Health and aging expert looks at COVID’s impact on older adults of color
Health and aging expert looks at COVID’s impact on older adults of color

This article originally appeared in UTSA Today by Ingrid Wright.

JUNE 11, 2021 — A new study by Emily Nicklett could be key to addressing the unique health challenges of COVID-19 on an often-overlooked population: older adults of color.

Emily NicklettNicklett, who is an associate professor of social work in the UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy, hopes her work will lead to improved methods for engaging this population in health-promoting behaviors, which could be critical to stopping the next public health crisis before it starts.

“Currently, the mechanisms through which pandemics and other disruptions exacerbate racial and ethnic health inequities—a public health crisis—are not well understood,” Nicklett said.

Her research aims to examine the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has constrained opportunities for older adults—particularly older adults of color—to engage in health-promoting behavior.

Using data from the 2021 Crime, Health, and Politics Survey, Nicklett will identify how diet, physical activity and self-management of diabetes—a common health concern of this population—contribute to the disparate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on older adults of color, including those residing in predominantly non-white communities.

Nicklett will examine the link between an individual’s behavior and the factors that lead to a certain behavior. Her findings will assess differences in access to food and physical activity infrastructure, according to the race/ethnicity of individuals and the racial/ethnic characteristics of the communities in which they reside. This includes the extent to which COVID-19 has strained opportunities for older adults with type 2 diabetes to follow a diabetes regimen, such as diabetes-friendly diet, physical activity, medications, checking blood sugar, checking feet, and getting diabetes-related care.

Nicklett’s research will include analyzing community, neighborhood and county-level data regarding items such as access to food and physical activity infrastructure.

“Results of the study will represent a significant achievement because the innovative data generated from this project is expected to lay the groundwork for a larger project that would move the field forward considerably,” Nicklett concluded.

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