CLaRO to Address Health Issues in High-Risk Latino Communities

By UM News

CLaRO to Address Health Issues in High-Risk Latino Communities

By UM News
With a $6.8 million NIH grant, the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies and FIU Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work partnership shows continued excellence in health disparities research.

Together, the University of Miami (UM) and Florida International University (FIU) have been awarded $6.8 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to lead a newly-funded Center for Latino Health Research Opportunities, called CLaRO. The award comes from NIH’s National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) under its Specialized Centers for Health Disparities Research program. This award is the culmination and recognition of the successful 10-year collaboration of two NIMHD Centers of Excellence at UM and FIU: The Center of Excellence for Health Disparities Research: El Centro, at the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies, and the Center for Research on U.S. Latino HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse: CRUSADA, at FIU’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work.

“The ‘O’ in CLaRO stands for opportunity, and that is very fitting because we will have a unique opportunity to simultaneously advance the science of health disparities, the well-being of our community, and the careers of young researchers” said Victoria Behar Mitrani, professor and associate dean for research at the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies. “It is an exciting and promising next phase of the work of our UM and FIU Centers of Excellence.”

CLaRO’s two principal investigators, Mitrani and Mario De La Rosa, social work professor for FIU’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, director of CRUSADA and co-director of FIU’s Health Inequities and Disparities Program, will work together to lead a center that unites the intellectual and material resources of UM, FIU and community agencies throughout Miami-Dade to advance health equity for vulnerable Latino groups and advances the science of health disparities.

“Through our previous work together, we are well-versed in the community’s needs,” said De La Rosa, “Thoughtful interventions are at the core of our efforts.”

The cooperative agreement with NIH funds CLaRO to research intervention approaches to address substance abuse, psychological trauma and HIV/AIDS among highly vulnerable Latino communities in Miami, including sexual and gender minorities, farmworkers, immigrants and economically disadvantaged and underserved groups. Researchers from UM’s Miller School of Medicine and School of Education and Human Development will collaborate on CLaRO research as well.

Over the next five years, CLaRO will conduct two research projects to test interventions previously developed in the two existing NIMHD Centers of Excellence, El Centro and CRUSADA, that will now be adapted for vulnerable Latino groups. These interventions capitalize on the impact of Latino family bonds as a key protective factor. UM’s Daniel Santisteban, professor of educational and psychological studies at the School of Education and Human Development, will conduct research on a computer-assisted family intervention to treat self-harming behaviors and prevent suicide among adolescent Latinas and sexual/gender minority youth. FIU researcher Patria Rojas, assistant professor at the Department of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at FIU’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, will lead “HOMBRES de Familia,” a father-son intervention to prevent HIV, substance abuse and violence among migrant farmworkers. UM’s Guillermo “Willy” Prado, dean of the Graduate School and professor of public health sciences at the Miller School of Medicine, will lead a pilot projects program with seed funding for early-career researchers at UM to build research programs on the CLaRo’s theme.

Community partners will continue to play a role in sharing and guiding CLaRO’s research agenda and priorities in underserved Latino communities, as well as advance neighborhood capacity-building to promote healthy behaviors. Community efforts will be led by CLaRO’s Community Engagement and Dissemination Core, led by FIU researcher Elena Bastida, chair of the Department of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at FIU Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work.