As recipient of a five-year Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to Promote Diversity (K01)from the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Yessenia Castro is conducting research to examine social, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and cultural determinants of smoking cessation in minority and underserved populations. Dr. Castro’s career goal as an independent investigator in an academic environment is to develop a program of research focused on understanding culturally relevant influences of cancer risk behaviors, with a particular focus on smoking among Latinos. Such a program could improve smoking cessation interventions tailored for or targeted at Latinos, and ultimately aid in eliminating health disparities among this population.

Dr. Castro’s K01 study seeks to address the paucity of existing research addressing the mechanisms underlying smoking cessation among Latinos. Research in addictions and health behavior has identified a number of individual-level factors that are key determinants of smoking cessation including social/environmental, inter-/intrapersonal, and cognitive/affective factors. Emerging research suggests that many of the known determinants of smoking cessation may be of equal importance to minority smokers, but more research is needed in this area.

Further, with the exception of data addressing the influence of acculturation on smoking prevalence, almost nothing is known about the effect of acculturation and other culturally relevant variables (e.g., acculturative stress, perceived discrimination) on the process of smoking cessation. Thus, Dr. Castro will utilize data from three longitudinal studies of Latino smokers to examine the impact of culturally relevant factors on mechanisms of smoking cessation. The ultimate goal of her study is to develop and evaluate a comprehensive conceptual model linking cultural factors to mechanisms of smoking cessation that is informed by previous work addressing the impact of culture on mental and physical health, socioeconomic status influences on health, and theories of addictive behaviors. Additionally, her study will evaluate specific, fine-grained hypotheses using data collected with state-of-the-science ecological momentary assessment techniques.

Public Health Relevance

Although Latinos are less likely to smoke, they exhibit more difficulty quitting, are less likely to seek or receive help with quitting, and are at high risk of developing tobacco related chronic illnesses. Further, very little is known about the determinants of smoking cessation among Latinos, or how factors specific to minority status influence determinants of cessation. Advancing knowledge in these areas would help to identify treatment targets, improve current smoking cessation interventions, and ultimately aid in eliminating tobacco-related health disparities among Latinos.

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health – National Cancer Institute (K01 CA157689)