UF Nursing Faculty Awarded $2 Million to Help Improve Health Equity for American Indians

University of Florida College of Nursing faculty are partnering with American Indian communities to reach health equity and improve health outcomes, especially important as American Indians continue to experience high rates of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Through a four-year, $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Nursing Research, a division of the National Institutes of Health, College of Nursing researchers will investigate medication adherence and the ability to control blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes, known as Cardio-Metabolic-Control-Indicators(C-MCIs), and common risk factors for complications in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The researchers have partnered with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma on this project. College of Nursing Assistant Professor Lisa Scarton, PhD, RN, a Choctaw citizen, is the principal investigator on the study “Medication Adherence and Cardio-Metabolic Control Indicators among Adult American Indians Receiving Tribal Health Services.”  Prairieview Trust – Earl and Margo Powers Endowed Professor Diana Wilkie, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Research Associate Professor Yingwei Yao, PhD, serve as co-investigators.

(left to right) Lisa Scarton, PhD, RN; Diana Wilkie, PhD, RN, FAAN and Yingwei Yao, PhD

Scarton and her team will examine four years of electronic health record data and conduct interviews with Choctaw Nation citizens with type 2 diabetes. A patient’s expected C-MCI levels will also be calculated using their medication history, demographic information, pre-existing conditions and bloodwork. This work will help determine how taking prescribed medications, among other factors, contributes to C-MCIs and risks of disease complications.

The team’s first phase of research began this spring. The group will work to determine any potential barriers to following a prescription regimen, as well as any factors that make it more likely for a person with type 2 diabetes to adhere to their medication schedule. Scarton and her team hope their findings will be used to help develop more personalized interventions for high-risk individuals, such as providing alternative therapies to reduce cholesterol and improve C-MCIs, to prevent additional complications like cardiovascular disease.

“This work is incredibly important, as research is lacking on the degree of medication adherence experienced by American Indians who live on reservations and who primarily receive their medications at no cost,” Scarton said.  “By working with Choctaw citizens, we will learn how often, when and why they fill and take their prescriptions and we will be able to develop techniques to help them adhere to their regimen more closely or to develop a plan to alleviate their risk factors and make a difference in their overall health, moving us closer toward reaching health equity.”

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01NR020386. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.