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Nursing Research Targets Underserved Korean American Communities

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Posted: 9/22/2006

Two unique community-based research initiatives will provide health awareness and interventions to underserved Korean Americans at risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Armed with grants totaling nearly $4 million from the National Institutes of Health and working in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) and the Korean Resource Center in Howard County, MD, nurse researcher Miyong Kim, RN, PhD, FAAN, will employ community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods to address and surmount the health care barriers facing many ethnic minority populations today.

In a $3.5 million study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Kim will explore health literacy interventions for Korean Americans with high blood pressure (HBP).  The findings not only will contribute to knowledge about the connection between health literacy and HBP control, but also test CBPR approaches such as the use of lay community health workers in delivering health interventions to individuals with limited English proficiency.  

A second study, funded as a $500,000 pilot project by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, will focus on improving disease control and quality of life for Korean Americans with type 2 diabetes.  Working also within the community, Kim and co-investigators will gather much needed pilot and feasibility data on how effective diabetes self-management procedures can be adapted for a population where diabetes is now a growing health problem and limited English language skills can create barriers to care.   

Kim, who is herself an immigrant, is well-known throughout the U.S. and internationally for her culturally sensitive research among ethnic minorities.  Her conduct of the first and only systematic assessment of cardiovascular risk among Korean Americans led to the first community-based nursing intervention project implemented within the Korean American population in 100+ years of immigration history. 

After years of successful CBPR research and intervention, Kim sees the new grants as validation of both the community-based methodology and the continuing needs of an at-risk population.    She noted that, "Despite the tremendous progress made in improving overall health in the U.S. during the last decade, too many ethnic populations are still experiencing health care gaps.  These studies and more aimed at addressing health literacy may be the keys that truly open the doors to a healthier version of the American dream."