UAMS Northwest awarded $2.1 million for Marshallese diabetes prevention research

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 251 views 

Pearl McElfish, Ph.D.,(center) associate vice chancellor for the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus, coordinates with UAMS community health workers Terry Takamaru (left) and Sammie Mamis.

The Northwest Arkansas regional campus of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has been awarded $2.1 million from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The three-year award will help the Fayetteville campus “continue and expand” its research to combat diabetes in the Marshallese community.

The PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to fund comparative clinical effectiveness research.

According to a UAMS news release, the funds will bring together researchers from the UAMS Office of Community Health and Research and the UAMS Center for Pacific Islander Health with the Marshallese community to study a culturally adapted diabetes prevention program designed to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by teaching people who have pre-diabetes how to make modest lifestyle changes that can prevent diabetes.

The Marshallese have some of the highest documented rates of type 2 diabetes of any population group in the world, according to UAMS. Health screenings by UAMS found that 41% have diabetes, compared to 9.3% of the U.S. population. Northwest Arkansas has more than 11,000 Marshallese in the region — the largest community of Marshallese in the continental U.S.

“The goal of this research is to reduce disparities related to type 2 diabetes within the Marshallese community,” said Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus, co-director of the Center for Pacific Islander Health and the principal investigator on this project. “This particular study was conceived by working with members of the community — largely through churches — to identify the health questions that the Marshallese in Arkansas most want answered.”

The Walmart Foundation is also supporting the research. In December 2016, it awarded a $125,000 grant to the program.

Since 2014, more than $10 million has been awarded to the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus to reduce health disparities in both Marshallese and Hispanic residents of Benton and Washington counties.