The University Record, June 19, 1995

MIWH, OVPR award grants for research on women's health

By Deborah Gilbert
News and Information Services

The Michigan Initiative for Women's Health (MIWH) and the Office of the Vice President for Research have awarded $4,000 grants to three research teams whose work will focus on critical women's health issues.

Lori Mosca, assistant professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health and of internal medicine in the Medical School, will complete a study of "Ethnic Differences in Obesity and Its Relationship to Mortality in the Women's Pooling Project." The Pooling Project merges data from 20,000 women in seven major ongoing longitudinal epidemiological studies.

Sandra Graham-Bermann, assistant professor of psychology, will lead a pilot study on "Coping with Battering during Pregnancy: Implications for Women's Health." Joanne M. Pohl, assistant professor of nursing, will direct a pilot study of "Smoking Cessation and Low-Income Women."

Using the pooled data, Mosca and collaborator Victor M. Hawthorne, professor emeritus of epidemiology, will examine the relationship between ethnicity, obesity, cardiovascular disease and heart disease in more than 20,000 Black, Hispanic and white women. They also will study the links between smoking, lipoproteins, diabetes mellitus, blood pressure and mortality in each group.

"The Women's Pooling Project is an innovative approach to overcoming the lack of data that has plagued the study of cardiovascular risk factors in women," Mosca said. "Many women's health issues remain unresolved or have only been evaluated in small cohorts. The Pooling Project alleviates some of those difficulties."

Graham-Bermann and her collaborator, Elizabeth Shadigian, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, will interview 30 pregnant women who have been battered to gather information on the strategies they use to cope with domestic violence, and to develop new understandings of the effect of battering on their physical and mental health. Approximately 40 percent of the sample will come from minority groups.

"Battering during pregnancy is a serious women's health issue," Graham-Bermann said. "About one in 50 pregnant women suffers from abuse in the home. Battered women have a two-fold increase in the rate of low birthweight infants and twice as many miscarriages as non-battered women. They also suffer acute psychological effects ranging from depression and anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder," she added.

Pohl and her collaborator, Cynthia S. Pomerleau, assistant research scientist and director of behavioral medicine in the Department of Psychiatry, will examine the smoking behaviors of 50 low-income women and pilot a smoking cessation intervention based on feminist concepts with 10 of them.

"Although smoking among U.S. men declined by almost one-half between 1961 and 1991, it decreased by only one-third among women in that period, and women in lower income groups are smoking more than women with higher family incomes. Despite these disturbing facts, much of the research on smoking and quitting smoking has been conducted with men," Pohl said.

"It may be that women smoke for different reasons, quit with greater difficulty, relapse for different reasons and have different physiological responses to nicotine. It is possible that interventions with low-income women in particular will be more effective if they focus on empowerment, independence, self-esteem, problem-solving and self-efficacy. We will test these hypotheses in our study."

MIWH is an interdisciplinary "think-tank" of medical, biological, behavioral and public policy researchers that stimulates, facilitates and co-ordinates research on women's health at the U-M.