ATLANTA—College of Education & Human Development assistant professor Brett Wong has received a four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to better understand health disparities in the black population in the United States.
The project will focus on how blood vessels and sensory nerves function in non-Hispanic black and white populations. Wong is collaborating with Jeff Otis, assistant professor in the College of Education & Human Development; Matt Hayat, associate professor in the School of Public Health; and Dr. Arshed Quyyumi, a cardiologist in the Emory University School of Medicine.
“From a clinical application standpoint, we know that non-Hispanic blacks have higher rates of hypertension, Type II diabetes, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and when they become diabetic, they tend to have more problems with their sensory nerves,” Wong said. “We’re trying to see the underlying physiological mechanisms responsible for the sensory nerve and blood flow responses to the heating stimulus we’re applying.”
Wong and his colleagues also want to learn more about how black and white populations transition from being healthy to being diagnosed with hypertension, or high blood pressure. Gaining a better understanding of that transition could help the research team start developing intervention methods.
“The main goal is to understand what may be predisposing non-Hispanic blacks to higher rates of hypertension and nerve dysfunction if they were to become hypertensive or diabetic,” Wong said. “And ultimately, we would like to find some type of intervention to see if we can improve these responses, which would help reduce rates of chronic cardiometabolic diseases and associated nerve dysfunction that comes with it.”
An abstract of the grant, R01HL141205, is available at the NIH’s Project RePORTer website.