key findings will be communicated to scientists, policymakers and the public.

Also, to enhance the research skills of young scientists, seasoned researchers and existing childhood obesity experts, the network will offer training to aid investigators' career progression and grant-seeking efforts. By the end of the fifth year, the network expects to have 750 members.

Southeast Region. Margaret M. Byrne, PhD, will serve as PI of a 2-year study funded by the Bankhead Coley Foundation, Understanding Disparities and Barriers to Participation in Cancer Clinical Trials among Floridians: A Health Behavior Population-based Approach. The focus of the project will be to determine the extent and causes of disparities in clinical trial participation.

Researchers will first examine statewide rates of cancer clinical trials participation at the county level using the Florida Cancer Data System and the National Cancer Institute Clinical Trial Cooperative Groups participation data. The study will then survey cancer patients to determine cancer patients' beliefs, attitudes, and perceived barriers and facilitators to participation in clinical trials.

Finally, investigators will survey health care providers and researchers to assess attitudes toward clinical trials, perceptions of patients' willingness to participate, and barriers and facilitators faced by providers in identifying and referring patients to trials. Research results will guide recommendations for improving rates of participation in cancer clinical trials.

What Is Redes En Acción? Redes En Acción is a major NCI-supported initiative to combat cancer among Latinos through a nationwide network of community-based organizations, research institutions, government health agencies and the public. Core activities include promoting cancer training and research opportunities for Latino students and researchers, generating research projects on key Latino cancer issues, and supporting cancer awareness activities within the Latino community.

The initiative is coordinated by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, with regional network centers in San Antonio, New York, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco and San Diego.