Health Fair Attendees Partner With Researchers

For thousands of Latinos in Southern California, the 10th Annual Health and Wellness Fair, presented March 9 by Telemundo 52-KVEA and the California Endowment, offered more than free health screenings and advice. Thanks to researchers from Cedars-Sinai, many attendees became partners in shaping the medical care of the future.

At the all-day day event, which drew 25,000 people to the Los Angeles Convention Center, Cedars-Sinai investigators circulated bilingual questionnaires to gather data about the health habits and incidence of diseases in the Latino population. Staff from the Cedars-Sinai Office of Research Compliance and Quality Improvement distributed a flyer explaining the nature of health research.

At a special screening booth, attendees conferred with a neuropsychologist and postdoctoral fellow, filled out surveys about their mental state and received referrals to mental health services.

These diverse endeavors had a common goal: to improve health care and education among the Latino population. "It's a great opportunity to collect data and also to help people," said Adriana Huertas Vazquez, PhD, a research scientist at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and assistant professor of medicine.

Among the research projects pursued at the fair:

  • Emotional functioning
    Enrique Lopez, PsyD, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, sought to determine the prevalence of anxiety, depression, fatigue and other conditions among Latinos. His methods included the survey and interviews at the mental screening booth. Kimberly Smith, PsyD, neuropsychology postdoctoral fellow, worked with Lopez on this project.
  • Attitudes toward HIV
    "Hispanics tend to get tested very late for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), relative to other populations," Lopez said, leading to poorer outcomes. To discover possible reasons for the delay, he developed an HIV stigma questionnaire with questions such as: "Would you be ashamed if someone in your family had HIV?"
  • Reproductive awareness
    Lindsay Kroener, MD, a postdoctoral fellow, distributed surveys to find out how much respondents knew about family planning and fertility, with the aim of improving health education in this area. She was working with Margareta D. Pisarska, MD, director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and Erica T. Wang, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology.
  • Bowel health
    What are typical bowel habits among Latinos, and how common are gastrointestinal disorders? The numbers are tough to find, said Ali Rezaie, MD – a deficiency he sought to correct with a questionnaire on bowel health. "We're going to crunch data to define the normal range," he said. Rezaie was working on this project with Mark Pimentel, MD, director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Program and Laboratory at Cedars-Sinai.
  • Sudden cardiac death
    Huertas distributed a survey asking attendees, among other questions, if they had ever experienced a heart attack or atrial fibrillation. An expert on the genetics of sudden cardiac death, she was investigating the incidence of arrhythmias, or electrical malfunctions of the heart, in the Latino population.

Another staff member, Viorica Ionut, MD, PhD, research scientist at the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute, roamed the convention floor, signing up potential volunteers for clinical studies on diabetes. But she had another purpose, too, for attending the event. Looking to future research projects, she said, "I'm here to scout what we can do for next year's fair."

Cedars-Sinai research activity at the fair was coordinated by the University of California Los Angeles Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), which fosters clinical and translational science and collaborative research among its four member institutions, including Cedars-Sinai. The CTSI also distributed a newsletter about health findings from last year's research survey.

Logan Williams, associate director of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Community Health and Education, organized the health screenings. For information about research opportunities at next year's fair, please contact Jerlyn Tolentino, research facilitator, at 310-423-2475.


Photo: Cedars-Sinai Postdoctoral Fellow Lindsay Kroener, MD (right), works with an attendee at the 10th Annual Health and Wellness Fair to fill out a research questionnaire on reproductive awareness.