USC and CHLA will fight obesity and diabetes in Latino children

USC, in partnership with Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, won a $ 24.5 million grant from NIH to launch a center to fight obesity and associated chronic diseases in Latin children and families -Americans of Southern California.

This new regional center will establish a consortium in 10 counties, home to nearly 11 million Latinos who represent 45.2% of the population. The consortium brings together universities, hospitals and community groups; the goal is to develop and test culturally appropriate family interventions for the complex stew of early childhood nutritional, environmental and social factors that put children at risk for obesity and chronic obesity-related diseases for the rest of their life.

The center is the brainchild of Michael Goran, professor of pediatrics at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and director of diabetes and obesity at the Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA). The hospital, a national leader in pediatric research, is California’s highest-ranked children’s hospital and fifth in the country on the US News & World Report’s Top Children’s Hospitals honor roll.

“All the chronic diseases of adulthood, the main killers, these risk factors start to set in early in life, probably even before birth,” Goran said. “This process is more pronounced among Latinos. For example, by the age of 2, Latinos have a much higher prevalence of obesity, are more resistant to insulin, and already have much higher risk factors for diabetes.

The center will test new strategies such as the idea of ​​’food orders’ or affordable grocery delivery accompanied by culturally appropriate meal plans led by a team of Kaiser Permanente, as well as training parents through telehealth. on topics such as reducing sugary drinks. in women and infants led by a team from the University of California, San Diego. Promoters of salvation, or community health workers, will disperse the centre’s findings. A mentoring network and pilot study program will support new or under-represented researchers and foster team science.

USC researchers research interventions tailored to the Latin American community

Goran, who has focused his research career on the causes and consequences of obesity, particularly in Latino children, will co-lead the effort with Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, full professor in the Department of Population and Human Sciences. public health at the Keck School of Medicine and expert in community engagement. The Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center community outreach and engagement offices will play a central role in engaging various Southern California partners in outreach to Latinos.

“Parents are always very keen to do what they can to improve the health of their children, but the interventions cannot be universal. What will make these interventions easy to adopt is that they are very specific to culture and language, ”said Baezconde-Garbanati. “They are developed with the contribution of the community, and that makes all the difference. “

What will make these interventions easy to adopt is that they are very specific to culture and language.

Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati

Latinos are disproportionately affected by multiple chronic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and abnormal blood lipid levels that can lead to coronary heart disease.

Previous research on young Latino children has been limited to assessments based on height and weight, Goran said, rather than more robust tools such as magnetic resonance imaging to examine fat distribution and health. liver, as well as markers of future chronic disease in blood samples. . Studies at this new center will use state-of-the-art methods for robust clinical evaluations.

Additionally, he said, no previous study has holistically examined these risk factors in the context of broader environmental and social determinants of health that exacerbate the effects of poor nutrition and illness. exposure to environmental toxins.

“This exciting partnership with USC, CHLA and other institutions in the region reflects our international expertise in childhood obesity and our strong commitment to improving the health of economically disadvantaged and racially diverse populations in Los Angeles,” said Ishwar Puri, vice president of research. at USC. “This perfect marriage of leading biomedical researchers, health organizations and community actors will lead to significant progress in improving community health. “

All-Star Team to Work to Reduce Risk of Obesity and Diabetes in Latin American Children and Families

Goran and Baezconde-Garbanati have formed a star team which includes:

  • Donna Spruijt-Metz, research professor in psychology at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and expert in mobile health and childhood obesity.
  • Kayla de la Haye, Associate Professor of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine, who works in health promotion and disease prevention by applying social network analysis and human science. systems to major public health issues.
  • Michele Kipke, Professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and Vice President of Research in the Department of Pediatrics at CHLA.
  • Juan Espinoza, medical director of the Innovation Studio at CHLA and assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine.
  • John Elder, Professor Emeritus in the Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Public Health at San Diego State University.
  • Tanya Alderete, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, whose research aims to determine whether obesity and / or insulin resistance are associated with increased exposure to air pollutants.
  • Kerri Boutelle, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, and an international leader in the treatment of obese children.
  • Deborah Cohen, researcher at Kaiser Permanente Southern California Health System and international expert in developing and testing community health interventions.
  • Samuel Klein, director of the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif., One of the world’s foremost experts in obesity and metabolic health studies.

Goran said that when he first learned that the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, one of the National Institutes of Health, was soliciting project proposals for these new centers, he had a full vision. came to mind.

“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what we needed to do to solve this complex problem.’ I just had a very clear vision of how I wanted to work.

More stories on: Diabetes, obesity, race and ethnicity

About Terry Gongora

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