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Asian Americans & Racism: Individual and Structural Experiences (ARISE)

Thu Nguyen to address the underrepresentation of Asian Americans in Alzheimer's and aging research through $3.4 million NIA grant

Faculty Associate Thu Nguyen and collaborator Van T. Park at the University of California San Francisco, will investigate disease-related cognitive health disparities in Asian Americans in a project titled "Asian Americans & Racism: Individual and Structural Experiences (ARISE)".

The primary goal of the ARISE project is to investigate the impact of discrimination and factors such as social support on the risk of Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) among older Asian Americans. The impact of discrimination, particularly intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, and various factors like social support will be at the center of their investigation. These factors may play a crucial role in the risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD).

Anti-Asian racism has surged during the pandemic, making the need for this research more critical than ever. The ARISE project aims to provide insights into the effects of systemic and interpersonal discrimination on cognitive health disparities and identify protective factors that may mitigate the detrimental effects of discriminatory experiences on cognitive health. This research is particularly vital because Asian Americans are currently underrepresented in neurological research, constituting less than 3% of participants in national Alzheimer's-related studies.

To create a comprehensive and inclusive dataset, the project will establish the ARISE cohort, which will include 500 Asian Americans. Participants will be asked about their experiences of discrimination and structural factors, as well as the impact of support from their families and communities. The researchers will delve into how these factors are associated with cognitive performance and biomarkers related to Alzheimer's disease. Their approach is holistic, encompassing neighborhood sentiment analysis and demonstrating a commitment to inclusivity by focusing on diverse populations. Rather than treating Asian Americans as a monolithic group, they are recognizing the rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and backgrounds within this demographic. By paying attention to the unique experiences of Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese Americans, they're ensuring that their findings are both comprehensive and applicable to a wider range of individuals within the Asian American community. The ultimate goal is to contribute to the development of interventions and policy changes aimed at preventing and addressing Alzheimer's disease in older adults.

This research takes on added significance when considering the limited treatment options currently available for Alzheimer's. Prevention and early identification become paramount, and social factors have the potential to be modifiable variables that can make a significant difference in tackling this pressing public health challenge. The one-year grant awarded to the ARISE Project is just the beginning, as the researchers plan to seek additional funding in the future to expand their research and involve up to 1,500 participants.