Research Spotlights: February 2018

research spotlight


Underrepresentation of minorities in research studies is not due to unwillingness

African American and Latino adults are willing to participate in medical research, but they are not being asked according to a new study by NIMHD-funded researchers.

The study included 2,445 African American and Latino adults who participated in a 30-minute telephone survey between June and December 2010. The survey assessed participant’s knowledge of medical research and terminology, informed consent procedures, prior participation in medical research, healthcare experiences, risk perception, trust, and socio-demographics.

Results revealed 27 percent of African Americans and 15 percent of Latinos had ever been asked to participate in research. Sixty-three percent of African Americans and 65 percent of Latinos who were asked to participate in a medical research study did participate. However, 60 percent of survey respondents believed individuals who participate in medical research are pressured into participating. These results highlight the need for focused recruitment of racial and ethnic minorities in medical research studies. In particular, research recruitment efforts targeting minorities should highlight the value of medical research and provide increased understanding of human subject’s protections.

Garza MA, Quinn SC, Li Y, Assini-Meytin L, Casper ET, Fryer CS, Butler J 3rd, Brown NA, Kim KH, Thomas SB. 2017. The influence of race and ethnicity on becoming a human subject: Factors associated with participation in research. Contemp Clin Trials Commun 7:57-63.

Racial differences in influenza vaccination among high-risk individuals

Influenza-related complications are higher for adults with certain chronic disease such as diabetes or heart disease, yet only 46 percent of high-risk adults received a flu shot during the 2015–2016 flu season. Research on high-risk adults is limited, and there is a paucity of research focused on the racial disparities within this population. This was the focus of a recently published study by NIMHD-funded researchers.

The study used data from a nationally-representative online survey of White and African American adults conducted in March 2015. The survey assessed psychosocial predictors, racial factors, and vaccine uptake over the past 5 years. The analytic sample was limited to 812 participants with one or more conditions associated with a higher risk of influenza-related complications.

Results revealed significant differences in vaccination behavior for all demographic predictors (except education), racial factors, and all psychosocial predictors (except descriptive norms). Specifically, individuals who were immunized every year were significantly older, reported greater access to health care, perceived more racial fairness and lower racial consciousness, and reported greater knowledge of and trust in the influenza vaccine. These findings provide important insights into influenza vaccine behavior which can be used by health care providers to improve vaccination uptake in high-risk adults.

Crouse Quinn S, Jamison AM, Freimuth VS, An J, Hancock GR. 2017. Determinants of influenza vaccination among high-risk Black and White adults. Vaccine 35(51):7154-9.

Inflammation-related genes not prenatal stress associated with increased childhood adiposity

According to a recent NIEHS-funded study, prenatal stress is associated with reduced adiposity in early childhood while increased adiposity was associated with methylation of interleukin 6 (IL6).

Data from a prospective birth cohort study which enrolled pregnant women from Mexico City between 2007 and 2011 were used. The analyses included 424 mother–child dyads and included measures of each mother’s prematernal stress and negative life events, exposure to violence, depression, anxiety, and prematernal weight. Anthropometric measurements and umbilical cord samples were obtained for each child in the study.

Each interquartile range increase in stress index was associated with the following decreases in adiposity: 0.14 unit in BMI z-score, 5.6 percent in body fat mass, and 3.5 percent in percent body fat. Conversely, increases in the interquartile range of IL6 was associated with increased adiposity measures including 0.23 unit in BMI z-score, 8.1 percent in body fat mass, and 5.5 percent in percent body fat. These findings underscore the need for work exploring the biological influence of prenatal stress and inflammation on children’s development.

Wu S, Gennings C, Wright RJ, Wilson A, Burris HH, Just AC, Braun JM, Svensson K, et al. 2018. Prenatal stress, methylation in inflammation-related genes, and adiposity measures in early childhood: The Programming Research in Obesity, Growth Environment and Social Stress cohort study. Psychosom Med 80(1):34-41.