Tagged: Slone Epidemiology Center

Study Finds Frequent Experiences of Racism Associated with Greater Weight Gain among African American Women

March 5th, 2014 in 2014, Health & Medicine, News Releases 0 comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, March 4, 2014

Contact: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480, gina.digravio@bmc.org

(Boston)–A recent analysis conducted by investigators from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University has found that frequent experiences of racism were associated with a higher risk of obesity among African American women. The findings, which currently appear online in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found the relationship between racism and obesity was strongest among women who reported consistently high experiences of racism over a 12-year period. The research was based on data from the Black Women’s Health Study, a longitudinal study that enrolled 59,000 African-American women in 1995 and has followed them continually.

 

Rates of obesity in the United States have increased rapidly over the past few decades with the greatest increases reported for African American women.  Approximately half of African American women are currently classified as obese. Obesity is a risk factor for numerous health conditions including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, orthopedic problems, and death. Racism is a form of psychosocial stress that African Americans experience disproportionately. Experiences of racism could contribute to obesity because both animal and human data indicate that chronic exposure to stress can result in dysregulation of important neuroendocrine functions which can in turn influence the accumulation of excess body fat.

 

The Black Women’s Health Study collected information on lifestyle factors, experiences of racism, height and weight and other factors using biennial questionnaires. The participants were asked in 1997 and in 2009 to rate the frequency of “everyday” experiences of racism, such as receiving poorer service in restaurants and stores, and if they had been treated unfairly because of their race on the job, in housing or by the police (“lifetime” racism). The analyses were restricted to women under the age 40 at the beginning of follow-up because most adult weight gain occurs during the reproductive years. The investigators found that women in the highest category of reported everyday racism in both 1997 and 2009 were 69 percent more likely to become obese compared to those in the lowest category at both intervals. Women who reported more lifetime racism were also at increased risk of obesity.

 

“Experiences of racism may explain in part the high prevalence of obesity among African American women,” explained Yvette C. Cozier, DSc, MPH, assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University who led the analyses. She suggests that work-place- and community-based programs to combat racism and interventions to reduce racism-induced stress could be an important component of strategies for prevention of obesity, especially in communities at high risk.

The present work was supported by a grant 430483 from the Aetna Foundation, and grant CA054820 from the National Cancer Institute.

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BUSM Study Finds Decreased Life Expectancy for Multiple Sclerosis Patients

January 22nd, 2014 in 2014, Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine 0 comments

For Immediate Release, January 21, 2014

Contact: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480, gina.digravio@bmc.org

(Boston) – The first large scale study in the U.S. on the mortality of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) has been published and provides new information about the life expectancy of people with the disease. The study appears in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

 

David Kaufman, ScD, of the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, is the lead author. The work is the result of a collaboration between the investigators at BU and their colleagues at University of California San Francisco, the University of Alabama, Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Care-Safe LLC, a consulting firm and the sponsor of the research, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals.

 

MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system which progresses into a degenerative phase in the majority of affected patients. There are 250,000-350,000 patients with MS in the United States, giving an overall prevalence of roughly one in 1,000.

 

The investigators used health insurance claims data to identify a series of patients with MS and a comparison group of individuals from the same health plans who did not have MS.  A total of 30,402 MS patients and 89,818 non-MS subjects who were in the OptumInsight Research (OIR) database from 1996-2009 were included in the study. Data on deaths was obtained from government databases of death records. Annual mortality rates were 899/100,000 in MS patients and 446/100,000 in comparators. The median lifespan was 6 years less among the MS patients than among the non-MS group.

“Our findings are consistent with what has been reported elsewhere in the world,” explained Kaufman. “While the results apply only to the commercially insured U.S. population, that group represents more than two-thirds of individuals under age 65, and this is the first time an MS survival disadvantage has been shown in this country.”

