Robins, Tara C., U. of Oregon, Eugene, OR - To aid research on 'Social Change, Parasite Exposure, and Autoimmunity among Shuar Forager- Horticulturalists of Amazonia: An Evolutionary Medicine Approach,' supervised by Dr. J. Josh Snodgrass
Preliminary abstract: Exposure to parasites is hypothesized to decrease the risk of autoimmune disorders by regulating immune activity. Termed the Hygiene Hypothesis, this suggests that exposure to certain microbes helps organize immune function and prevents immune response to harmless stimuli. The Disappearing Microbiota Hypothesis takes this a step further, suggesting that recent changes in human ecology are altering the composition of our intestinal bacteria, thereby reducing vital immune programming. Existing research suffers from two weaknesses. First, almost all studies of these relationships have been conducted in Western clinical settings among populations with low infection rates, limiting our knowledge of the contextual factors that affect immune regulation. Second, there is very little anthropological research that explores the co-evolutionary relationship between humans and microbes. The proposed study uses evolutionary medicine and biocultural frameworks to further test these hypotheses among the indigenous Shuar forager-horticulturalists of Ecuador, who are currently experiencing rapid social change resulting in pronounced intra-population variation in parasite exposure. Avoidance behaviors, intestinal parasite composition, and autoimmune disease prevalence will be examined among Shuar at different levels of market integration. This project is the first population-based study to examine relationships between microbe exposure and autoimmunity among an indigenous population transitioning to a market-based economy.
Dancause, Dr. Kelsey N., U. of Quebec, Montreal, Canada - To aid research on 'Effects of Prenatal Psychosocial Stress on Birth Outcomes in Developing Countries: Filling the Knowledge Gap Using Validated Surveys in Vanuatu'
Preliminary abstract: Psychosocial stress during pregnancy affects not only the mother, but also her child. At high levels, maternal stress hormones can cross the placenta and affect fetal development. Prenatal stress has been associated with poor birth outcomes (such as low birthweight and preterm birth) and long-term effects such as obesity. Unfortunately, nearly all studies of prenatal stress are in industrialized nations. The effects of prenatal stress seen in industrialized countries likely cannot be generalized to women experiencing not only high levels of stress during pregnancy, but also potential undernutrition and heavy infectious disease burdens that could interact with and exacerbate the effects of prenatal stress. We need more data on the effects of prenatal stress from low- and middle-income and rapidly modernizing countries. Furthermore, we need to use common and validated surveys to collect these data, to allow comparison to the existing literature from other countries. Our OBJECTIVE is to address this gap in knowledge in Vanuatu, a low-middle-income country in the South Pacific where we have conducted anthropological research on population health since 2007. We will rely on commonly used and validated surveys to measure mothers' psychosocial stress and related mental health measures during pregnancy. We will analyze relationships between maternal psychosocial stress and infants' birth outcomes, such as their birth weight and gestational age. This study will allow us to identify how the relationships between prenatal stress and birth outcomes in developing countries might differ from patterns seen in industrialized nations, and will promote more detailed studies in other developing countries.
Greksa, Dr. Lawrence P., Case Western Reserve U., Cleveland, OH - To aid research on 'Demography of a Natural Fertility Population Undergoing Social Change'
DR. LAWRENCE P.GREKSA, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, received funding in November 2002 to aid research on 'Demography of a Natural Fertility Population Undergoing Social Change.' The purpose of this study was to construct a data set which would facilitate examination of the demographic structure and fertility patterns, and particularly the impact of a transition away from farming to wage labor, in the fourth largest Old Order Amish settlement centered in Geauga County, Ohio. Most Amish settlements publish directories on a regular basis which contain substantial demographic information. In order to provide greater time-depth than previously available, data were combined from five directories for the Geauga Settlement spanning the period from 1973 to 2001, providing data on a total of 2729 families. In order to provide a larger context for evaluating Old Order Amish fertility, data on two related Anabaptist groups (Amish Mennonites and New Order Amish) -- both of which tend to be somewhat less conservative than the Old Order Amish -- were also compiled. In particular, the 2000 directory for Amish Mennonites provided data on 4188 families and the 1999 New Order Amish directory provided data on 1875 families. Preliminary analyses of the Old Order Amish data set suggest that the transition away from farming is associated with a small decrease in fertility.
