PIRE researcher Dr. Elise Trott Jaramillo, PhD, was recently awarded a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) titled Place-based Strengths and Vulnerabilities for Mental Wellness among Rural Minority Seniors. This K99/R00 award (K99MD015765) will fund 5 years of research on mental health disparities among marginalized New Mexicans.
This project aims to understand the experiences of depression among rural American Indian and Latinx elders in New Mexico’s Española Valley. Rural-dwelling racial/ethnic minority seniors are at a higher risk for depression. They are also less likely to get diagnosed and treated than their urban-dwelling white counterparts.
Location-dependent social and environmental factors play a key role in these mental health inequities. For example, vulnerability factors such as economic insecurity, trauma, and gaps in services contribute to poor mental health. Conversely, protective factors such as social support help seniors avoid poor mental health but are less well studied. Further, research specific to social and environmental influences on depression and treatment is sparse, as are practical approaches to target these factors to improve health.
Dr. Jaramillo is an anthropologist and a third-generation New Mexican committed to understanding and addressing the disparities that impact minority and underserved New Mexican populations. She has been interested in the social determinants of health since her undergraduate studies. Her dissertation research at the University of New Mexico described resilience and social cohesion associated with communal water sharing practices around acequias, or communal irrigation ditches. Over the years, Dr. Jaramillo has developed a rich research partnership with the farmers and community leaders involved with acequias. She found that, while such traditional environmental practices as acequias are associated with protective factors, the communities involved also face many common vulnerability factors, including inequities in access to decision-making around natural resources.
Now, Dr. Jaramillo will build upon this earlier research and the other experiences and skills she has garnered during her time at PIRE to elucidate the many factors that impact health, health care, and implementation of health interventions among rural minority seniors in her home state of New Mexico. This work will ultimately inform a community-driven plan for a multisystem intervention targeting the causes of disparities in depression, which will form the basis of a subsequent R01 study.
Congratulations, Dr. Jaramillo!