HHS/CLM assistant professor focuses on health equity for African-American women

Research has shown African-American women have disproportionately higher rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors compared to their white counterparts. Low-income African American women are at an even higher risk for poor CVD outcomes because of social and economic barriers that make it difficult to attain a heart-healthy lifestyle. 

Brandi M. White, PhD, MPH, assistant professor with the UK College of Health Sciences’ human health sciences (HHS) and clinical leadership and management (CLM) programs, has been working with African-American women living in public housing on Lexington’s East End to develop culturally-responsive strategies to overcome these barriers and reduce their CVD risk.

Her project titled, “Barriers and Facilitators to Physical Activity among African American Women Living in Public Housing,” received funding from UK’s Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program.

This project aims to identify multi-level barriers and facilitators to achieving heart healthy levels of physical activity, especially in the wake of COVID-19. The project relies on Photovoice, a qualitative research technique that allows the people most impacted by the issue you are addressing to document the issue in the environments in which they live/work/play.

White says that these findings will be used to culturally adapt an evidence-based CVD risk reduction intervention for African American women in public housing.  

This project is the result of the work of the newly formed Health Equity Action Team (HEAT), a community-based group focused on social justice on Lexington’s East End. HEAT emerged in 2019 as White and her team worked with Dana Mason, housing manager of the Lexington Housing Authority’s (LHA) northeast public housing properties, her staff (Tiffany Clark, Marlene Stevenson, and LavVerne Laine), and several motivated residents. LHA and HEAT have hosted several community events for residents on the East End, including stroke screenings with UK’s Stroke Care Network and HIV screenings.

White credits the success of HEAT to the motivation and dedication of the residents they work with, and her team of students and graduates who have supported the community. She has an interdisciplinary team of students and UK graduates who have a passion for health equity.

Her team includes graduate students, Chanel James and Alisia Sullivan (UK College of Social Work) and India Smith (UK College of Medicine); recent graduates Hasan Yusuf, Jahsleighe Rochell (CLM), Toya Walker (HHS), and Rasheen Turner (CLM); and current CHS students Kelsey Gatton (CLM), Loren Brigham (CLM), and Garrett Anspach (CLM).

With COVID-19’s impact on minoritized communities, HEAT has been looking for ways to support residents on the East End through strategic grant initiatives and targeted risk reduction efforts.

According to White, many residents do not have access to proper PPE and face challenges when practicing social distancing guidelines. Currently, they are collecting facemasks and gloves for residents. If you would like to donate, or want additional information, please contact White at brandi.white50@uky.edu.