Huntsville, Ala.---A Year I study in the area of health psychology at Alabama A&M University was made possible by a mini-grant awarded by the Evans-Allen Research Program in the College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences, according to Dr. Annie Wells, an AAMU experimental psychologist who is director of clinical training.
Wells is academic advisor for thesis research of master’s-level students who plan to obtain the doctoral degree; the research funds support their research. The research experience will increase the probability that students will succeed in pursuing a doctoral program, which emphasizes research.
The study focuses on the status of students, faculty and staff at the university. Determining the status of a group is the initial step in making changes in the lifestyle of individuals. The specific diseases targeted were Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disorders; both categories of diseases stem from a BMI range between 25.0 and 25.9 (overweight) to a range of 40.0 and above (Class III or morbid obesity).
In lay terms, fat around the middle of the body, or the girth, is the source of acquired diabetes and cardiovascular disorders. Year I emphasized prevention. Year II’s award will focus on intervention strategies for individuals in the range of Class III obesity in order to maintain their well-being.
Factors that predispose people to Type II diabetes (and its consequences, such as blindness, dialysis, loss of limbs and even morbidity and mortality); and cardiovascular disorders (e.g., hypertension, stroke, etc.) are emphasized. The study also aimed to emphasize the importance of cognitive or psychological factors that must precede lifestyle changes to reduce obesity and its relationship to the aforementioned chronic diseases.
These disorders are more prevalent among African Americans, but the results can move in the direction of closing the health status gap, says Wells. The results also have implications for stakeholders, such as the individual, as well as health insurance or medical costs.
Dr. Wells is a member of the American Psychological Association and its Health Psychology Society. She is the former Psychological Healthy Workplace Liaison for aPA-APA and conducts health disparity workshops.
(Photo and Text: Jerome Saintjones)