New grant expands community-based diabetes prevention research to entire families

NIH awards $3.3M to ASU team and community partners to build upon work

kids and mom

The next phase of this research funded by the new grant will expand the focus beyond kids and teens with prediabetes to include entire families. Photo from 2019 by Deanna Dent/ASU News


A culturally grounded, community approach to improving the health of Latino youth at risk for Type 2 diabetes is expanding to include entire families. 

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases awarded Arizona State University Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Professor Gabriel Shaibi and team $3.3 million for their project, “Preventing Diabetes in Latino Families.”

“We are very much looking forward to expanding the potential impact of health promotion and diabetes prevention by reaching more families and engaging more communities,” Shaibi said. 

Edson College Dean and Professor Judith Karshmer echoed that sentiment and added that this research is a great example of the university’s charter in action.

“We take seriously the responsibility for the health of the communities we serve, and it’s imperative that they are included in the process in order to have a lasting impact. That is what Professor Shaibi and his team have done so well here, and that’s why this work has been and will continue to be a success,” said Karshmer. 

Shaibi, who is also the director of ASU’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, says this new grant builds upon work they started more than a decade ago to address health disparities in the local Latino community. 

Gabriel Shaibi, professor and researcher Edson College, ASU

Professor Gabriel Shaibi

Research shows that Type 2 diabetes disproportionately impacts Latino children, families and communities. Shaibi says that these disparities are complex and involve biological processes as well as various social determinants that interact to represent the root causes of disease.  

Some of those determinants include lack of access to care, low health literacy and certain cultural norms that may increase diabetes risk. 

To begin to tackle this, the team at ASU sought out entities and organizations outside of the university to collaborate on a community-based lifestyle intervention program

The program would need to take into account the community, family, peer and individual-level factors that influence health behaviors and health outcomes over time. 

It is not hyperbole to say that the team’s success to date would not have been possible without the community partners.

“We have an amazing team that continues to learn and grow together. We have been collaborating for more than 10 years across multiple funding cycles and are equally committed to advancing the science and improving community health,” Shaibi said.  

There’s the Ivy Center for Family Wellness at St. Vincent de Paul, which leads the nutrition and wellness curriculum development and delivery.  

“The Ivy Center for Family Wellness is proud to be a part of this group. Providing long-term solutions for our community to be empowered to live well and be healthy is our overarching goal,” said Elva Hooker, clinical administrative director at St. Vincent de Paul.

She added, “The collaboration between St. Vincent de Paul, ASU’s Edson College, the YMCA and Phoenix Children’s is a true testament to the impact we can achieve when community stakeholders come together.”

Valley of the Sun YMCA not only develops and delivers the physical activity component but its locations also host the program and support memberships for participants.

“The Y is honored to participate in this project. We have been offering youth and family fitness classes for over a century in Arizona, and we know total wellness is more than fitness. This collaboration is poised to transform the community, and we are thrilled to realize our mission through this work,” CEO Bryan Madden said. 

Phoenix Children’s provides medical oversight and helps with recruitment through its large referral network.

“The risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is an ever-present concern in many of the patients we serve at Phoenix Children’s, and unfortunately this risk has increased during the pandemic,” said Dr. Micah Olson, the study’s pediatrician and a pediatric endocrinologist at Phoenix Children’s. “Through this collaboration, we can learn how to more effectively decrease diabetes risk and ensure more families have access to this innovative, community-based, diabetes prevention program.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services and the Arizona Diabetes Coalition are new to the project. They’re joining the team to help engage additional community partners who may be in a position to support family diabetes prevention across the state. 

In addition to the research team at ASU, investigators from the University of Washington, the University of Arizona, the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases will contribute their expertise. 

“The institutions involved have supported our team in many ways, and I am incredibly grateful to work and learn together in this large and important area,” Shaibi said.

While data from the previous study are still being analyzed, Shaibi says the initial impression from what they’ve seen so far is positive.

“The data suggest that participants not only exhibited reductions in risk factors for Type 2 diabetes but they also reported improvements in quality of life,” Shaibi said. 

The next phase of this research funded by the new grant will expand the focus beyond kids and teens with prediabetes to whole families.

Shaibi says this new direction is for two reasons. First, it’s a direct response to requests from families who had kids in the youth-focused study. And second, because they found that social support from the family is an important and significant predictor of success in kids.

“By engaging the entire household we hope to increase the overall impact and extend the reach of diabetes prevention across generations,” he said.

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