“I am honored to have received funding from the Doris Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research for this important project in community health. I feel very grateful and fortunate for the opportunity to contribute to women’s health research and fulfill the Howell Foundation’s mission of “Keeping the Women We Love Healthy.”
Edna Esquer is the 2020 Howell Award in Nursing (USD) Scholarship Recipient. She was born and raised in the Mexicali – Calexico, along the US-Mexican border. In 2002, she received her Master’s Degree in the Science of Nursing and completed her Family Nurse Practitioner Board Certification with a sub-specialty in Latino Health Care at the University of San Diego. After some years, she returned to her Alma Mater USD Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science where she is currently pursuing her PhD in Nursing Science.
For almost 25 years, Ms. Esquer has been dedicating her efforts in working with the medically under-served population in Imperial and in San Diego Counties. Ms. Esquer, Family Nurse practitioner is currently working at a Mexican border community clinic in the city of Calexico, California.
“The Imperial county population is affected by multiple health care challenges. As a family nurse practitioner, I encounter patients with alarming rates of obesity, high blood pressure, abnormal levels of cholesterol, impaired fasting glucose, prediabetes conditions; all conducive to cardiometabolic risk factors, and all affecting the community health of the area.”
Her dissertation research on Metabolic Syndrome in Hispanic Women will focus on looking at the relationship of metabolic risk factors, health behaviors, chronic stressors and psycho-social support, looking specifically at the social determinants of health that adversely might affect the well-being of middle- aged Hispanic women living in a US/Mexico border community.
In her research review of literature, Ms. Esquer cites eye-opening statistics. “The national data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows an overall metabolic syndrome prevalence of 42% among Mexican-American women 35-55 years of age, the highest rate compared to non-Hispanic blacks and whites (Moore JX, et al. 2017 CDC).”
For Ms. Esquer, her research dissertation work is about external health behaviors shaping the health of Hispanic women in the community. It’s a matter of public health in a sector of the population that has grown exponentially to become the nation’s largest ethnic minority group. “Typically, we see all the components that lead to metabolic syndrome in young and middle-aged women. What I have encountered in my clinical practice is that clinical manifestations are starting at an early age among Hispanic females. The potential risks, mainly heart attack or a stroke are concerning.” Preventive health care measures become a critical component among this understudied population.
The health of Hispanic Women in the Community
According to the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (2014) metabolic syndrome prevalence was present in 36% of Hispanic women of whom 96% were obese. Additionally, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity risk disparities among middle-aged Hispanic women have been linked to their high rate of metabolic syndrome. Little is known about the additional contributions of chronic stress, social support and health behaviors to the occurrence of metabolic syndrome among this population.”
Ms. Esquer is analyzing different external variables to search for potential causes in the increase of metabolic syndrome in Hispanic women aged 35 – 55. She is looking for causes or associations between the development of metabolic syndrome, and chronic stress, psycho-social stressors — such as food insecurity, family safety, and high-risk health behaviors – to determine if there is a correlation between these factors and the alarming increase of Metabolic Syndrome cases in Hispanic Women of such a younger age.
“The retrospective cohort study design will utilize approximately 150 patient cases from the past year. The case data will be obtained from clinic electronic medical records (EMR). Descriptive and inferential statistics will be used to address the study’s objectives.”
Ms. Esquer is also a lecturer at her Alma Mater University of San Diego, and she has served as clinical preceptor of multiple advanced practice nursing students where she assists nurse practitioner students to fulfill their educational requirements.
“Nurses play a pivotal role in the care of women’s health, including the under-represented women in our community”, comments Dean Jane Georges. “The ability to provide funding for graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds only strengthens the bridge between the latest research and the community it’s meant to serve. It closes the gap by making the most recent research available to underrepresented communities.”
Her intervention couldn’t come at a better time. “As you know, COVID has hit the Hispanic population tremendously, launching a community health crisis. We all know, for example, the negative outcome of obesity in a COVID diagnosis. It is concerning that, in addition to the potential risks derived from metabolic syndrome, Hispanic women are twice as likely to get diagnosed with COVID.”
Ms. Esquer professional goal as an advanced practice nurse scientist is to successfully apply her nursing clinical research expertise, educational knowledge and dissemination of research findings to improve the health care needs and well being of Imperial county Hispanic Women.
Throughout her career, Esquer has focused her efforts working as a Clinical Research practitioner conducting multiple research clinical studies sponsored by Scripps Health, the California Endowment and the National Institute of Health. The main population target involved in the studies were patients affected by chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
She hopes that her research work can help educate women about the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. “One thing is certain: the present epidemic among Hispanic women will not improve unless research evidence regarding the factors contributing to metabolic syndrome becomes readily available for this fast-growing segment of the population.”
About the Howell Foundation:
The Howell Foundation advances women’s health by funding undergraduate and graduate research scholarships, awarding grants to scientists who conduct research benefiting under represented women in the community, and supporting outreach efforts and events that promote health education and self-advocacy for the long-term health and well-being of women, their families and the community in which they live.