Understanding healthy aging and dementia in population of Vietnamese origin
Oanh Meyer, assistant professor of neurology at UC Davis School of Medicine, has a long history of working with the Asian American communities in Sacramento on mental health and Alzheimer’s disease issues. With her team in the Diversity and Disparities Lab, she engages in community outreach efforts to better understand and fight health disparities. In her line of work, she has seen a great need in underserved communities for access to trusted sources of health information, especially among the Vietnamese community.
“Neighborhoods immediately adjacent to and south of the UC Davis Health campus are home to a large population of Vietnamese origin,” Meyer said. “Many Vietnamese Americans in Sacramento are foreign-born, lack access to culturally appropriate care and are medically underserved.”
Meyer decided to partner with Asian Resources Inc (ARI), a non-profit organization, to engage with the Vietnamese community in Sacramento. She proposed launching a Vietnamese mini-medical school (VMMS) program to raise health literacy among immigrants and refugees of Vietnamese origin.
VMMS is an educational community outreach effort sponsored by the Clinical and Translational Science Center’s (CTSC) Integrating Special Populations into Research (INSPIRE) program and the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC). Meyer, who is INSPIRE co-director and ADRC faculty member, discussed VMMS during this week’s UC Davis Principles of Community events.
Spreading health literacy through free mini-medical school
For almost 20 years, UC Davis Health has been offering an annual highly acclaimed mini-medical school (MMS) program. It features School of Medicine faculty teaching free classes to the public. Now, the program is expanding to address the unique needs of Sacramento’s population of Vietnamese origin.
The VMMS will focus on the health of older Vietnamese refugees and immigrants and that of their caregivers. It will provide trusted medical information on major chronic health conditions affecting older people’s brain, heart and mental health.
The VMMS will be a half-day virtual event, scheduled for May 15 to coincide with Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. All sessions will be in or translated to Vietnamese.
“The online virtual format will allow us to reach a broader audience across Northern California,” Meyer said.
Partnerships in service of the community
In collaboration with Elizabeth Vasile, CTSC INSPIRE program manager, Meyer is working with ARI to spread the word about VMMS and give people access to credible health information.
“We care about building trust with and giving back to the Vietnamese community,” Meyer said. “For several years now, we have had a great partnership with ARI that allowed us to reach the Asian American community in Sacramento.”
Meyer and ARI have partnered on multiple initiatives to benefit the Asian American communities in Sacramento, including a Vietnamese dementia caregiver intervention.
Recently, Meyer was awarded a $7.2 million research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Aging (NIA). The grant will fund her study, titled the Vietnamese Insights into Cognitive Aging Program (VIP).
“The study will look at how early life adversity, trauma, socio-contextual and cardiovascular disease risk factors impact cognition and dementia in 540 Vietnamese Americans in Northern California,” Meyer said.
Note: To attend the mini-medical school, please register by May 8, 2021.