In the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) as on the US mainland, the prevalence of diabetes mellitus has reached epidemic levels in children. In the USA the higher prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in African American children is linked to their greater tendency to insulin resistance which cannot be accounted for by conventional risk factors. The incidence of childhood diabetes is reported to be higher in the USVI compared to other eastern Caribbean populations, and this difference does not appear to be related to differences in genetic susceptibility. Preliminary research suggest that use of certain coping styles by Afro-Caribbean women is associated with dysregulation of the hormone Cortisol which is associated with increased risk for low birth weight and subsequent development of insulin resistance in children. However the link between coping styles, low birth weight and insulin resistance in Afro-Caribbean or African American children has not been explored. Preliminary research has also shown that catch-up weight gain among children born low birth weight is associated with insulin resistance in Afro-Caribbean adolescents age 14 to 16. Little is known about how a mother's coping styles might influence lifestyle factors that contribute to catch-up weight gain in Afro-Caribbean or African American Children. The proposed study will examine the relationship of a mother's coping style to dysregulation of the hormone Cortisol, low birth weight, weight gain from birth and insulin resistance in USVI children. Moreover, the study will assess whether relationships between gender, low birth weight, catch-up weight gain, family history of diabetes and insulin resistance that were observed in Afro-Caribbean adolescents extend to children ages 2 to 4.

Public Health Relevance

This research seeks 1) to clarify whether preliminary findings in adolescents extend to children in ages 2 to 4 to whom public health systems like the WIC program provide services and can incorporate the findings into services for prevention of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes and 2) to clarify how larger social constructs like internalized racism, which influences the coping style of Afro-Caribbean and African American women, might contribute to health disparities in insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
Exploratory Grants (P20)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZMD1)
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University of the Virgin Islands
St. Thomas
United States
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