UTA researcher aims to address health disparities
A public health researcher at The University of Texas at Arlington is focusing her health disparities research on a group of Americans who often are overlooked because of how the U.S. government collects information on race and ethnicity.
Most government forms do not have Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) listed as a category someone can select when asked about their ethnic background, making it difficult to set aside federal funding that could help this population’s specific health needs.
“On a national level, there is an incredible amount of information about this population being missed,” said Tiffany Kindratt, assistant professor of kinesiology and director of UTA’s Health Survey Research Lab.
Kindratt has signed on to a proposal asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to add a MENA category to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
In Michigan, the state with the second-largest MENA population (Texas has the third-largest), the Count MENA In campaign was launched to raise awareness and create a category. In June, the White House announced a review on how federal data on race and ethnicity is collected and presented.
Kindratt says the goal is to have a MENA option available for Americans to select in the 2030 census, something that can be accomplished with just the addition of a checkbox.
“Otherwise, their health is not acknowledged,” she said. “If you cannot disaggregate them from another group, then the resources that they deserve are not available.”
Americans of MENA descent tend to be at higher risks for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, Kindratt said. Her latest project focuses on maternal and child health in the MENA population. Her team is looking at specific measures among pregnant MENA women such as birthweights, smoking habits and whether they have taken certain preventive measures aligned with a priority list from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The research team is also examining whether children of MENA parents have health issues like developmental delays, physical conditions or allergies.