Researchers from Northern Arizona University’s Southwest Health Equity Research Collaborative (SHERC) team recently won the 2020 Rural and Environmental Research Award for the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Aging & Public Health Section for their work with family caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
SHERC is a grant-funded initiative of the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) at NAU. The APHA will present the award to the lead authors of the presentation, Heather Williamson, assistant professor in NAU’s Department of Occupational Therapy and CHER, and Rachel Bacon, CHER research associate, during the APHA Aging and Public Health Section Awards Ceremony at their annual convention on October 26.
The NAU researchers won the award for their presentation “Supporting diverse and rural-residing family caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD): A multi-level study.” This study identifies the unique needs and assets of caregivers to persons with Alzheimer’s and similar brain conditions living in northern Arizona.
The purpose of the award is to recognize individuals in public health research who have made a significant difference to understanding the impact that rural location or environment or both have on aging and public health, according to the APHA Awards website.
“I am so proud of Drs. Williamson and Bacon, and the contributions of our whole team, for winning this prestigious award at the APHA Conference. This study acknowledges and honors the significant role that caregivers of individuals with ADRD play in their loved one’s well-being and the need to support caregivers through this process,” said Regents’ Professor Julie Baldwin, director of CHER and principal investigator of the SHERC Supplement.
NAU co-investigators include Williamson, Bacon, Yolanda Garcia, associate professor in NAU’s Department of Educational Psychology, Michael McCarthy, associate professor in NAU’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Dorothy Dunn, retired associate professor with NAU’s School of Nursing, Mark Remiker, SHERC project coordinator, and NAU students Morgan Lee-Regalado Hustead, Andria Begay, and Angelica Sanchez.
The poster presents preliminary findings from focus groups with caregivers, with interviews of policymakers and providers, and GIS mapping of resources in the region. The researchers are identifying the needs and assets of caregivers in northern Arizona and the resources they require to maintain their physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
In the future, they hope to use the research to recognize the unique needs and assets of these populations and to develop programs that provide support to caregivers. The researchers will also produce a report on the healthcare and social support resources that are available to caregivers in Northern Arizona, and participants will receive personalized information about the resources close to them.
“I am honored to receive this recognition from APHA along with my co-lead on this presentation, Rachel Bacon, who led our efforts to complete the GIS mapping of resources,” Williamson said.
SHERC is funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, U54MD012388.