Madimenos, Dr. Felicia, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY - To aid engaged activities on 'Engaging Shuar Communities Through Collaborative Health Education: Enhancing Participant Agency in Indigenous Health Research,' 2013, Morona-Santiago, Ecuador
DR. FELICIA MADIMENOS, Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, received an Engaged Anthropology Grant in February 2013 to aid 'Engaging Shuar Communities through Collaborative Health Education: Enhancing Participant Agency in Indigenous Health Research in Morona-Santiago, Ecuador.' Misinformation regarding the causes and prevention of illness/disease and miscommunication between local health care providers and patients present hurdles for the anthropologist/health researcher working in a non-Western context. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance for anthropologists to consciously bridge communication barriers by creating ample time for dialog with the participant and translating health data into an accessible form. The Engaged Anthropology Grant provided an opportunity to reconsider how the grantee conducts health research with indigenous Amazonian Shuar communities in Ecuador and achieved the following goals: 1) to develop family health days for participants permitting more individualized discussions of health (these meetings also created a platform for dissemination of population-specific health materials); 2) to facilitate a community-level workshop led by a Shuar colleague/health promoter that focused on family planning options; and 3) to participate in community-wide presentations that highlighted common health issues among Shuar and introduced potential health resources in the participants' own community. These platforms emphasize that in order for health information to remain relevant over the long-term, anthropologists must develop opportunities that empower communities by making accessible the knowledge and information necessary for participants to participate in, and affect informed decisions about their health.
Rosinger, Asher Yoel, U. of Georgia, Athens, GA - To aid research on 'Hydration Strategies, Nutrition, and Health During a Lifestyle Transition in the Bolivian Amazon,' supervised by Dr. Susan Tanner
ASHER Y. ROSINGER, then a student at University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, received a grant in April 2013 to aid research on 'Hydration Strategies, Nutrition, and Health during a Lifestyle Transition in the Bolivian Amazon,' supervised by Dr. Susan Tanner. Currently, many Amazonian populations are undergoing a period of rapid change in lifestyle through increased market participation and dietary changes, yet the search for clean water remains a critical problem facing many of these populations. The social sciences emphasize that when populations undergo lifestyle transitions, health, disease patterns, and body composition are affected. Lifestyle transitions may create a mismatch between hydration strategies and the nutritional landscape. This research found that Tsimane' have flexible hydration strategies that rely on their environment for water. Increased water intake from foods was associated with a decreased risk of diarrheal illness among adults, which may represent a nutritional adaptation to an environment with limited access to clean water. Tsimane' who lived in a market integrated community were significantly more dehydrated than Tsimane' living in a traditional community. These findings contribute to human biology theory by suggesting that lifestyle transitions may create conditions that increase vulnerability to dehydration among rural populations. Additionally, lactating women were significantly more dehydrated than non-lactating women controlling for environmental and lifestyle factors. This work illustrates the nutritional challenges lactating women face in stressful physical environments and raises evolutionary questions dealing with maternal buffering during chronic dehydration.
Rosinger, Asher. 2014. Water from Fruit or the River? Examining Hydration Strategies and Gastrointestinal Illness among Tsimane' Adults in the Bolivan Amazon. Public Health Nutrition. (Published Online, DOI 10.1017/s1368980014002158)
Rosinger, Asher. 2014. Dehydration among Lactating Mothers in the Amazon: A Neglected Problem. American Journal of Human Biology. (Published Online.DOI 10.1002/ajhb.22672)
DeCaro, Jason A., Emory U., Atlanta, GA - To aid research on 'The Social Ecology of Childhood Stress: Reactivity and Family Function in North Central Georgia, U.S.A.' supervised by Dr. Carol M. Worthman
JASON A. DECARO, while a student at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, was awarded a grant in November 2001 to aid research on the social ecology of childhood stress in north-central Georgia, U.S.A., under the supervision of Dr. Carol M. Worthman. DeCaro's research was designed to evaluate whether children's reactivity (physiological response to stress or arousal) during the transition from preschool to kindergarten was related to their parents' economic security; whether the 'routinization' of family life and stability in the social ecology of the home predicted children's reactivity during this transition; and whether the stability of children's social environment and their reactivity predicted functional outcomes. Ethnographic interviews with parents in forty-five metropolitan Atlanta families focused on work, finances, economic security, time management, and school and neighborhood choices and satisfaction. Prior to and following the transition into kindergarten, DeCaro collected saliva samples from children and parents three times a day for seven days, in order to test for levels of cortisol, a hormone of physiologic arousal. He also monitored children's heart rates during a puppet-based psychobehavioral interview. Parents were asked to track on hand computers their and their children moods, contexts, and experiences for seven days. Questionnaires covered children's behavioral and somatic symptomatology and preschool educational outcomes. Preliminary analysis suggested that cardiovascular response during a mild social challenge predicted the density of parents' schedules but that mothers' and fathers' types of 'busyness' had different effects on household ecology and on children's responses to experience. The study was expected to provide insights into the cultural construction of the 'work' of the family, which profoundly affects both the actual form and the perception of family life by family members and thus what precisely is 'stressful' about it.
DeCaro, Jason A. and Carol M. Worthman. 2006 Cultural Models, Parent Behavior, and Young Child Experience in Working American Families. Parenting: Science and Practice 7(2): 177-203.
