Black History Month Events Focus on Alzheimer’s and Health Disparities

Boykinz On Kelly ClarksonIn celebration of Black History Month, the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth is engaging in multiple events throughout DFW to expand the Health & Aging Brain Study, previously known as the Black Alzheimer’s Brain Study, launched in 2021 to address why Alzheimer’s disproportionately impacts Black families. HSC seeks to increase awareness of the disproportional impact of Alzheimer’s on the Black community and the research surrounding it.

“Every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most prevalent,” said Dr. Sid O’Bryant, professor at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and executive director of the HSC Institute for Translational Research. “With this number set to rise, there has never been a more urgent time to gain a better understanding of this disease, especially its impact on Black families.”

A Spotlight on Health Disparities

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, HSC is hosting the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit. The interactive summit will take place at the HSC’s Medical Education and Training Building (1000 Montgomery Street, Fort Worth). The event is free and open to elementary, middle and high school students (grades 3-12), parents, students from two- and four-year colleges and universities and pre-health advisors.

At 7:30 pm. on the same day, HSC’s Health & Aging Brain Study will be a featured partner at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum (121 E. Exchange Avenue). The event celebrates and honors Black cowboys and cowgirls and their contributions to building the west, with two performances (1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) To purchase tickets, visit pbr.com or cowtowncoliseum.com.

Viral TikTok sensations The BoykinZ will be present at both events to bring additional awareness to HSC’s leading health disparity research study. The emerging Black country music group will record social media content for Instagram and TikTok while at the Black Men in White Coats event and give a “half-time” performance during the 7:30 p.m. performance of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. The group is made of four sisters, one of whom is a STEM student and two of whom are currently in college.

In addition to The BoykinZ social media recordings on HSC’s campus, elementary and middle school students attending the Black Men in White Coats event will participate in a mini medical school and other activities in HSC’s osteology and anatomy labs. High school and undergraduate students will learn more about careers in health care and take part in clinical activities such as suturing and intubation in the university’s state-of-the-art simulation lab.

Alzheimer’s and health disparities

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible brain disease that slowly destroys memory skills, thinking skills and eventually the ability to carry out daily activities. A myriad of health disparities surround research into Alzheimer’s disease: Today, an estimated 2.2 million Black Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and 1 in 2 Black households are impacted by Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.

Participants in HSC’s Healthy & Aging Brain Study undergo free comprehensive interviews, functional exams, blood draw, a brain MRI and a PET scan, and earn compensation for their time. The research study is funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. This study targets people ages 30–49 and aims to help identify through research why Alzheimer’s and related dementia severely impacts the Black & Brown community 2-3 times more than their white counterparts. There are more than 2,000 Black and Hispanic participants ages 50+ who have completed the study. Alzheimer’s Disease pathology in the brain can develop 10-20 years before the disease presents, therefore opening the study to those aged 30-49 is critical; it is important to identify the earliest signs and symptoms to better understand the risk factors over a lifespan.

Research has shown that factors such as stress, poverty and socioeconomic disadvantages are associated with cognitive problems in midlife and dementia later in life. African Americans also suffer from a high burden of medical risk factors for Alzheimer’s such as high cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

For information, helpful resources and to join the Healthy & Aging Brain study, visit blackalzbrainstudy.com or call 817-735-2963.

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