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Advancing Research to Reduce Drug Abuse and HIV/AIDS Health Disparities: Methodological Considerations

Bethesda Residence Inn, Bethesda, MD
June 21-22, 2004

NIDA Organizer(s): Dionne Jones, Ph.D. and Aria Crump, Sc.D./DESPR

Purpose & Intent

The Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research (DESPR) hosted a meeting on June 21-22, 2004 to engage the scientific community in a dialog on how to encourage methodologically rigorous study of health disparities related to drug use and drug related-HIV/AIDS. The objectives of this scientific meeting were to: 1) identify methodological innovations and strategies that have strengthened the science of drug abuse epidemiology, services, and prevention research and drug-related HIV/AIDS research; and 2) engage health disparities scholars in discussion of critical directions for future research and methodological innovation on these topics.

Meeting Outcome

Key themes emerging from this meeting are as follows:

  • Scientists need to be explicit with definitions when focusing on health disparities research. A part of identifying what makes this field important is the focus on addressing inequality stemming presumably from injustice. In this context, an examination of the differential between who uses drugs and who suffers the most significant consequences, such as dependence and HIV/AIDS infection, highlights a need to better understand mechanisms that drive differential progression to adverse outcomes.
  • Although evidence suggests that race/ethnicity alone do not drive racial/ethnic differences in drug use or consequences, our knowledge is significantly limited by the lack of variance in key explanatory variables, such as socioeconomic status, across many of our large data sets. Further, more research is needed to clarify which socioeconomic constructs are most meaningful, since education, neighborhood residence, income, wealth, and other variables are not equivalent in their relationship to race/ethnicity.
  • Longitudinal, developmental research is needed to identify underlying mechanisms driving health disparities.
  • Significant progress has been made in the articulation and measurement of some explanatory variables such as micro-aggressions and colonial trauma response, but significantly more work is needed in these areas.
  • Scientists need to study HIV/AIDS and drug abuse across the lifespan with attention to gene/environment interactions and gene/environment correlations to understand the pathophysiology that manifests in disease. Interdisciplinary teams will be necessary to engage successfully in this work.
  • Scientists need to engage in research on a structural level, examining ways in which neighborhoods, institutions, and access to resources impact on health disparities in HIV/AIDS and drug abuse.
  • Greater care must be taken in drawing conclusions based on data from subgroups that are heterogeneous. Scientists must study key explanatory variables such as national origin and level of acculturation (among others) or risk masking key disparities and losing valuable information.
  • Scientists need to address issues of data quality, particularly as related to measurement by ensuring that instruments are adequately designed to accurately measure key constructs in the population of interest. It is particularly important to recognize the role of idiom as well as language and the need for the translation process to be sensitive to the subtle complexities of usage and culture.
  • Scientists need to address issues of data quality through studies of differences in reporting accuracy because of the sensitive nature of the questions asked. Further scientists should triangulate information from various sources, in part because of the culturally charged nature of some of the constructs measured in developmental and behavioral studies related to drug abuse and HIV/AIDS.
  • It is necessary to ground prevention theory in an understanding of specific risk and protective factors and to understand the behavior of individuals within the cultural context.
  • Prevention research must address issues of transportability and adaptation of interventions across racial/cultural contexts.
  • In part because of distrust of the scientific community by members of many racial/ethnic groups, careful attention should be paid to the nature of the interactions with communities around research. Community participatory research, community oversight, culturally grounded techniques, and the use of community advisory or action boards are vehicles for accomplishing this. In the context of distrust, feedback to the community on both the process and outcomes of research is critical.

The following recommendations were made:

  • Develop a repository of instruments that have been adapted for various populations so that scientists don't have to constantly replicate this work.
  • Develop or identify a funding mechanism to facilitate developmental work with communities in special populations where measures may be inadequate or community collaborative work is being undertaken or issues of trust must be resolved prior to researcher collaboration.
  • Develop or identify a funding source for providing feedback to the community on research findings and/or dissemination to allow communities to be full partners in the research and to benefit from the research.
  • Develop or identify ways for scientists to share more of the information on the processes of conducting research with special populations. Journals are typically poor vehicles because of page limitations. Moreover, investigators could benefit from sharing information on processes such as interfacing with the community, developing measures for key constructs, and adapting interventions.

NIDA should consider increasing research on the role of structural factors in the emergence of health disparities, and the protective mechanisms that prevent individuals from engaging in risk behaviors related to drug abuse and HIV/AIDS.

Resulting Publications

Meeting participants are preparing articles based on presentations they made for publication in a special issue of the Journal of Urban Health . This journal reaches a broad multidisciplinary audience that shares a common interest in understanding dynamic patterns of disease and the social, environmental, biological, and behavioral factors that influence them. The articles in this special issue are based on research with diverse minority populations involved in drug abuse who are at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS. They highlight innovative methodological approaches undertaken by the researchers in implementing their work, and inform future research in drug abuse and HIV/AIDS.