While early mortality due to MS is relatively rare, the new data confirm that compared to the general population, MS patients in the US do experience a decrease in life expectancy. Most of the information on survival patterns in MS has come from Europe, where populations, risk factors and medical practice may be different than in the U.S. With the large number of MS patients in the U.S., the lack of data represented a significant knowledge gap.  Future studies with longer follow-up periods can provide important information about how the introduction of anti-MS drugs in the 1990s has impacted survival in MS.

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Depressive Symptoms Linked to Adult-onset Asthma in African-American Women

January 22nd, 2014 in 2014, Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Public Health 0 comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 21, 2014

Contact: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480, gina.digravio@bmc.org

 

 (Boston) – According to a new study from the Slone Epidemiology Center (SEC) at Boston University, African-American women who reported high levels of depressive symptoms had a greater likelihood of adult-onset asthma compared to women who reported fewer depressive symptoms.

The study, which currently appears online in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, was led by Patricia Coogan, DSc, senior epidemiologist at SEC and research professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health.

This study followed 31,848 African-American women between 1999 and 2011, all of whom are participants in the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS) who completed health questionnaires every two years. In 1999 and 2005 they rated the frequency of experiencing 20 symptoms (e.g., “I felt depressed”, I felt lonely”, “I could not get going”). The 20 answers were summed into a scale ranging from zero (rarely or never experiencing depressive symptoms) to 60 (experiencing all depressive symptoms “most or all of the time”). The scale is commonly used in epidemiologic studies and a score of 16 has been used to identify individuals at high risk of depression.

 

The results indicated that as the frequency of depressive symptoms increased, the incidence of adult-onset asthma also rose, up to a two-fold increase in women in the highest category (score of ≥33) compared to the lowest category (score <16) of the depressive symptom scale. Furthermore, the incidence of asthma was increased 2.8 times in women who had a depressive symptom score of ≥16 and also reported use of antidepressants.
“Our results are consistent with positive findings from three previous studies of depressive symptoms and asthma incidence conducted in smaller and primarily white populations,” said Coogan. “The hypothesized mechanism linking depressive symptoms to asthma incidence is depression-related stress and its physiological consequences, particularly effects on the immune system and the airways.  Given the high prevalence of both asthma and of depression in women, the association is of public health importance,” Coogan added.

 

The BWHS is the largest follow-up study of the health of African American women in the United States. Led by researchers at the Slone Epidemiology Center, the BWHS has followed 59,000 African-American women through biennial questionnaires since 1995 and has led to a better understanding of numerous health conditions that disproportionately affect African-American women.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (grant award #HL107314) and the National Cancer Institute (grant award #CA058420).

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New Study Evaluates the Risk of Birth Defects Among Women Who Take Antihistamines in Pregnancy

September 18th, 2013 in 2013, Health & Medicine, News Releases, Uncategorized 0 comments

Contact: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480, gina.digravio@bmc.org

(Boston) — Antihistamines are a group of medications that are used to treat various conditions, including allergies and nausea and vomiting.  Some antihistamines require a prescription, but most are available over-the-counter (OTC), and both prescription and OTC antihistamines are often used by women during pregnancy. Until recently, little information was available to women and their health care providers on the possible risks and relative safety of these medications in pregnancy, particularly when it came to specific birth defects.

A new study from Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center, based on interviews with more than 20,000 new mothers, now provides important information for many of these medicines. The researchers considered antihistamines that had been suggested in earlier studies to increase risks of certain defects, and they also considered other possible risks that might not have been identified in the past. Where there was sufficient information in the study data, the authors found no evidence to support suggestions of risk that had been found in earlier studies. In considering possible risks that had not been identified by others, the investigators found very few suggestions that any given medicine might be linked to an increase risk of a specific birth defect, and though these few deserve further research attention, these findings may have been due to chance. The study currently appears in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

Dr. Allen Mitchell, the study’s director, noted that “we were fortunate that our study was able to consider commonly-used antihistamines that were available OTC as well as those available only with a prescription. While our findings provide reassurance about the relative safety of many of these medications in relation to a number of common birth defects, more information is needed.  As is the case for all types of medications, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should consult with their health care provider before taking any medicines, whether they are prescribed or OTC.”

