Focus on the majority leaves key research on minority populations untouched

Khadija Saifullah

Most scientific research is conducted on the majority of the population, leading to a lack of research and knowledge on minorities. Latinos and other minority groups are hardly researched, producing less information about how each of their respective cultures influence their health and overall well-being. In addition, women are less researched than men, contributing to a higher risk when they are diagnosed with diseases and health issues.

The University launched the Latino Research Initiative this week, which will generate data, grants, and research about Latino Communities in both Texas and the nation at large. Texas has a prevalence of Latino culture and influence not found in other states, which will prove highly advantageous when performing healthcare research.

This initiative is technically a year old but has only recently attained the stable leadership and $7.6 million in research grants needed to study health issues that affect Latino communities. Hosted by the College of Liberal Arts, the Initiative was created to form a database, provide grants and conduct research about Mexican American and Latino populations in Texas and the nation.

“What happens to Latinos happens to the nation,” said Deborah Parra-Medina, professor of Mexican American and Latina/o studies in an interview with UT News. “About 2 out of every 5 people in Texas, and 1 out of every 6 people in the U.S. are Latino. The physical, economic and cultural well-being of Latino populations is critical to the well-being of the U.S.”

The number one killer for both men and women is heart disease. However, women often suffer from different symptoms than men — such as pain in the jaw, back, or stomach instead of in the chest. Unfortunately, most women think that breast cancer, not heart disease, is the biggest health risk they face. If women aren’t properly exposed to information about their health, then it’s no surprise that they are often unaware of their distinct heart attack symptoms — symptoms which aren’t nearly as well researched as those suffered by men.  

Another project that the Initiative is starting with the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas is “Entre Familia,” aimed at improving timely HPV immunization among Latino adolescents and young adults in Hidalgo County. The Initiative has plans to expand into the greater Central Texas area by creating archives and strengthening connections within the Initiative.

The University has initiated a much-needed movement to dedicate a hefty amount of grants and funding towards one of the minority-majority groups in Texas. The Initiative brings awareness to the fact that healthcare is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. This movement shouldn’t stop at the Initiative, research should be conducted on people other than white males. Minorities and women face different health risks than white men, and should be studied under separate lenses which account for those differences.

Saifullah is a neuroscience senior from Richardson. Follow her on Twitter @coolstorysunao.