Participants List

Lula Beatty, Ph.D.
Special Populations Office
National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Institutes of Health

6001 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892-0001
Phone: 301-443-0441
Fax: 301-480-8179
Héctor Manuel Colón, Ph.D.
Center for Addiction Studies
School of Medicine
Universidad Central del Caribe

P.O. Box 60327
Bayamon, PR 00960-6032
Phone: 787-288-0200
Fax: 787-288-0242
Wilson M. Compton, M.D., M.P.E.
Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research
National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Institutes of Health

6001 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892-0001
Phone: 301-443-6504
Fax: 301-443-2636
Timothy P. Condon, Ph.D.
Office of Science Policy and Communications Deputy Director
National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Institutes of Health

MSC-9591, Room 5230
6001 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: 301-443-6071
Fax: 301-443-6277
Aria Crump, Sc.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Prevention Research Branch
Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research
National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Institutes of Health

Neuroscience Center Building, Room 5153, MSC-9589
Bethesda, MD 20892-9589
Phone: 301-435-0881
Fax: 301-480-2542
Sherry Deren, Ph.D.
Director and Principal Investigator
Center for Drug Use and HIV Research
Institute for AIDS Research
National Development and Research Institutes, Inc.

8th Floor
71 West 23 rd Street
New York, NY 10010
Phone: 212-845-4463
Fax: 917-438-0894
Jessy G. Dévieux, Ph.D.
Research Associate Professor
Public Health/College of Health and Urban Affairs
Florida International University
Biscayne Bay Campus

AC 260
3000 N.E. 151 st Street
North Miami, FL 33181
Phone: 3 05-919-4709
Fax: 305-919-4220
Michael Fendrich, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry
Institute for Juvenile Research
University of Illinois at Chicago

Room 155, MC-747
1747 West Roosevelt Road
Chicago, IL 60608
Phone: 312-413-1084
Fax: 312-413-1036
Philip A. Fisher, Ph.D.
Research Scientist
Oregon Social Learning Center

160 East 4th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97401
Phone: 541-485-2711
Fax: 541-485-7087
Crystal M. Fuller, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiology Research
Department of Epidemiology
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University

Room 718
722 West 168th Street
New York, NY 10032
Phone: 212-342-0534
Fax: 212-342-1824
Sandro Galea, M.D., Dr.P.H., M.P.H.
Medical Epidemiologist
Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies
New York Academy of Medicine

1216 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029
Phone: 212-822-7378
Fax: 212-876-622
Dionne Jones, Ph.D.
Health Scientist Administrator
Services Research Branch
Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research
National Institute on Drug Abuse

Room 3155
6001 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: 301-402-1984
Fax: 301-443-2636
Mireille Kanda, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P.
Deputy Director
National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities
National Institutes of Health

Suite 800, MSC-5465
6707 Democracy Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892-5465
Phone: 301-402-1366
Fax: 301-402-7040
Thomas LaVeist, Ph.D.
Morgan-Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions
Professor of Health Policy and Management and Sociology
Bloomberg School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins University

Room 441
624 North Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205
Phone: 410-955-3774
Fax: 410-614-8964
Marsha Lillie-Blanton, Dr.P.H.
Vice President and Director
Access to Care for Vulnerable Populations
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

1330 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-347-5270
Fax: 202-347-5274
Jacques Normand, Ph.D.
Acting Deputy Director
AIDS Research
National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Institutes of Health

6001 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892-0001
Phone: 301-402-1919
J. Bryan Page, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Anthropology
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
University of Miami

LC 2005, Box 248106
102 Merrick Way
Coral Gables, FL 33124
Phone: 305-284-2535
Fax: 305-284-2210
Hilda Pantin, Ph.D.
Clinical Associate Professor
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
University of Miami

Room 309
1425 N.W. 10th Avenue
Miami, FL 33136
Phone: 305-243-2343
Fax: 305-243-5577
Trivellore Raghunathan, Ph.D.
Department of Biostatistics
Senior Research Scientist
Survey Research Center
Institute for Social Research
Department of Biostatistics
University of Michigan

1420 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Phone: 734-615-9832
Fax: 734-763-2215
Arlene Rubin Stiffman, Ph.D.
Barbara A. Bailey Professor of Social Work
George Warren Brown School of Social Work
Washington University

Campus Box 1196
St. Louis, MO 63130
Phone: 314-935-6685
Fax: 314-935-8511
Karina L. Walters, Ph.D., M.S.W.
School of Social Work
University of Washington

4101 15th Avenue, N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105
Phone: 206-543-5647
Fax: 206-543-1228
Keith E. Whitfield, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Graduate Professor in Charge
Department of Biobehavioral Health

Pennsylvania State University
HHD, 315 E
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814-863-1840
Fax: 814-863-7525

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