New Hispanic initiative earns $7.6 million in grants

Marina Vences

The Latino Research Initiative in the Center for Mexican American Studies recently received three grants totaling $7.6 million to be used solely for health research.

The donation came from the National Institute of Nursing Research, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. The funds have been split between three main research teams: Frio, Miranos and Entre Familia, which are geared toward reducing health problems in Latino communities.

LRI Director Deborah Parra-Medina came to Austin from the UT Medical Health Science Center in San Antonio this past August, after she was invited to spearhead the initiative. Parra-Medina said the initiative aims to use the research project to positively affect the greater Latino population in the United States.

“We want to develop a community of scholars and community experts that will create new knowledge about the growing Latino community in Texas and the United States,” Medina said. “We want to share the information so that it has impact on public policy and community action that would improve the lives of the Latino community.”

John Morán González, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies, said in an email the initiative is important when considering the size of the Latin American population in the United States.

“The issues of education, health care, and the economy, as these specifically affect Latinos, will increasingly be those that affect all Texans,” González said in an email. “By 2050, Latinos will the be single largest demographic in the state, a situation already found in public school enrollments.”

Minerva Alderete, Mexican American Studies junior, said she thinks the initiative’s research is important because health is a growing issue among Hispanics. 

“The research needs to be done because it [affects] so many people, and because Hispanic Americans are the greatest growing population in the U.S., the policy that is directed toward them will affect everyone,” Alderete said.

As the initiative grows, González said he wants the center to be a major source of research about Latino Americans. 

“The LRI adds greatly to the Center’s ability to be responsive to the needs of decision makers and stakeholders, whether the Legislature, business, community, etc.,” González said in an email. “In the next few years, the LRI will be the premier one-stop resource for the latest research about Texas Latino population.”