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Experiences of Racism Linked to Adult-Onset Asthma in African-American Women

August 19th, 2013 in 2013, News Releases, School of Medicine 0 comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 15, 2013

Contact: Gina DiGravio, (617) 638-8480, gina.digravio@bmc.org

(Boston) – According to a new study from the Slone Epidemiology Center (SEC) at Boston University, African-American women who reported more frequent experiences of racism had a greater likelihood of adult-onset asthma compared to women who reported less frequent experiences.  

The study, which currently appears on-line in the journal Chest, was led by Patricia Coogan, DSc, senior epidemiologist at SEC and research professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health.

This study followed 38,142 African-American women, all of whom are participants in the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), between 1997 and 2011. They completed health questionnaires every two years.  In 1997 and 2009 they provided information on their experiences of “everyday” racism, like poor service in stores or restaurants, and “lifetime” racism, which was discrimination encountered on the job, in housing and by police.

The results indicate that as experiences of everyday and lifetime racism increased, the incidence of adult-onset asthma also rose, up to a 45 percent increase in women in the highest compared to the lowest category of the racism measures. Furthermore, the incidence of asthma was increased even more in women who were in the highest category of everyday racism in both 1997 and 2009, and who may have had more consistent experiences of racism over time.

“This is the first prospective study to show an association between experiences of racism and adult-onset asthma,” said Coogan. “Racism is a significant stressor in the lives of African American women, and our results contribute to a growing body of evidence indicating that experiences of racism can have adverse effects on health.” The hypothesized mechanism linking experiences of racism to asthma incidence is stress and its physiological consequences, particularly effects on the immune system and the airways.  “Given the high prevalence of both asthma and of experiences of racism in African Americans, the association is of public health importance,” she added.

BWHS is the largest follow-up study of the health of African American women in the United States. Led by researchers at the Slone Epidemiology Center, the BWHS has followed 59,000 African-American women through biennial questionnaires since 1995 and has led to a better understanding of numerous health conditions that disproportionately affect African-American women.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (grant award #HL107314) and the National Cancer Institute (grant award #CA058420).

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Study Finds Socioeconomic Status Linked to Weight Gain and Risk of Obesity in African American Women

June 13th, 2012 in Health & Medicine, News Releases 0 comments

Contact: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480, gina.digravio@bmc.org

(Boston) – Socioeconomic status across one’s lifetime is related to weight gain and risk of obesity in African American women, according to a new study led by researchers from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University. These findings currently appear online in the journal Ethnicity & Disease.

The researchers followed 23,601 African American women under the age of 55 from 1995 to 2009. These women were participants in the Black Women’s Health Study, a follow-up study of the health of African Americans conducted by the Slone Epidemiology Center. The women provided information on their education, the education of their parents and updated information on their own weight over the follow-up period.

The researchers found that women whose parents had not completed high school gained more weight and more often became obese in adulthood than women who had a parent with a college degree. “However, if the woman herself had completed college, she was not at higher risk of obesity regardless of her parents’ educational level,” explained lead author Patricia Coogan, DSc, senior epidemiologist at the Slone Epidemiology Center and associate professor of epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health.

According to the researchers, low levels of parental and current education were associated with greater weight gain and higher obesity risk. However, over a lifetime, women at the highest level of current education (college graduate) had the lowest weight gain and risk of obesity regardless of their parents’ educational achievement. Current educational level of “some college” did not provide the same protective effect on weight gain and obesity risk.

“Our results suggest that women who were disadvantaged in childhood, as indicated by low level of parental education, have greater weight gain as adults, but this tendency can be largely overcome if the woman herself has a high level of education,” said Coogan. “A high level of education may be a marker of more access to healthy food and other factors that influence weight gain,” she added.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Cancer Institute.


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