Fall 2010 Newsletter
CBH PhD student receives NIH R21 Grant
Nia Aitaoto presents at the Pacific Diabetes Education
Nia Aitaoto, a Community and Behavioral Health (CBH) doctoral student in her second year at The University of Iowa (UI), has been awarded a prestigious R21 grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH). This exploratory grant provides Aitaoto, and her project team, including her advisor, CBH faculty member Dr. Shelly Campo, with the opportunity to gather preliminary data on culturally appropriate, evidence-based interventions for diabetes prevention in the United States Associated Pacific Islands (USAPI). In 2007, the estimated prevalence of diabetes for the US population (adults aged 20 years or older, diagnosed and undiagnosed) was 10.7% (CDC, 2009). In the U.S. Pacific, diabetes rates range from 24.4% in the Federated States of Micronesia to 47.3% in American Samoa (FSM DHSA, 2002; WHO, 2007).
Aitaoto’s grant has brought together a team of academics, researchers and public health practitioners as well as community leaders and stakeholders to investigate this health disparity in the Pacific Islands and to develop innovative, and culturally-relevant, health interventions. Her work uses the Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) model. Forming community and academic partnerships is intrinsic to CBPR. Aitaoto, who is originally from Hawaii, says that everything was in place for key partnerships to coalesce into a R21 grant application using CBPR, and that from the beginning, the research proposal was based on community-set priorities, and the community taking the lead--from selecting the scientific partner to data sharing. “The community chose Iowa, and picked the research topic,” Aitaoto said.
Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Aitaoto coordinated health programs in Hawaii and the Pacific for close to a decade. Doing this work, she oversaw two health promotion projects on diabetes. She says that through her work with communities, she developed close relationships with key partners, and that those community relationships continue to be instrumental to the success of her current work and the CBPR approach.
Aitaoto first became interested in investigating health disparities when caring for her ailing grandmother. After obtaining her MPH, she worked as a regional coordinator for health promotion programs. It was while doing this work that Aitaoto began to observe the disparate incidence of diabetes in the Pacific Islands, and specifically among members of indigenous communities. Aitaoto says that she decided to pursue her PhD in order to investigate the question, “How do public health messages need to be conveyed to this population?” she said.
The Pacific Chronic Disease Coalition meeting with Federal
Aitaoto states that she expects this preliminary work to lead to a R01 grant application. Qualitative research methods will be used to gather data to identify socio-cultural influences that hinder or facilitate diabetes prevention and management among Pacific Islanders; identify the role spirituality plays in promoting diabetes prevention and management; and determine how churches can play an effective role in designing and implementing effective diabetes interventions for Pacific Islanders.