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Grant funds COVID-19 research with Hispanic families

Photo of Daphne Hernandez, PhD, associate professor at Cizik School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)
Daphne Hernandez, PhD, associate professor at Cizik School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). (Photo Credit: Cizik School of Nursing)

Daphne Hernandez, PhD, associate professor at Cizik School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) has received a $25,000 Dean’s Research Award for her study titled “Creencias de salud: Health Beliefs, Socio-Economic Factors, and Mental Health of Hispanic Immigrant Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

This grant will allow Hernandez to build on her work with Hispanic immigrant families and fund research into health beliefs and stressors related to COVID-19.

“This important and urgent project is a great example of the perspective nurse scientists can bring to pressing health and societal issues,” said Diane Santa Maria, DrPH, RN, FAAN, interim dean for Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth. “I am pleased that this grant will help Dr. Hernandez continue and enhance her research with Hispanic families.”

The study will seek to understand where parents and teens get information about COVID-19, their beliefs about the disease, and how socio-economic factors are affecting their health behaviors. The overall impact of COVID-19 and other stressors on mental health will also be examined.

Most of the immigrant families she works with have internet access, and the ability to connect remotely has reduced the no-show rate in her ongoing study.

“We will be doing everything through videoconferencing so no one has to come into contact with anyone else,” said Hernandez, who has become an enthusiastic proponent of virtual visits as a result of COVID-19. “It has actually helped us tremendously. We might continue using videoconferencing post-COVID because it removes the transportation barrier.”

According to Hernandez, Hispanic families are losing work and/or pay as the result of COVID-19 at higher rates than white or African American families. Other research has shown that wearing a mask can exacerbate racial profiling and that undocumented Hispanics are less likely to seek health care for fear of deportation.

The study will begin with an online survey, followed by focus groups, then a photo elicitation phase through which parents and teens will be asked to take pictures depicting their lives during the pandemic. Hernandez hopes to secure additional funding for a public education campaign. She will initially look to participants in her existing NIH study to recruit 30 families with documented immigrant parents and 30 with undocumented parents.

Madelene Ottosen, PhD, assistant professor at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth is co-investigator on the study, and Samuel Payen is the research coordinator for the one-year grant.

For more information about the study, email Samuel.S.Payen@uth.tmc.edu, or call 713-500-2018.

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