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UTHSCSA receives federal funding to unravel the Hispanic Paradox
(8-20-02)

$1.5 million grant will help prevent health disparities in Mexican-American moms

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Jeanne Ruiz, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), a $1.5 million grant to unravel what she calls the "Hispanic Paradox." The trend reflects the increasing number of pre-term births in second- and third-generation Mexican-American mothers.

"Hispanic women who immigrate to the United States tend to have almost the same rate of healthy babies that Caucasian women do, despite poorer socioeconomic conditions," Dr. Ruiz said. "As they integrate into American culture, however, their birth outcomes become poorer. You'd think the Mexican-American women who were educated here, and probably had better access to health care, would have better birth outcomes, but they don't and that is part of the Hispanic Paradox."

Dr. Ruiz is studying 500 expectant Mexican-American mothers in San Antonio. She will monitor anxiety, depression, social support and acculturation. "We want to see how the minds of these women are affecting their physiological responses," Dr. Ruiz said. "Once we establish links between lifestyle factors, cytokines (a measure of immune inflammatory response) and hormones, we can develop objective markers and clinical assessments to determine if we need to intervene with these moms."

Ultimately, Dr. Ruiz hopes to develop interventional and prevention programs for Mexican-American women. She will have the results of the study in the next four years.

Contact: Amanda Gallagher or Aileen Salinas