News & Announcements

Black Boys Facing Chronic Adversity Show Signs of Early Aging, More Vulnerable to Mental Illness

Posted: April 23, 2014

By the time they have reached the fourth grade, African American boys who have run a childhood gantlet of poverty, shifting family structure, harsh parenting and a mother's low mood and educational attainment will have signs of premature genetic aging that can deepen their vulnerability to mental and physical illness, says a new study.

And the toll of environmental stresses on a child's cells is even more pronounced when that child has inherited a constellation of genetic variations that make him more sensitive to privation or privilege, the authors of this new research have found.

The latest research underscores that poverty exacts its wages on a person's health early and at the most profound levels. The authors of the study looked at the telomeres -- the string of regular gene sequences that sit at the tail end of an individual's chromosomes -- of 40 9-year-old African American boys. The boys were drawn from a larger study and represented two extremes: half came from the poorest, most splintered African American families in which harsh parenting and maternal depression were present; the other half came from the study's most affluent African American families, in which family stability, nurturing care and maternal mental health were the order of the day.

Researchers looked at genetic variations that influence the production and activity of two key neurochemicals -- dopamine and serotonin -- which play important roles in a variety of things, including mood, heart health, metabolism, movement and motivation. When the boys had two or more of the genetic variations checked by researchers, their telomeres were more dramatically shortened by the experience of childhood adversity. Those same variations made children of relative affluence and stability even more sensitive to the positive effects of their circumstances. Relative to children without the "sensitizing" genetic variation, the telomeres of children who had it maintained extra length and integrity.


Yoga May Help Women Ease PTSD Symptoms

Posted: April 22, 2014

Women enrolled in a small study reported a reduction in symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a series of yoga classes. However, women in a comparison group that didn't take the classes also reported a similar decline in symptoms, researchers found.

"The yoga group did well - they improved in their PTSD symptoms - and our control group actually did well, which we didn't expect," Karen Mitchell told Reuters Health.

Mitchell, from the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System, led the new study. "I do emphasize that the yoga (group) definitely didn't do worse," she said. "Yoga could potentially be triggering for people with trauma, so while that's not as exciting a finding, I think it is important to say that."

About one in 10 U.S. women is affected by PTSD, according to the authors. Many say that alternative and complementary therapies - such as yoga - help them cope with the symptoms, which can include trouble sleeping and having flashbacks related to the traumatic event, known as re-experiencing.


Winning the Battle Against Health Disparities through New Technology

Posted: April 21, 2014

The following is an excerpt from the National Partnership for Action (NPA) blog, written by AJ Chen, Co-Chair for the Region IX Health Equity Council:

"Disparities in preventive care are particularly pronounced among racial and ethnic minority groups. For example, 1 in 10 Asians have chronic hepatitis B, compared to 1 in 1000 in the general population. Approximately 1 in 4 of these individuals will die from liver cancer or liver failure without monitoring or care.

I learned that it all boils down to inadequacies in the implementation of medical guidelines for prevention throughout the care delivery system. Pilot studies have demonstrated that eliminating disparities for specific conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, is possible when the medical guidelines are embedded in clinical workflow at individual health facilities. The challenge is that most solutions cannot be scaled up across all clinics, hospitals, community health centers and physician offices.

In addition to scaling up such interventions, it is critical to address the language barriers experienced by the 22 million Limited English Proficient (LEP) residents in this country when they attempt to access health services. Both language barriers and low adoption of clinical preventive services can contribute to health disparities among the LEP population."

Read more on the NPA blog.

New Mobile App Connects Texas Veterans to Hotlines, Resources

Posted: April 19, 2014

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has developed a mobile phone app to give Texas veterans quick access to crisis hotlines and other resources.

The app, which can be downloaded from both Google Play and the App Store, works on most iPhones and Android mobile phones. It provides information about local, state and national resources available to Texas military veterans. By using the application veterans can:

  • Get direct access to the national Veterans Crisis Line and the Hotline for Women Veterans.
  • Connect with other veterans in their area.
  • Quickly find services available to military veterans.

The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential 24-hour a day phone line staffed by qualified responders with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans, their family and friends can call the crisis line for help with mental health or other challenges faced by veterans transitioning back to civilian life.

The “Connect With Texas Veterans” feature puts the caller in contact with a member of the Texas Military Peer Network, an affiliation of Texas service members, veterans and their families. The network provides veterans with peer support and trusted information about community resources available to them.

The app’s other buttons connect the caller to the national Hotline for Women Veterans and the Texas Veterans Portal, which includes a comprehensive list of local, state and federal services and benefits.

Download the Texas Veterans App for iPhones. Download the Texas Veterans App for Android phones.

Read more on the HHSC website.

Journal of Health Care for Underserved Call for Abstracts: Asian American, Native Hawaiian Issue

Posted: April 18, 2014

The Johns Hopkins University Press, in collaboration with the Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum and the NYU Center for the Study of Asian American Health has issued a call for abstracts for a special issue on Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved. Submit abstracts to Winston Tseng. Deadline to submit abstracts is May 2, 2014 by 11:59 am PT

Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved (JHCPU) is a peer-reviewed journal focusing on contemporary health care issues of medically underserved communities. JHCPU addresses such diverse areas as health care access, quality, costs, legislation, regulations, health promotion, and disease prevention from a North American, Central American, Caribbean, and sub-Saharan African perspective. Regular features include research papers and reports, literature reviews, policy analyses, and evaluations of noteworthy health care programs, as well as a regular column written by members of the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved is the official journal of the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (ACU).

Read the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved author guidelines.

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