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Boston University Researchers to Study Role of Racism, Trauma, and Family Stress in Asian American Women’s Health

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Boston University School of Social Work’s Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health (CISWH) announces the funding and launch of a new pilot research project, Epi AWARE, to investigate the relationship between stress and physical health in Asian American women.

Epi AWARE will assess Asian American women’s experiences of childhood trauma, perceived racism, and stressors related to disempowering parenting, as well as markers of pre-diabetes. Childhood trauma and perceived discrimination have previously been shown to adversely impact metabolic health in other populations, yet studies focused specifically on Asian Americans are rare. The study is a collaboration between CISWH, Boston University’s School of Social Work (BUSSW), and School of Public Health (BUSPH), and builds upon BUSSW’s AWARE (Asian Women’s Action for Resilience and Empowerment) project, which addresses mental health.

“Asian Americans are twice as likely to develop diabetes as compared to the general U.S. population, despite having lower BMIs—but we don’t completely understand why,” said Hyeouk Chris Hahm, co-principal investigator, director of AWARE Lab and Associate Professor at BUSSW. “There is comparatively little research on Asian Americans, despite their being the fastest growing population in the U.S. Combine this with the harmful stereotype of being a ‘model minority,’ and Asian Americans’ physical and mental health disparities often go overlooked.”

“We have learned from the long-running Black Women’s Health Study, that socioeconomic status and experiences of discrimination are linked to poorer health outcomes for African American women, including type 2 diabetes,” said Yvette Cozier, co-principal investigator, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, and Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at BUSPH. “I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues at BUSSW to shed light on how we might improve the health of minority populations in the U.S.”

The study will begin recruiting participants in fall 2019. The one-year pilot period will conclude in 2020, after which initial findings will be released. The researchers hope to continue and expand the study beyond 2020.

“Both the fields of public health and social work seek to address health inequities and social determinants of health. This research is a perfect example of how our disciplines can collaborate at the intersection of health and social justice, particularly around issues of trauma and racism,” said BUSPH Dean Sandro Galea and BUSSW Dean and CISWH Director Jorge Delva in a joint statement. “We anticipate that the findings from this study will have practical applications for both public health and social work practitioners.”


The Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health (CISWH) is dedicated to expanding the impact of social work in health care and public health in order to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations nationally and globally. CISWH seeks to improve outcomes, patient experience, and population health; reduce costs; and promote health equity and social justice. The Center supports social work leadership in health through cross-sector collaboration with public health, medicine, health economics, technology, and other relevant disciplines. The Center accomplishes its mission through research, community partnerships, policy development, and by providing technical assistance and educational opportunities. Learn more at

Media Contact:

Nilagia McCoy
Communications Manager, Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health
[email protected] | 617-358-1889