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

September 27, 2021

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.”
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 Download Full Image

“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.

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


Summer internship with NASA JPL was more than virtual for ASU graduate student

September 27, 2021

Internships are a rite of passage for many undergraduate and graduate students at Arizona State University. And despite the COVID-19 pandemic, internships continue to take place, even if they have to be done remotely or virtually. This past summer, ASU graduate student Lauren Gold took her remote internship to a whole new level, going full extended reality (or “XR” for short) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Gold obtained a visiting student researcher position at JPL for the summer of 2021. Her internship involved working in JPL’s “DataSPACE lab,” which specializes in immersive technology.  ASU graduate student Lauren Gold works remotely via virtual reality during her internship at JPL. Photo courtesy of Lauren Gold Download Full Image

She is a graduate student in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, and she works as a researcher and developer at the school’s Meteor Studio, which is directed by Assistant Professor Robert LiKamWa, who is also Gold’s adviser. The Meteor Studio is an engineering research laboratory where students and researchers study software and hardware systems for augmented reality and virtual reality. LiKamWa also directs the Learning Futures Immersive Creation Studio, which has teams of students build prototype XR platforms for learning environments of the future. Gold is the project manager of one such team, building a collaborative 360-degree annotation tool.

Gold’s focus is XR, a catchall term for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). During her internship at JPL, she met with scientists and engineers from other sections to understand how XR tools might fit into their workflows and be beneficial to their needs.

During her internship, Gold had many tasks, including assisting in software development for existing data visualization software created at JPL's DataSPACE lab and helping to open-source some of the projects. She also worked on integrating various types of datasets with existing visualization tools to explore the challenges of data visualization. 

Her one big project, however, has a direct connection to ASU.  

During her internship, Gold designed and developed a prototype VR tool for the Mars Sample Return proposed mission. This program, whose principal scientist is ASU Professor Meenakshi Wadhwa, is in the planning stages of developing robotic systems to collect and send samples of Martian rocks and soils to Earth for analysis. 

The goal of Gold’s project was to explore designs and implementations of various VR app concepts that would enable full immersion into a virtual Mars environment, and create tools and interactions for the scientists and engineers working on this proposed mission.  

“The app integrates Mars 2020 Perseverance rover images, 3D terrain meshes, digital elevation models and terrain classification maps into a single shared environment,” Gold said. “We’re working to create a seamless viewing of complementary datasets, such as for those working on the Mars Sample Return program.”

JPL Data Visualization Developer Joe Roberts, who supervised Gold’s internship, said, “Lauren conducted valuable research with virtual reality tools and gained new insights about potential applications of the technology for future NASA missions such as Mars Sample Return. I was impressed by her innovative mentality and ability to connect the technology with the needs of scientists and mission planners. She came to JPL with prior knowledge and experience working with Mars science team members at ASU that made her fit right in with everyone.”

Gold credits ASU planetary scientist Kathryn Powell, who collaborated with her on VR/AR Mars projects, for helping to prepare her for this internship.

Kathyrn was not only a collaborator, but a mentor to me,” Gold said.  “She taught me pretty much everything I know about Mars science, and her informal training made it easier for me to fit in at JPL.”

Gold is also working with ASU Professor Jim Bell, the Mars 2020 Mastcam-Z principal investigator, to feed the Mastcam-Z camera system images into the VR app. 

"Those of us on the Mastcam-Z team are looking forward to a great collaboration with Lauren, Professor LiKamWa and their colleagues developing these Mars data visualization products,” Bell said. “These kinds of 3D landscape models and ‘flyovers’ will be useful for scientists on the team who are working to understand the geologic context of the places we're exploring with Perseverance. Besides that — they are super cool and fun!"

Gold hopes to continue this research through 2022 and has been applying for additional funding to continue the project. Ultimately, after graduation, Gold plans to continue her visualization research, and she hopes to become a full-time “JPLer.”

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration