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WSSU secures grant to study cardiovascular disease risk factors

A Winston-Salem State University research team will use a mobile app as one of the tools in a three-year $351,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study the risk factors of Cardiovascular disease (CVD) among African-American college students.

 Funded by the NIH - National Center on Minority Health and Disparities, the project will study the manifestation of CVD risk factors among African-American college-age students, using WSSU students and faculty to conduct an intervention promoting healthy behaviors through the use of a mobile phone app created especially for this study in addition to other educational strategies. One hundred students will participate and 20 undergraduate students will be mentored by key study personnel.

CVD is a significant public health problem and is the leading cause of death in the United States. People of all ages and backgrounds can get the condition and one in three deaths (approximately 800,000) are reported each year across the nation. Annual direct and overall costs resulting from CVD are estimated at $273 billion and $444 billion, according to studies. Strategies that address leading CVD risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and smoking, can greatly reduce the burden of CVD, which is the rationale for this study.

“We believe an important population to reach is young adults who are at a critical juncture in their lives. African-American college students are an understudied population with substantial risk for obesity and metabolic dysfunctions,” said Dr. Vanessa Duren Winfield, Director of Research and Assistant Professor in WSSU’s School of Health Sciences’ Healthcare Management Department and Principal Investigator for the study. “Because there are relatively few African-American students participating in many of the national health surveys of college students, this study serves as a model for the development and pilot testing of a CVD risk factor assessment, prevention and health promotion intervention program.”

The study will use a number of indicators to measure effectiveness such as blood markers (total cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and glucose), Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, sleep quality, stress, and physical fitness. Participating students will enroll in a three-credit hour, 15-week CVD risk prevention and intervention course, and will be compared to students enrolled in an existing healthy lifestyle course.

“We hypothesize that, compared to the control group, students enrolled in the CVD healthy lifestyle behavior course will have improved health behaviors (e.g. increased fruit and vegetable intake, physical activity participation, cardiovascular fitness, sleep quality, and stress reduction), a lower BMI and waist circumference, and lower blood markers, “ Duren-Winfield said.

The research team includes Dr. Amanda Price (co-Principal Investigator), WSSU Assistant Professor of Exercise Physiology, Dr. Dionne Roberts, WSSU Associate Professor in the Division of Nursing and Dr. Georgia McCauley, WSSU Clinical Laboratory Sciences Associate Professor. Dr. Paul Kizakevich, of the Research Triangle Institute, is also a collaborating partner who has expertise conducting research in personal monitoring and intervention methods for health and environmental applications using handheld smartphone technologies.


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