Aging in a Rural Community
Despite the fact that almost a quarter of the total U.S population resides in rural communities, few studies have examined the factors that contribute to the healthcare issues associated with aging in such locations, especially in an ethnically diverse cohort. By focusing on pertinent issues, such as cardiovascular disease and cognition, Project FRONTIER is poised to make important discoveries about health and health care in rural communities, leading to appropriate and effective interventions. The TARCC is also making important contributions to discoveries about the origins, progression, detection, and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease by looking at genes and blood chemicals. TARCC researchers, led by Dr. O’Bryant and his research team, have recently identified a blood test that has the potential to detect Alzheimer’s early in its development, allowing for earlier treatment. They are also working on identifying new genes influential in the development and progression of dementia as well as specific Alzheimer’s sub-groups.
While Mexican-Americans make up a significant and growing portion of the U.S population, they tend to be underrepresented in many research fields. In order to address this, Project FRONTIER has made it a priority to recruit and retain Mexican-American participants. As a result, have been able to match the ethnic distribution in Project FRONTIER counties with cohort and are in the process of enrolling and running 200 additional Mexican-American TARCC participants, recruited through local outreach efforts and a partnership between the two studies.
Environmental exposures and their influence on health are important additions as topics of study and an area that is quickly becoming a main focus of the Research Group. Current studies are using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) approach to look at the cumulative effect of long-term low-level exposure to Arsenic and Selenium in the groundwater, with the goal of developing a tool that can be used to systematically assess a variety of environmental exposures and health outcomes. Funding recently received from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will allow for further expansion of this work within our Project FRONTIER counties.
Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR)
Project FRONTIER epitomizes the Research Group’s commitment to the principles of Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR), namely through:
- The creation of a Community Advisory Board in each participating county, which meets quarterly and provides feedback on project goals and progress;
- Establishing contracts with the local community hospitals to do the lab work and medical exams;
- Hiring community members as research staff and training them to conduct the day-to-day operations of the study;
- Organizing and/or sponsoring community events and presentations hosted in each of the study communities; and
- Dissemination of the results back into the community through materials such as the semi-annual project newsletters and county report cards.