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NIH grants $6M to fight poverty-fueled health disparities in Puerto Rico

A Puerto Rico-based research initiative will receive a $6 million award over five years from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to promote structural changes and address poverty, a primary barrier fueling health disparities in Puerto Rico.

According to Kids Count Puerto Rico, 57% of children and youth live under poverty levels with a median household income of $21,492, which contributes to health disparities. The project will focus on 20 municipalities in the southwest region of Puerto Rico.

Led by the nonprofit applied research organization Grupo Nexos, the initiative will use a collective impact approach to promote policies, practices and programs aimed at reducing socioeconomic determinants associated with health disparities in children, youth and families’ mental health.

Grupo Nexos, which implements scientifically proven intervention strategies in communities, will manage the initiative. The organization will collaborate with the Hispanic Alliance for Clinical and Translational Research, Kennesaw State University and the Youth Development Institute.

“Research shows that impoverished children and youth are at the greatest risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes,” said Marizaida Sánchez-Cesáreo, a principal investigator of the initiative and executive president of Grupo Nexos.

“Our main challenge with this initiative is to reduce child poverty and increase opportunities for mobility that foster equity, wellness and healthy development,” she said. “We believe that it is paramount to intervene in the social context and provide additional resources for children and youth from less privileged socioeconomic status to attain their full health potential.”

The award is part of the NIH Common Fund for Community Partnerships to Advance Science for Society (ComPASS), which funds programs that focus on specific community issues contributing to poor health. The NIH program empowers community organizations to explore ways to address issues within their served communities, aiming to drive innovation, promote health equity and improve lives.

This award is among 26 given to community organizations and a coordination center by the NIH. The aim is to facilitate research into sustainable solutions that promote health equity and effect lasting change in communities.

The projects will study conditions and environments influencing health outcomes, and they will develop, implement and assess structural interventions designed to alter social determinants of health by modifying factors that affect opportunities to achieve optimal health.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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