Miami-Mexico Health Research Funded

SONHS to collaborate on studies addressing chronic and non-communicable diseases

Two important public health collaborations between the School of Nursing and Health Studies (SONHS) and Mexico's University of the Americas Puebla (UDLAP) will examine the burden of chronic and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Puebla, a city of over 1.5 million residents southeast of Mexico City. The inter-professional studies are among four proposals selected in December by the University of Miami and UDLAP to receive inaugural seed funding intended to promote joint research and academic activities. Both institutions belong to the Hemispheric University Consortium, a component of UM President Julio Frenk’s Roadmap to our New Century.

“The beginning of a long-lasting academic collaboration between UM and UDLAP will allow both institutions to achieve a hemispheric and global impact on public health through ongoing excellence in education, research, and service," says Johis Ortega, associate dean for Hemispheric and Global Initiatives and associate professor of clinical at SONHS, who is principal investigator (PI) on one of the projects.

Leading the other SONHS-UDLAP study are Rosina Cianelli, associate professor and director of the MSN-DNP Program, and Giovanna De Oliveira, assistant professor of clinical—both from SONHS-and UDLAP pharmacology researcher Erika Palacios Rosas. The three PIs will work with other faculty from UDLAP's pharmacy, psychology, nutrition, and medical programs to evaluate the quality of life experienced by patients suffering from renal disease and other chronic illnesses, such as HIV, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and depression. The team will analyze data they collect from adults being treated in primary care health centers in Puebla to develop evidence-based prevention strategies for patients with multimorbidity, which is defined as two or more co-occurring chronic conditions and/or life-threatening diseases.

"Multimorbidity is increasingly common in the Mexican community and strongly linked to disability, the risk of acquiring additional chronic conditions, and high medical costs,” say Cianelli, and De Oliveira. "By gaining a better understanding of social determinants of health, behavioral risk factors, prevention behaviors, and culture of health and wellness in this patient population in Puebla, we hope to strengthen the research collaboration for chronic disease prevention between UDLAP and SONHS.”

In 2016, Mexico declared an epidemiological alert, reporting over 72 percent of its adult population overweight or obese and nearly 100,000 diabetes-related deaths annually. “Obesity is a key feature of metabolic syndrome and is associated with all major NCDs, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and cancer," explain Ortega and his Lucila Castro- Pastrana, his co-PI at UDLAP. "Accordingly, the rapid growth in obesity prevalence in Mexico has led to high rates of obesity-related diseases and associated health care costs.”

Ortega and Castro-Pastrana, a pharmaceutical chemist, aim to identify social determinants of health in rural Puebla and evaluate how they impact the prevalence of common metabolic risk factors for Mexico's major NCDs. Faculty and students from both institutions—including research associate professor Karina Gattamorta, and associate professor of clinical Juan M. Gonzalez, from SONHS—will analyze data they collect while conducting a series of rural health fairs.

“The community picture can be compared with national statistics to better understand and subsequently design intervention strategies to address identified challenges," explained Ortega. “There is a pressing need for joint efforts that effectively expand research to address complex concerns for public healthand well-being.”