AUSTIN, Texas — With leadership in place and $7.6 million in grants acquired for research on health issues that disproportionately affect Latino communities, the 1-year-old Latino Research Initiative is hitting the ground running at The University of Texas at Austin.
Housed in the College of Liberal Arts, the Latino Research Initiative was created to generate vital data, grants and research about Mexican American and Latino populations in Texas and the nation. Deborah Parra-Medina assumed the role as inaugural director at the start of the 2016 academic year, collaborating with leadership from the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies and landing the project’s first three research grants.
“The Latino Research Initiative will serve as an invaluable scholarly resource for the analysis of public policies and issues facing one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in Texas and in the United States,” said Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “The LRI enhances the mission of the university to advance society through research and community service, and under the direction of Professor Parra-Medina, it is well-poised to make a tremendous impact on people’s lives.”
Moving forward, the initiative will work to create a community of scholars and provide the infrastructure to enable faculty members and students to tackle a research agenda in politics and public policy, health and social equity, immigration and the arts.
“What happens to Latinos happens to the nation,” said Parra-Medina, who is also a professor of Mexican American and Latina/o studies. “About 2 out of every 5 people in Texas, and 1 out of every 6 people in the U.S. are Latino. The physical, economic and cultural well-being of Latino populations is critical to the well-being of the U.S.”
Formerly an epidemiology and biostatistics professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s Institute for Health Promotion Research, Parra-Medina will lead two of the three research projects, totaling about $7.6 million in grants, to study health issues that disproportionately affect Latino communities in Texas.
More than $3.1 million from the National Institute of Nursing Research will fund “Healthy Frio,” a family-focused intervention program led by Parra-Medina to counteract the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases in rural Latino populations in South Texas.
Approximately $3.1 million will support the healthy development of Latino preschoolers in Head Start classrooms in San Antonio through a project called “Míranos,” which is supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Parra-Medina and UT San Antonio health and kinesiology professor Zenong Yin lead the project.
The remaining $1.3 million in additional funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas will support “Entre Familia,” a project aimed at improving timely HPV immunization among Latino adolescents and young adults in Hidalgo County. Research assistant professor Daisy Morales-Campos, leads the initiative.
The initiative plans to expand its presence in Central Texas through a new fellowship program, the development of a research archive and building stronger connections with the Latino community. More information is available on the initiative's website.
For more information, contact: Rachel Griess, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-2689.