Dr. Guadalupe X. Ayala is a professor of public health, senior core investigator with the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health, and co-director of the San Diego Prevention Research Center. Her work focuses on the development of family and community-based interventions to improve dietary behaviors, increase physical activity, and promote diabetes control among Latinos.
Dr. Ayala’s intervention studies are theory-based and culturally- and contextually-relevant. Most have resulted in improvements in health behaviors such as healthy eating and improvements in health status such as reductions in waist circumference. Below is a sampling of this research.
The Peers for Progress-funded Puentes hacia una major vida study is evaluating a diabetes peer support program to help adult Mexican/Mexican-Americans navigate the health care system, handle situations in their communities, and interact successfully at home – all with an eye toward managing and controlling their diabetes. Puentes is one of thirteen studies underway internationally to test models of peer support for diabetes. A forthcoming systematic review co-authored by Dr. Ayala in the research journal Diabetes Educator suggests a significant gap in our understanding of effective models of peer support.
Research has shown that Latino households are at greater risk for obesity and as a consequence developing cancer. In the American Cancer Society-funded Entre Familia: Reflejos de Salud, Dr. Ayala is testing a family intervention to promote healthy eating. This study was informed by a previous study, published in the research journal Obesity that determined that more time spent eating away from home could put children at higher risk for obesity. This included consuming foods at the homes of relatives, neighbors or friends.
Dr. Ayala’s programs involve the community. She works with grocery stores and restaurants on obesity prevention programs and evaluates whether these programs promote healthier food shopping and eating at restaurants. Her work extends to the Imperial County where she has established a strong partnership with Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, Inc, a federally qualified health center with locations spanning Riverside and Imperial County.
Among the projects she is currently most proud of is the Familias Sanas y Activas (FSA) study, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Prevention Research Center-funded research study. In the FSA study, a group of volunteer women were trained to be physical activity community health workers or promotoras, and then offered free exercise classes to the public. Close to 400 community residents agreed to have their health status tracked over a one year period to determine whether participation in the exercise classes improved their health. In a forthcoming paper in the American Journal of Public Health, Dr. Ayala and researchers and community partners of the San Diego Prevention Research Center, found that the FSA exercise classes resulted in significant improvements in community residents health, including decreases in blood pressure and waist size, and increases in flexibility and fitness. Symptoms of depression were also improved.
Dr. Ayala has been the recipient of $5.6 million in research funding. She has also served as co-principal investigator on awards totaling an additional $5.1 million. Her support comes from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UCSD, and the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation.
For further information, Dr. Ayala can be reached at 619-594-6686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Institute for Behavioral and Community Health (IBACH) was established in 1982 for the purpose of promoting research and academic programs relevant to the applications of behavioral science principles to public health. This interdisciplinary center includes a focus on community interventions and attempts to promote and foster active collaboration by researchers and practitioners from many different specialties and institutions, including Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, the University of California, Moores Cancer Center, San Ysidro Health Center, and Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, Inc. IBACH also provides important research experience to students who intend to pursue related careers and offers opportunities for project staff and graduate students to participate in community interventions.