September 2023

Meet Gerardo Maupome

Gerardo Maupomé, BDS, MSc, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Global Health and Associate Dean of Research in the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University. He was a Professor with IU School of Dentistry from 2005 until 2017. He has multiple adjunct/affiliated positions within and outside IU. In 2020 he became Associate Director of the Community Health Partnerships (CHeP), with the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

Dr. Maupomé’s work focuses on dental public health, population health, dental health services, global/immigrant health, minority health, social and behavioral sciences, and health disparities.  The International Association for Dental Research (IADR) recognized his work in 2019 as a co-recipient of 2019 Giddon Award for Distinguished Research in the Behavioral Sciences, and in 2022 he received an IADR Distinguished Scientist Award. In 2021, he was recognized by the IUPUI Center for Translating Research into Practice with the 2021 Bantz-Petronio TRIP Faculty Award. He is the Inaugural recipient of the 2022 Leadership Latino Legacy Award, from the Indiana Latino Institute.

The VidaSana study

The link between access to clinical services and social dynamics among Hispanic immigrants has been a long-standing focus of Dr. Maupomé’s work, including the presence of health disparities in these communities. Dr. Maupomé is finalizing an NIH-funded, seven-year study on the oral health status, dental care use, mental health, and overall well-being of Hispanics: the VidaSana study. Recognizing the importance of culture-specific features such as familisimo – close allegiance toimmediate and extended family ties, including instances of health care decision making– Dr. Maupomé continues to characterize the context where health disparities take place. Through identifying the evolution of personal and community networks and the impact of such network factors in improving or undermining health outcomes, VidaSana is affording a unique perspective to leverage future interventions. The VidaSana study has been developed in partnership with Dr. Brea Perry, from the IU Bloomington Department of Sociology.

A further example of Dr. Maupome’s work is an assessment of COVID-19 impacts on Hispanics. There is little doubt that Hispanics were one of the groups hardest hit by the COVID-19 epidemic. They often are hourly workers with unstable employment and inadequate benefits; undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for public assistance protection or access to health care; persons with limited schooling who are less able to navigate government support opportunities; and living as isolated families or individuals who may not have peers to rely on when catastrophic financial situations arise. To address gaps in the COVID-19 body of knowledge relevant to Hispanics, Dr. Maupome designed a survey to support assembling reliable, context-specific, and actionable resources for the community to meet health challenges. Dr. Maupome led the Hispanic Rapid Response Study (H-RSS) to begin addressing this gap through partnering with an IU team conducting the P2P Rapid Response COVID-19 Study (RRC). Dr. Brea Perry is the PI of the RRC and a Co-I in the H-COVID. Drs. Perry and Maupome are leading analyses addressing discrimination, stress, quality of life, financial and residential insecurity, the roles of masculinity and parenting impacts on family welfare, and health communications in the context of COVID 19 and Hispanic-specific variables.

Expanding knowledge about the health of vulnerable communities is key to improving health outcomes. Dedicated research and the application of its findings can make significant headway in ameliorating health disparities.

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death. -  Martin Luther King (1966)

Q and A with Dr. Gerardo Maupome

I was trained as a clinician. I jumped into Public Health upon discovery of how the social, economic and cultural dimensions impacted health and disease – an entirely new landscape to me a couple of decades ago.

Social norms mediate individual responses to health challenges; such norms exist in the context of multiple dimensions that affect the community and individual levels. For example, the social determinants of health, the industrial determinants of health, the commercial determinants of health. A better understanding of the multi-layered world of health disparities requires placing the individual and the community actions in the larger scheme of real-world circumstances.

We are characterizing the socio-cultural-economic features that operate at the community and individual level choices in health and health care. Our lens is to identify impacts and their mechanisms while accounting for interdependence of factors. In this fashion, we add to the precision medicine perspective a socio-cultural-economic viewpoint that goes beyond the bio-patho-physiological landscape.

It deals with the real world.

The need to have bilingual staff has led to an approach where many Hispanics/Latinx students became part of the teams. Many of them are undergraduate or Master’s level students; they get a real-life exposure with the community and its actors (NGOs, faith groups, etc.). They also bring to the research a wealth of expertise and experiences enabling us to work within and with the community.

Our research is highly community engaged when designing survey instruments, when gathering information to focus our approaches and tools, and when analyzing data, aiming to be as culturally relevant as we can

We will continue characterizing the norms, actors and mechanisms that underlie health and disease phenomena in Hispanics/Latinx. We are aiming to expand our scope and address health disparities and individual/ community experiences pertinent to dietary patterns, to cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, and to choices when seeking clinical care.

Conversation with Dr. Gerardo Maupome

On Friday, September 29, 2023 from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m., Dr. Gerardo Maupome will talk about "The First Wave of Covid-19 and Its Influence on Social Networks of Hispanics." Personal and community networks are dimensions where information, resources, and norms about health are clustered and spread through groups of people. In the case of Hispanic health in the U.S., networks are thought to be both protective (through the provision of support and resources), but also a conduit of unhealthy behaviors and practices (such as reinforcing norms for episodic clinical care). It is not fully understood how these dimensions were affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the VidaSana Study 2015-2022, Dr. Maupome and his team of researchers collected data from 558 Hispanics from Central America and Mexico. Their goal was to examine the evolution of social networks, health beliefs and health-related behaviors among these population groups. Join us for an opportunity to talk with Dr. Maupome about the findings of the VidaSana study (and other ancillary studies) and how data will also be used to better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Hispanic populations.