Diabetes research grant awarded to study Type 2 diabetes in minority communities

Hannah Williford

A national diabetes research organization awarded University of Texas professor Mary Steinhardt a $3.3 million grant in October to conduct a study on Type 2 diabetes in Austin’s African American community.

The grant, awarded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, will fund research throughout churches in the Austin area over a five-year span. Steinhardt will give classes to churchgoers on how to regulate their Type 2 diabetes through exercise, healthy diets and careful monitoring. They will also discuss stressors, such as job issues, which can cause people to engage in unhealthy behavior, Steinhardt said. 

“We focus as much on their life as we do on their diabetes,” Steinhardt said. “We don’t just say, ‘Let’s talk about what you ate last night.’ We talk about how their life has influenced what they ate last night.”

Steinhardt chose to focus her study on African Americans with Type 2 diabetes specifically because of the high risk they face. According to Steinhardt’s proposal, African Americans are twice as likely to have Type 2 diabetes, and they are less likely to engage in management practices than Caucasian Americans.

According to Steinhardt’s grant proposal, she aims to give participants strategies to help them cope with these stressors more effectively. In the study, this will be done through conversations, such as asking individuals to share a time in the last week when they were uncomfortable and something they did in the situation that made them proud, Steinhardt said.

Pharmacy graduate student LaNeria Sanders said the psychological focus of the study led her to seek out the project and become involved.

“I know all the ways to treat (Type 2 diabetes), but I don’t get enough information and education on how to prevent it,” Sanders said. “It’s important to work with these populations and let them know that there are ways to cope with stress and manage it so they don’t end up with some of the complications later on.”

Jaylen Wright, health behavior and health education graduate student, said he sees the study as a way to give back to the Austin community.

“One of the things that stood out the most to me was it would (have) such an impact … in the city of Austin and for people who are … looking for a reason to have a benefit from UT being in their own city,” Wright said.