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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

UAlbany Researcher Receives NIH Grant to Study Aging and Health Disparities of Mexican Americans

Dr. Elizabeth Vasquez at the University at Albany School of Public Health has received a $50,000 grant from the NIH to study patterns of disability among Mexican Americans. This two-year study – a collaboration with Dr. Joanna Dreby from UAlbany’s department of sociology – will examine disability among older Mexican-American adults based on whether they are foreign-born or U.S.-born (nativity status), in addition to their age of migration (generational status).

Nativity status and generational status have received relatively little attention in terms of relation to disability; however, examining these factors is critical to disability prevention and treatment efforts. Place of birth influences attitudes and behaviors that may delay – or accelerate – the disability process. The age of migration may further distinguish disability profiles; those who have migrated for work usually have to be physically healthy due to job obligations. In addition, those who have different ages of migration will have been exposed to different food systems for different lengths of time, which may impact health.

Dr. Vasquez’s study will examine patterns of disability by nativity status and generational status using twenty years of data gathered by the Hispanic Established Populations for the Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly (HEPESE). The HEPESE data was collected via bi-annual interviews of elderly Mexican Americans between 1992 and 2015.

Dr. Vasquez will look at the prevalence of disability in foreign-born and U.S. born Mexican Americans, assess trajectory of disability over time, and determine whether the presence of social networks mediates observed associations between nativity status and generational status and disability over time. Theories suggest that social networks and neighborhood environments may become more relevant to health and wellbeing as people age and their mobility declines; therefore, one potential mechanism linking nativity status, generational status, and health may be the availability of social networks, social support, and resources.

This study will be crucial for learning more about how social networks and support influence disability among foreign and U.S. born individuals. Since elderly Mexican Americans facing significant disability burdens, results from this study may be used to design more effective public health policy and intervention approaches.