The research is designed to use a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach to achieve three research objectives: (1) to identify factors that can be incorporated into expanded Minority Stress Model developed by the PI; (2) to evaluate the effectiveness of the Men of Color Health Awareness (MOCHA) program, and an enhanced MOCHA+ program that uses narrative communication strategies, in lowering stress and risk of chronic diseases in a randomized controlled trial; and (3) to determine those individual, interpersonal and social structural factors that have an impact on stress and the health of low income African- American men. The MOCHA program is the result of a grassroots, community-driven initiative to address the heavy burden of health disparities experienced by low-income African-American men living in Springfield MA. The MOCHA program is sustained by a public - private collaboration between the local chapter of the YMCA and the state Department of Public Health. The MOCHA program is designed to address the physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs of men of color simultaneously in an integrated fashion. It consists of a 12-week program comprised of: (1) 60-minutes of moderately intensive aerobic exercise twice a week; (2) small group discussions of issues facing men of color, in particular, the potentially harmful effects of socially constructed definitions of black masculinity and associated issues of stress, violence, depression and substance abuse; (3) classes on health topics pertinent to chronic disease control, such as nutrition, obesity, high blood pressure, fitness and the social determinants of health. In utilizing a CBPR methodology, university researchers will partner with the MOCHA Steering Committee in all phases of the research, from identifying the main research questions, to identifying mediating factors implicit in the MOCHA model to utilizing appropriate research instruments to answer the primary research question, to data collection and analysis, to disseminating the results of the research, in appropriate fashion, to different audiences. The proposed research methods include: individual interviews of MOCHA participants, ethnographic field observations of digital storytelling (DST) workshops, survey questionnaires and the collection of physiological measures such as cortisol, blood pressure, and BMI. The results of this research will contribute to the identification of effective interventins to address health disparities in low-income African-American men and the dissemination of effective chronic disease prevention programming.
African-American men continue to bear a disproportionate share of the burden of health disparities, in general, and chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes, in particular. It is vitally important to identify effective strategies to ameliorate these health inequities. The research plan presented here will identify factors that have the greatest influence on stress and health behaviors in low-income African-American men between the ages 45-65, and determine the effectiveness of an innovative, community-driven program to improve the health and quality of life of these men.