It’s your first semester at UTSA. Tell us a little about your background.
I earned my doctorate in demography at the University of Pennsylvania in beautiful Philadelphia. There, I received training to better measure, identify, and document patterns of people’s actions—such as immigrating to a new country—and the many significant experiences that affect them, such as diseases. I also gained the knowledge and tools to analyze the underlying causes or roots of these population dynamics and health conditions.
My dissertation focused primarily on understanding contemporary patterns of migration dynamics from Mexico to the US—and, for many, back to Mexico. My dissertation allowed me to launch an entire research agenda to contribute to a better understanding of international and internal migration patterns focused on Mexican migration.
After my doctoral degree I spent a year in the World Population Program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). Established during the Cold War era as a place where “East” and “West” come together to better understand problems of global importance, the Institute has allowed me to interact with scholars from many parts of the world. and to learn more about global issues.
Following my tenure at IIASA, I spent a year as a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. I began researching health disparities, trying to better understand Hispanic health, especially immigrants from Mexico. I undertook a series of projects to dissect the ways that the health of Mexican immigrants changes through the immigration experience. Since then, I have expanded my research to better understand older adult health and aging and race-ethnic disparities in the US, with a focus on Mexican-origin populations.
You are also the new director of the Institute for Health Disparities Research. What goals do you have for the institute?
My main goal is to make the institute a great intellectual home for people who research health disparities, not only related to race-ethnic differences but also other disparities like gender, sexual orientation, and disability. I hope that IHDR can be a place where UTSA people, community organizations, and government agencies can come together, collaborate, and share their research and solutions to issues, such as those of reproductive health. Promote more equitable access to health care and reduce the inequitable effects of infectious and chronic diseases. disease.
What kind of research is going on at the institute now? Can you tell us about the project you are working on?
A major ongoing project at the Institute is a health promotion project that aims to provide mostly low-income San Antonio middle-schoolers with the tools to cope with the various pressures and stressors that affect their lives, opportunities, and health-related behaviors. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services funded the project, which was directed by Dr. Eric Shattuck And xiaohe xu,
In addition, an ongoing project of mine, in collaboration with people at six other institutions, compares the healthy and unhealthy ways people of Mexican descent age in America compared to people in Mexico. The National Institute on Aging is funding this project. I am working to understand how the positive and negative experiences people go through in childhood and youth negatively impact physical, cognitive, and mental health, as well as mortality.
We are testing whether these experiences affect different types of health and populations in similar ways. We are also looking at whether the accumulation of people’s experiences blends in such a way that each additional negative event produces a worse effect than the previous one.
We are looking closely at how well social support reaches people and whether living in a cohesive community can help reduce the effects of negative exposure. I hope that the results of this research may guide some ways of promoting healthy aging for all adults, by facilitating support and cohesion, should these factors prove to be important in enhancing aging.
His research focuses on the intersection of immigration and health. Why is that an important area?
Understanding the types of health factors that come with immigrants and how their chronic, cognitive, and mental health develops throughout the migration experience is important because it may explain health disparities within different race-ethnic groups with recent immigration history. Provides assessment.
For example, immigrants to many developed countries have better health than would be expected because many of these people come from relatively poor or developing countries. They exhibit fairly good health, especially in terms of mortality, many cardiovascular conditions, and some cancers. This is true for Hispanics in the US – especially immigrants from Mexico – and is the reason some call the phenomenon the “Hispanic health paradox.”
My research suggests that this “immigrant health advantage” stems from a combination of factors. First, immigrants arrive with significantly healthier profiles across several indicators associated with better cardiovascular health later in life, especially smoking behaviour. Older immigrants from Mexico living in the US may also exhibit lower mortality rates because a small but non-trivial portion of Mexican immigrants eventually move back to Mexico in old age and do so in poorer health than those who immigrated to the US. lives in. From family and friends in Mexico or from affordable healthcare, if they were unspecified.
In some cases, I suspect people want to spend their last few years or months in their home country first, a pattern depicted in this traditional Mexican song (see translated lyrics here). In conclusion, Mexican immigrants and, to a lesser extent, Mexican-Americans, display relatively favorable cardiovascular health due to protective factors in their US communities.
It’s a line of research that needs more to really understand why and how this is happening, but the idea is that these people are somewhat protected from stress by living within tight-knit communities and family. This protection seems to eliminate immigrants living in the US for long periods of time. For example, my work has shown that Latin American immigrants who have lived in the US for more than 15 years live four to six years less than those who arrived more recently. My project is investigating whether immigrants age faster and die sooner because they experience multiple negative experiences throughout their lives, each one leaving a bad impression.