Neighborhood Stress and Physiology among Children Study (NSPAC)

In 2010 Dr. Theall and investigators at Tulane University and Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center partnered with local schools to gain insight on the associations between a variety of children’s health factors including obesity, oral health, food consumption, neighborhood stress and telomere length. In 2011, as follow up, the National Institutes of Health awarded an R01 research grant (R01ES020447, Theall) to further evaluate the quality of neighborhoods and neighborhood stress and how that affects children’s health in ways that may lead to health problems as an adult. The resulting Neighborhood Stress and Physiology among Children (NSPAC) project accomplished this by examining the association between various biomarkers and cumulative risk and/or stress exposure characterized at the individual, household, school and neighborhood levels. It also evaluated the validity of telomere length as a biomarker of Allostatic Load (AL), the mechanism in which stress gets “under the skin.” NSPAC has allowed us to better understand, develop, and expand translational strategies to address and monitor biological risk and its impact on health outcomes, and at an early point in the life course.
We are currently analyzing the impact of the food, physical activity and social (e.g., crime, social capital) environments on female children through both a national (NHANES) secondary study of adolescents (ages 12-20) and the NSPAC cohort in New Orleans. This project is in collaboration with the Prevention Research Center at Tulane University and other Tulane faculty.