Prospective health of the Hispanic/Latino population in the US: an interview with Dr. Martha Daviglus, University of Illinois at Chicago

Martha Daviglus ARTICLE IMAGE

The Hispanic/Latino population is one of the fastest growing minority groups in the U.S. What is currently known about the future health of the Hispanic/Latino population?

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death among Hispanic/ Latino adults living in the US and this population is known to have high rates of obesity and diabetes.

Findings from the Hispanic Community Health Study/ Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) published in the November 2012 issue of JAMA showed that the prevalence of risk factors for heart disease varied among diverse Hispanic/Latino groups but was substantial among all groups.

A very large proportion of study participants – 80 percent of men and 71 percent of women had at least one adverse risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This could have devastating implications for future burden of cardiovascular disease as this currently relatively young segment of the US population gets older.

Please give us an introduction to the National Institutes of Health project that is to follow up the health of Hispanic/Latino Americans living in Chicago over the next six years?

The NIH sponsored HCHS/SOL study is a community-based study that was designed to examine risk and protective factors for chronic diseases and to determine disease burden and death rates from various chronic diseases among Hispanic/Latino individuals of diverse backgrounds living in the US. Baseline examinations were conducted from 2008 to 2011; 16,415 adult men and women of Cuban, Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Central and South American backgrounds were examined at the 4 field centers in Bronx, NY, Chicago, IL, Miami, FL, and San Diego, CA.

Over the next 6 years, surviving original participants will be invited to undergo a re-examination to assess the onset of any chronic diseases and other changes in their health and risk status that may have occurred.

What are the main aims of this project?

The main aims of the second phase of this study are to obtain new evidence on specific causes of chronic diseases that are common among Hispanic/Latino individuals, to examine changes in risk of diseases with acculturation to US society, and to examine the impact of biologic and lifestyle risk factors, socioeconomic and cultural factors, and access to health care on the risk of developing chronic diseases.

What hurdles do you expect to face and how do you plan to overcome them?

The hurdles we expect are similar to those we experienced in the first phase of the study, that is, some difficulty in getting participants to come in for their clinic examination visits due to their busy lives and schedules.

We have been able to successfully overcome this issue by offering participants flexibility in scheduling their visits, including weekday and weekend hours. Since most people work during the week, our research clinic is open on both Saturdays and Sundays.

What impact do you think this study will have on the health needs of the Hispanic/Latino population?

Findings from the HCHS/SOL study will provide clinicians, public health practitioners, and policy makers a clear picture of the health status, risk factors, and disease burden of diverse Hispanic/Latino groups residing in the US.

This information will also provide the basis for the development of targeted culturally specific interventions and strategies to address the major health issues faced by this population.

Please can you explain the so-called “Hispanic paradox”? Will your research shed any light on this?

Some reports have suggested that despite the higher rates of obesity and diabetes and greater socioeconomic adversity (including poor access to health care), Hispanics/ Latinos may experience lower age-specific rates of mortality (overall and due to heart disease) and greater life expectancy than others.

This phenomenon has been termed the “Hispanic paradox.” The HCHS/SOL study will help to clarify whether such a phenomenon exists by determining the burden of risk factors and chronic diseases among diverse Hispanics/Latinos and examining the strength of the relationship between these risk factors and disease outcomes.

The effect of other factors such as socioeconomic status, lifestyle behaviors, and cultural factors on these relationships will also be explored.

Do you think your research will impact the health of other populations in America?

Since Hispanics/Latinos are thought to experience relatively better health outcomes for several diseases despite poorer risk profiles, greater poverty, and lower rates of health insurance compared to non-Hispanic whites, some researchers have suggested that certain aspects if the Hispanic/Latino culture and or lifestyle may have protective effects on health.

The HCHS/SOL study can help shed light on specific cultural factors and dynamics that may protect against chronic diseases. Such findings could be applied towards development of preventive strategies that could benefit other population groups as well.

How do you think future research on the health of the Hispanic/Latino population will develop based on this research?

Findings from the HCHS/SOL study will serve as a springboard for development of future clinical trials and interventional studies to test culturally-informed approaches for disease prevention and health promotion in Hispanic/Latino individuals.

How is this research being funded?

The HCHS/SOL study is funded by contracts from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and six other institutes, centers, and offices of the National Institutes of Health.

Where can readers find more information?

More information on the HCHS/SOL study is available on the study website,

About Dr. Martha Daviglus

Martha Daviglus BIG IMAGEDr. Martha Daviglus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, Director of the Institute of Minority Health Research, and Professor of Medicine (General Internal Medicine and Cardiology) and Public Health at UIC has been a member of Northwestern’s faculty since 1995 (Adjunct Professor of Preventive Medicine since 2012).

She is a proven leader, established researcher, and a passionate educator and mentor. Dr. Daviglus is a bilingual and bicultural physician/epidemiologist of Hispanic origin (Bolivian) who has been conducting research on cardiovascular and nutritional epidemiology for more than 19 years.

Dr. Daviglus has had continuous NIH funding as PI since 1994 and was the recipient of an NHLBI Career Development Award and an American Heart Association (AHA) Established Investigator Award for her work relating CVD risk factors in younger and middle-aged adults to future health status, physical disability and morbidity, and life expectancy in older age.

She is currently PI on five awards from NHLBI and EPA, including for investigation on relations of CVD risk factors in early adulthood to sleep disorders and conditions and for identification of prevalence of and risk factors for major CVD and non-CVD diseases, conditions, and disorders in the largest multi-center observational study on Hispanics/Latinos (Chicago Field Center) yet undertaken. She is also Co-PI or Co-Investigator on other NIH-funded projects.

Further, she serves as Director of the NIH-funded CVD Epidemiology and Prevention training program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

April Cashin-Garbutt

Written by

April Cashin-Garbutt

April graduated with a first-class honours degree in Natural Sciences from Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. During her time as Editor-in-Chief, News-Medical (2012-2017), she kickstarted the content production process and helped to grow the website readership to over 60 million visitors per year. Through interviewing global thought leaders in medicine and life sciences, including Nobel laureates, April developed a passion for neuroscience and now works at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, located within UCL.


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