2023 75 SBE

Using a Culturally-Sensitive Approach to Monitor Health Benefits of Reclaiming Nature

By: Jalena Zapanta, Charles Edward Forehand Holmes

Department: Biology

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Leticia Marquez-Magaña

BACKGROUND: Deaths from chronic diseases are disproportionately higher in communities of color. For individuals within these communities many studies show that they experience higher levels of chronic stress due to structural racism that limits access to the social determinants of health (e.g., green spaces). The inability to equitably access the social determinants of health has been linked to the embodiment of stress through biological processes, including cortisol dysregulation that will be measured in the project.

AIM: We aim to reduce embodied stress through increased access to a social determinant of health – access to physical activity in green spaces – by measuring cortisol levels in hair collected using a culturally-sensitive approach.

APPROACH: 250 participants from BIPOC communities who are of transitional age (18–26-year-old) will be recruited to participate in a “Nature Walk” for three months. The walks will take place in a private Redwood grove where participants are not likely to experience racism/discrimination by others. Following their participation in the “Nature Walks” (intervention group) or in campus gatherings (comparison group), hair will be collected for cortisol measurement. The hair will be subjected to organic extraction and its contents used in an ELISA-based assay to measure cortisol levels. Using hair to measure cortisol is culturally-sensitive and it will be collected by insider researchers to engender trust. In these ways we expect to increase recruitment and retention of participants.

EXPECTED RESULTS: We predict that the intervention groups exposed to “Nature Walks” will show reduced cortisol levels post-intervention compared to the comparison groups. We also expect participants to self-report improved well-being and restoration.

CONCLUSION/IMPLICATION: Measurement of cortisol levels using a culturally-sensitive approach will result in a rigorous analysis of how Reclaiming Nature affects embodied stress. It is expected to lead to the identification of a low-cost, low resource intervention for achieving health equity.