The Health Studies Department was strongly represented at the American Public Health Association 2015 Conference in Chicago last month, with Drs. Guerrero, Parker, Crosslin, Amuta, and Menn (faculty) and graduate assistants Alejandra Quezada and Elizabeth Wachira presenting their research projects.
Doctoral student Elizabeth Wachira gave a poster presentation on cardiovascular disease disparities, using spatial analysis to determine what factors best predict cardiovascular disease death. Elizabeth explains:
“I recently gave a poster presentation at the annual American Public Health Association,which allowed me the opportunity to showcase research conducted as part of my coursework requirements. When I got the acceptance letter, I was ecstatic! I was given the opportunity to shine on behalf of Texas Woman’s University Health Studies department. The purpose of the American Public Health Association is to bring together public health professionals to learn, network, and engage with like-minded peers. As a Health Studies student and future public health professional, it behooves me to attend such meetings whenever possible. The opportunity to not only attend but present my work at this level is a great honor and further affirms that the education and skills I have acquired at TWU put me at the forefront of this great field. Through presenting to my fellow students and leaders in the field, the feedback, growth, and professional experience garnered is incomparable. Lastly, as a presenter in this national platform, I show all present that Texas Woman’s’ University is not only an exceptional institution of higher learning, but one that can and does produce visionary leaders and researchers.”
In the United States, 1 in every 4 deaths is due to heart disease. For Texas, cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts for nearly three of every ten deaths. While CVD affects all races and ethnicities, low-income minority groups have much higher risk and mortality rates but the reasons remain unclear. Wachira’s research examines how socioeconomic status, access to care, built environment, and poverty, impact CVD mortality in Texas counties. She employs a vulnerability index including: income, education, poverty, health care access, and built environment, which explains 57% of spatial variation in CVD mortality. Spatial analysis reveals that Texas counties, with a high vulnerability index, have higher mortality rates and must be prioritized for interventions. Wachira’s research results suggest that while behavioral factors are important, area factors must also be addressed to ensure more effective intervention.