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Current Research

VALES+Tú: Targeting Psycho-social Stressors to Reduce Latino Day Laborers Injury Disparities

Funded By:   National Institutes of Health

Even as the safety of US workers continues to improve overall, the safety of Latino workers, especially day laborers, continues to deteriorate. Latino day laborers (LDL) are predominantly Spanish monolingual immigrant workers who experience multiple psychosocial stressors, including situational and immigration stress that amplify their risk for injury at work. LDL look for work at informal hiring sites or “corners” where they get hired intermittently to do a variety of entry-level jobs whose shifting conditions expose them to multiple safety hazards. The most alarming consequence of this constant rotation across unpredictable, dangerous jobs is the high rate of job-related fatalities in this population. Despite the urgent need, there are no effective and rigorously tested safety programs, portable to the corner where LDL wait for work, to help them cope with stressors that increase their risk for workplace injury. Our project's main goal is to address this question: Can a corner-based safety program addressing the psycho social stressors confronted by LDL reduce their reported exposure to hazardous conditions at work? Our proposed project, VALES+Tú (You are worth/worthy of more) is a 5 year community-based participatory program developed in partnership with Latino day laborers whose pilot results provide evidence of increasing risk reduction practices and reducing hazardous exposures at work. We are proposing to implement a multilevel intervention delivered in Spanish by LDL promotores to their peers at the corners and to test the program's effectiveness in a cluster randomized trial. The central aims of the project are: (1) to determine the efficacy of VALES+Tú in reducing hazardous exposures at work, and (2) to determine the mediating effect of psychosocial stressors on the primary outcomes of VALES+Tú. All project activities will be done in collaboration with our community partner, the Fe y Justicia (Faith and Justice) Worker Center, and with guidance from our Community Advisory Board . The short-term goal of VALES+Tú is to reduce LDL workplace hazards by involving them in a corner-based safety program that effectively addresses seldom targeted situational and immigration stress that increase risky practices at work. Our long-term goal is to reduce the high injury rates among Latino day laborers. Mitigating safety risks among LDL is an urgent public health priority that can be addressed by taking effective, low-cost, preventive action.


Wearable, Real-Time Blood Alcohol Monitor Based on Non-enzymatic Chemistry

Funded By:   National Institutes of Health

Accurate and real-time blood alcohol monitoring has major implications for research on alcohol use and abuse, and for personal and public health. Intelligent Optical Systems (IOS) proposes to develop a wearable, minimally- invasive subdermal alcohol concentration (SubDAC) monitor based on specific but non-enzymatic detection. The SubDAC monitor will combine two key innovations to overcome the challenges faced by other wearable alcohol monitors: (1) a novel luminescent material developed by IOS under a contract with NASA for specific detection of alcohols, designed for the long-term stability requirements of space missions, and (2) a low-cost microneedle array for subdermal detection to minimize physiological lag time. IOS has recently developed highly specific luminescent sensor materials for volatile alcohol detection. The heart of a luminescent optical chemical sensor is the sensitive material, a polymer in which a specific luminescent indicator molecule has been immobilized. In response to a selective and reversible interaction between the target analyte (ethanol) and the indicator, the luminescence of the sensitive material undergoes a measurable change proportional to the analyte concentration. In these solid state sensors, there is no consumption of any reactant, and the sensor elements can last for years. In addition, IOS has developed a low-cost method of producing microneedle arrays using direct laser writing. The manufacturing technique is highly versatile, allowing for customization of microneedle geometry and mass production of microneedle arrays. In Phase I, we will optimize our sensor chemistry for sensitivity to physiologically relevant alcohol concentrations, incorporate this chemistry into a biocompatible polymer suitable for microneedle array formation, and demonstrate continuous alcohol detection in the target range in-vitro. In Phase II a wearable electronic device will be assembled, and in-vitro testing extended. Safety will be tested in animal models. An Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be obtained, and clinical studies will be initiated. The ultimate result of this work will be a discrete, wearable device, the size of a wrist watch or fitness tracker, capable of accurate, real-time blood alcohol concentration monitoring. The device will be marketed to individuals for quantifying short-term blood alcohol and tracking long-term behavior; it will be useful to researchers studying the epidemiology of alcohol abuse, and may have applications in court-mandated abstinence programs.