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Health Equity Research Center (HERC) News and Events

As the delta variant grips Washington state, Latino population faces steep COVID risk

MALAGA, CHELAN COUNTY — Teresa Bendito-Zepeda and a few companions went door to door during a summer morning last month, coaxing the farmworkers at this migrant housing complex to a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic in an empty apartment. Read more.

Kratom a danger for older adults

Older adults are using kratom, often as an alternative to opioids for pain relief.

As the plant-based substance’s popularity has grown, however, so have calls to poison centers, often with severe consequences for older adults.

“It functions a lot like an opioid but it’s not regulated,” explained Janessa Graves, associate professor at the Washington State University College of Nursing and lead author of a new study on kratom exposures among older adults published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

“Growing numbers of Americans may consider it for themselves or their parents for pain control because they think it’s safer than an opioid, but the outcomes aren’t great,” she said.

Read the full article.


Op Ed, South Seattle Emerald | May 17, 2021

by Dr. Jane J. Lee, Dr. Ching-In Chen, Dr. Jacqueline L. Padilla-Gamiño, Dr. Beatrice Wamuti, Dr. Anna Zamora-Kapoor, Dr. Karin D. Martin, and Dr. Linh T. Nguyen

Over the past year, the coronavirus has drastically shifted how we live, work, and operate. As academic institutions across the country moved to emergency remote work and instruction, faculty adapted to changes in how we teach, conduct research, and fulfill other professional responsibilities. As many of these institutions prepare to return to largely in-person learning in the fall, we reflect upon our experiences to help inform how we can move forward.  Read more.

COVID-19 Meeting with Anna Zamora-Kapoor and Faith Leaders

𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗 𝐙𝐨𝐨𝐦 𝐌𝐞𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐅𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 | Hosted by La Patrona 1680 AM & the Washington State Department of Health

Join us on March 18th for a free VIRTUAL event to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine, and church guidelines for gatherings. This event is exclusive for community faith leaders.

About the Guest Speaker

We are pleased to announce Anna Zamora-Kapoor, PhD and Assistant Professor in the Departments of Sociology & Medical Education and the Community Liaison of the Health Equity Research Center at WSU, as the Guest Speaker.

A Q&A session will follow after the presentation. Please keep in mind that the event will be conducted in Spanish.

Thursday, March 18, 2021, 7 p.m. (PST). Online event via Zoom.

Pre-register on Eventbrite for a chance to win a $1,000 gift certificate for Canon Beach Conference Center. The gift certificate will be given at the end of the Zoom call to one person who is logged on at that time. Registration is free for all attendees!

 Please click on the link below for registration.

COVID-19 Event with Faith Leaders

Link to access to Zoom

Meeting ID: 865 1283 2228

Passcode: 988771

Breastfeeding mothers produce COVID-19 antibodies

From WSU INSIDER, Feb. 10, 2021

Breastfeeding women who have COVID-19 transfer milk-borne antibodies to their babies without passing along the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed 37 milk samples submitted by 18 women diagnosed with COVID-19. None of the milk samples were found to contain the virus, but nearly two-thirds of the samples did contain two antibodies specific to the virus.

“The results indicate that it is safe for moms to continue to breastfeed during a COVID-19 infection with proper precautions,” said Courtney Meehan, a WSU anthropology professor and co-author on the study. published Feb. 9 in the journal mBio.

Meehan and WSU graduate student Beatrice Caffé were part of the multi-institutional research team led by University of Idaho nutrition researcher Michelle “Shelley” McGuire on the project. The team also includes scientists from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and University of Rochester Medical Center.

The researchers are continuing work in this area and have now enrolled nearly 50 women who were diagnosed with COVID-19. They have followed their progress with the disease for as long as two months.

The initial study published in mBio reported on the first group of 18 women who submitted milk samples. Results from the larger study are forthcoming, but the researchers are confident that they will support, expand and confirm the initial findings, McGuire said.

Earlier, McGuire, Meehan and their colleagues published a related review of scientific studies focused on coronaviruses in human milk and found that scant evidence exists about their presence or absence.

That work, published in Maternal & Child Nutrition in May, found only one study that tested human milk for the related SARS coronavirus after that virus was detected in 2003. The review found no efforts to detect the subsequent and deadlier MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus in human milk.

The dearth of knowledge spurred this multi-university effort, which is informing national and global guidance related to COVID-19 and breastfeeding.

This research was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Medela and Milk Stork, the National Institutes of Health, WSU’s Health Equity Research Center and U of I’s Agricultural Experiment Station.