Madimenos, Felicia Chrisafo, U. of Oregon, Eugene, OR - To aid research on 'Lifestyle and Reproductive Effects on Bone Mineral Density in an Ecuadorian Forager-Horticulturalist Population,' supervised by Dr. James Josh Snodgrass
FELICIA C. MADIMENOS, then a student at University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, received funding in April 2009 to aid research on 'Lifestyle and Reproductive Effects on Bone Mineral Density in an Ecuadorian Forager-Horticulturalist Population,' supervised by Dr. James Josh Snodgrass. Bone mineral density (BMD) is the primary diagnostic parameter of bone health and a predictor of future fracture risk. The mechanisms and life history trade-offs affecting bone integrity evolved under conditions quite different from those experienced by industrialized populations, yet minimal data on bone health are available from non-Western, subsistence populations. Such data are particularly important because people in subsistence-based populations have dietary, reproductive, and activity patterns more like those of our evolutionary past. Using calcaneal ultrasound, this study presents the first available data on bone health among the Shuar, an indigenous Ecuadorian Amazonian population, and non-Shuar colonists (colonos) from the same area. Results show that among colonos, BMD is positively correlated with the consumption of fish and greens but not other food categories. Among Shuar, no such relationship is found but BMD is negatively associated with greater ownership of market goods. Further analyses considering the effects of reproductive history show that in both populations multiparity provides a protective effect on BMD but this protection is lost with increased duration of lactation per child (> 24 months). The most protective effect on bone health is realized when mothers breastfeed multiple children for shorter durations.
Rowe, Elizabeth Jane, Temple U., Philadelphia, PA - To aid research on 'The Role of the Progesterone Receptor in the Menstrual Cycle,' supervised by Dr. L. Christie Rockwell
ELIZABETH JANE ROWE, then a student at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was awarded a grant in May 2008, to aid research on 'The Role of the Progesterone Receptor in the Menstrual Cycle,' supervised by Dr. L. Christie Rockwell. Much of the work in Physical Anthropology related to variation in women's reproductive function has been heavily focused on evolutionary models to explain the responsiveness of ovarian steroid production to ecological conditions. Underlying functionally significant, genetic variation that also likely impacts reproductive phenotypes has seldom been investigated. This project addressed this problem by investigating the impact of a common, functionally significant variant of the progesterone receptor gene on uterine function and the menstrual cycle among women in the Philadelphia area. Women who carried the variant differed from women who did not with regard to menstrual cycle characteristics. Furthermore, the variant was found to modify the impact of life history and ecological variables on both uterine function and the menstrual cycle. These findings indicate that genetic variation should be considered in future models for women's reproduction in Physical Anthropology. Additionally, uterine function and menstrual cycle characteristics did not reflect ovarian hormone levels, but instead were significantly predicted by ecological variables that indicated energetic status. These findings, coupled with results of other work, indicate that the uterus responds directly to environmental cues, and therefore suggest that it plays an active role in the maternal decision to commit resources to gestation.
DeCaro, Dr. Jason A., U. of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL - To aid research on 'Physical Activity and the Architecture of Daily Life among Alabama Mexican Americans: A Biocultural Investigation'
DR. JASON A. DeCARO, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was awarded funding in October 2007 to aid research on 'Physical Activity and the Architecture of Daily Life among Alabama Mexican Americans: A Biocultural Investigation.' Rising global obesity rates, and the historically limited effectiveness of behavioral interventions in addressing them, motivate the search for new understandings of biocultural and psychosocial determinants of physical activity. Physical activity occurs as a constituent of broader daily routines that are culturally constructed, complexly motivated, and socially constrained. Hence, daily routines may be viewed as a mechanism through which culture is progressively embodied across the life course, with body size and composition among the outcomes. In West Alabama, interviews, detailed daily activity diaries, 24-hour 5-day actigraphy (accelerometry), and BMI/body composition measurements were undertaken with 37 Mexican/Mexican-American young adults, including both recent non-student immigrants and college students. High agreement across subgroups regarding ideals for leisure-time physical activity intersect with profound intergroup and gender variation in beliefs and practices regarding the integration of physical activity into daily life. Further, the social context of physical activity moderates its relation to body size and composition. By combining biological, cultural, and behavioral data, it is possible to open new windows into embodiment as a biocultural process.
DeCaro, Jason. 2008. Return to School Accompanied by Changing Associations between Family Ecology and Cortisol. Developmental Psychobiology 50(2):183-195.
DeCaro, Jason. 2008. Culture and the Socialization of Child Cardiovascular Regulation at School Entry in the US. American Journal of Human Biology. 20(5):572-583.
De Caro, Jason. 2011. Changing Family Routines at Kindergarten Entry Predict Biomarkers of Parental Stress. International Journal of Behavioral Development 35(5):441-448.
DeCaro, Jason. 2012. Investigating the Social Ecology of Daily Experience Using Computerized Structured Diaries: Physical Activity among Mexican American Young Adults. Field Methods 24(3):328-347.