Professor receives award from NIH
The absence of a generation of age 60 and older Americans whose lives are cut short from cardiovascular and other preventable diseases is becoming far too often.
“My granddaughter, she is two. She’ll never meet my dad and she’ll never meet my husband, which was her grandfather,” assistant professor of Family Studies Sharon Jones-Eversley said. “They both died at 40 from cardiovascular-related disease.”
This epidemic has been steadily increasing throughout the United States. Jones-Eversley has been researching factors causing premature death.
Recently, Jones-Eversley was awarded the National Institutes of Health PRIDE award, which stands for Programs to Increase Diversity Among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research.
This prestigious award will help Jones-Eversley in analyzing cardiovascular disease and why certain zip codes, communities and families are more susceptible to premature death.
Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States, and is more prevalent in African Americans than any other ethnic or racial group.
Jones-Eversley and her family have experienced first hand the devastation of cardiovascular disease.
“I just decided I never want anyone to go through that pain,” she said. “My dad didn’t walk me down the aisle because he wasn’t here. My husband he wasn’t there when our granddaughter was born, and he wont walk my daughter down the aisle.”
Even though Jones-Eversley cannot change the past, she believes she is more than capable of changing the future.
Jones-Eversley is educating the public in prevention and intervention so others do not have to experience pain from premature death.
Her passion for her research has stemmed from her personal experiences and drives her to change the course of Americans behaviors and our concept of family.
The main goal of her research is to allow families to look at certain behavior and trends within multiple generations. Some behaviors have been noted as results of family’s environments and communities.
“Where you live is a better marker than your genetic code,” Jones-Eversley said.
In many low economic areas there is a lack of access for fresh foods, and available open space for physical activity in many low economic areas, she said.
The first step in seeing any improvement in the decline of premature death is becoming educated in your family’s history and locating any problems or patterns that may exist.
Jones-Eversley expresses the importance not only in talking to your family but doing it before it is too late, when the damage is already done.
“We only deal with families coming together as it relates to health and (by health) we are talking about end of life. We don’t come together as a family for a public health perspective and we aren’t talking prevention and intervention. It’s when we have to put mom in a home because of Alzheimer’s, it’s when someone is stage four prostate cancer, it’s after the stroke has occurred,” Jones- Eversley said.
Jones-Eversley’s research not only impacts our generation, but future generations.
“Everybody’s family wants the next generation to be better, but I’m saying why can’t the next generation also be healthier; not just smarter, not just technologically astute, but healthier. Healthy people make healthy decisions about what’s in their best interest,” Jones- Eversley said.
For the next generation to be better than the previous, it is important that there is a change in Americans lifestyles.
“I think we are moving fast and we definitely have technology and we are gaining so much with that, but we are not learning to rest, we’re not learning to take care of our bodies. I think we need some retooling and reeducation in some of those areas we are just failing in,” Jones-Eversley said.
Americans’ investment in their current health and wellness is key to preventing cardiovascular and other morbidities.
Jones-Eversley said some easy preventative measurers for cardiovascular diseases include drinking water, participating in 30 minutes of exercises every day and eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
Jones-Eversley is not only educating families from her research, but also giving them an opportunity to live longer healthier lives.