Cougarosities: Women’s Invisible Labor

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the release of a new phrase—“essential worker.” Ranging from grocery store clerks to health care professionals, this workforce continued to report to work in the midst of a global outbreak. Not only do women make up the majority of essential workers, they also take on the majority of caregiving roles—childcare, teaching from home, elder care, and much more. Join two WSU faculty as they discuss what COVID-19 is teaching us about women, work, and the future. Watch now.

Julie Kmec, Professor, Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences
Anna Zamora-Kapoor, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences

Native American scholar Dr. Cheryl Ellenwood to expand the Tribal Nation Building Leadership programs at Washington State University

30 November 2020

Dr. Ellenwood will join WSU’s Center for Native American Research and Collaboration (CNRC) and the Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH) tasked with the mission of expanding Tribal Nation Building Leadership programs aimed at developing Native American students’ leadership skills and knowledge based on tribal principles and values. Ellenwood will work with the Director of the CNRC, Dr. Zoe Higheagle Strong, and the Director of IREACH, Dr. Dedra Buchwald, to develop initiatives and courses that support the recruitment, college persistence, and graduation of Native American students. The goal is not only to help students succeed in their college and career pathways, but also to return and serve the economic, educational, and health needs of their tribal and urban Indian communities.

With a doctorate in Public Administration and Management from the University of Arizona and a masters in American Indian Studies from UCLA, Dr. Ellenwood brings expertise in organizational theory, Indigenous-led and minority-led organizations, and community development. A citizen of the Nez Perce Nation, she grew up in Kamiah, Idaho on Nez Perce lands and is a graduate of the Na-ha-shnee summer camp, a program that gives Native American high school students real-life WSU experience. She has long experience mentoring Native American adolescent and young adults and is well-versed in community and organizational system factors that impact Native American college and career pathways.

Dr. Ellenwood’s experience engaging and working with communities position her to meaningfully consult and collaborate with tribal members and leaders, whose guidance informs all aspects of CNRC and IREACH’s work. Together, CNRC and IREACH are dedicated to ethical, community-based service and research that honor and respect the sovereign rights and tribal protocols of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples.

Dr. Ellenwood is fiercely committed to improving the lives and prospects of Indigenous peoples and communities. “Much of my work is about creating healthy communities,” she says. “With the Native students I mentor, I’m equipping them with tools to combat Native erasure. From projects that include hard to reach populations to research agendas, we need to be including and promoting American Indians.”

Risk Factors in Adolescence for the Development of Elevated Blood Pressure and Hypertension in American Indian and Alaskan Native Adults

Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health (2020) | 28 November 2020

Anna Zamora-KapoorLuciana E. HebertMorgan MontañezDedra Buchwald & Ka’imi Sinclair


To examine risk factors for elevated blood pressure and hypertension in American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs), compared to three other ethnic groups in the US. Weighted relative risk regression models, stratified by race/ethnicity, were used to measure the associations between risk factors and elevated blood pressure and hypertension in AI/ANs, compared to non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics, with data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. In all groups, females had a lower risk of both elevated blood pressure and hypertension than males. Increasing body mass index raised hypertension risk in all groups. In AI/ANs, financial instability increased the risk of hypertension by 88% (95% CI: 1.27–2.77), but not in other groups. No other statistically significant associations were found. Future interventions should include socio-economic factors in efforts to prevent hypertension in AI/ANs. Read more.



Strong Men, Strong Communities:

Design of a Randomized Controlled Trial of a Diabetes Prevention Intervention for American Indian and Alaska Native Men

American Journal of Men’s Health, July-August 2020

Ka’imi Sinclair, PhD, PMH; Cara Carty, PhD; Kelly Gonzales, PhD, MPH; Cassandra Nikolaus, PhD; Lucas Gillespie, BA; and Dedra Buchwald, MD


Type 2 diabetes is a serious global epidemic that disproportionately affects disadvantaged populations. American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIs/ANs) have the highest rates of diabetes in the nation with a prevalence of 14.7% in 2018, more than twice that of non-Hispanic Whites. AI/AN men have the highest prevalence of diagnosed type 2 diabetes (14.5%) compared to non-Hispanic Black (11.4%), non-Hispanic Asian (10.0%), and non-Hispanic White (8.6%) men. Several landmark clinical trials have shown that lifestyle interventions can effectively prevent or delay the onset of diabetes among those at risk, including in AIs/ANs. Despite positive outcomes for AIs/ANs in these studies, very few were men. Read more.