We completed fieldwork for the Richmond Stress and Sugar Study (RSASS) in December 2018 and are actively analyzing the wealth of data we collected in this study. Our preliminary analyses indicate that our primary hypothesis is supported: adults who live in poorer neighborhoods have blunted hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA)-axis stress reactivity (i.e., higher intercept pre-stress, shallower slopes before and after stress) than those who live in wealthier neighborhoods, regardless of race. Future analysis will test whether this blunted reactivity explains why people in poorer neighborhoods are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. We presented early findings from RSASS at the International Conference on Social Stress Research in Athens, Greece in June 2018, and we are presenting on the complete cohort at the American Psychosomatic Society conference in March 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. We are drafting manuscripts peer review which will be submitted in the coming months.
Beyond these gains in scientific knowledge, RSASS served as a training vehicle for over a half-dozen undergraduate, graduate, and medical students. Over a half-dozen undergraduate, graduate, and medical students contributed to RSASS as research assistants; many of these students were from under-represented minority groups. One of our trainees, McKenzie Stokes, was co-supported by an American Diabetes Association Minority Undergraduate Internship supplement; she is now a doctoral student at North Carolina State University. Another trainee, Josh Montgomery, is now a fellow with the Department of Health and Human Services ORISE Fellowship in the Office of the US Surgeon General in Washington, DC. All students learned invaluable lessons from the hands-on research experience they gained from working on this project.
Finally, RSASS is part of our ongoing partnership with the YMCA of Greater Richmond around their diabetes programs (prevention and control). We recently completed an evaluation of their diabetes self-management program (funded in part by a grant from the VCU Council on Community Engagement). A jointly-authored manuscript describing the results from this evaluation were published in The Diabetes Educator and these findings were also disseminated to the local community using factsheets and via our Community Advisory Board (CAB). The CAB which provides feedback on how to build community-engaged research capacity on diabetes in the Richmond area.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Richmond Stress and Sugar Study – this research would not be possible without you!