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UHC Professor Jana Hirsch Awarded R01 from NIH to Study Neighborhood Impacts on Alzheimer’s and Cognition Disparities

June 8, 2021

Jana Hirsch, PhD, MES, assistant research professor at the Urban Health Collaborative (UHC), was recently awarded a 5-year, $4,358,351 R01 National Institute on Aging (NIA) grant for the project, “Contribution of Longitudinal Neighborhood Determinants to Cognitive Health and Dementia Disparities within a Multi-Ethnic Cohort.”

The burden on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) is increasing nationally and globally with disproportionate impacts on lower-income, lower-education, and minority race/ethnicity older adults. Specifically, African Americans and Hispanic populations face the highest and most disproportionate risk for ADRD. Neighborhood factors (e.g. social, and physical/ built environments) may affect cognitive decline. This study will provide robust new evidence within a multi-ethnic cohort about links between neighborhood environments and how these environments can impact cognitive outcomes. Given historic and current patterning of healthy neighborhood factors by racial and socioeconomic characteristics, these features may partially explain observed disparities in ADRD risk.

This study aims to identify actionable, community-level interventions to address and remediate racial and socioeconomic inequalities derived from the unequal distribution of environmental supports for healthy aging. This study is also poised to provide robust new evidence about pathways between neighborhood environments and cognitive outcomes, with important implications for ADRD progression research and incorporation of contextual factors into clinician management of ADRD.

This study will draw on the expertise of several investigators from the UHC including Dean Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH, Brisa N. Sánchez, PhD, Yvonne Michael, ScD, SM, as well as robust data and GIS analysis teams led by Kari Moore, MS, and Steve Melly, MS, MA. It also connects Drexel to a wide network of investigators from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) including Lilah Besser, PhD, MSPH as well as Steven Shea, MD Alain Bertoni, MD, James Pankow, PhD, MPH, Norrina Allen, PhD, Teresa Seeman, PhD, and Wendy Post, MD, MS, from the MESA field centers. The project will also work closely with Sandi Shrager, PhD, MSW at the University of Washington MESA coordinating center, and Timothy Hughes, PhD, Kathleen Hayden, PhD, and Jose Luchsinger, MD, from the MESA MIND Ancillary Study.