By Josh Grossberg

USC researchers and their partners across Los Angeles County have been awarded an $11 million grant to fund research on community-based interventions to reduce the higher rates of stroke and death from stroke among economically disadvantaged Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

Amytis Towfighi

Amytis Towfighi

The Los Angeles Stroke Prevention/Intervention Research Program in Health Disparities is a multi-partnered research center, funded by the National Institutes of Health. The center, led by Barbara Vickrey, professor of neurology at UCLA, will conduct two randomized, controlled community-based trials of stroke prevention interventions.

Amytis Towfighi, assistant professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and associate chief medical officer of Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, will co-lead the larger trial in the five-year study.

“The reason we’re targeting this population is because minorities are at high risk for stroke and are less likely to receive appropriate stroke preventive services than whites,” Towfighi said. “We plan to bridge this gap.”

Towfighi’s effort, Secondary Stroke Prevention by Uniting Community and Chronic Care Model Teams Early to End Disparities (SUCCEED), is a randomized controlled trial of an intervention that teams community health workers with physicians and care managers at Los Angeles medical centers serving low-income populations.

“The community health workers will serve as a liaison between patients and the health care system; will target patients’ lifestyle habits, self-management skills and medication adherence; and will assess for social isolation and depression,” Towfighi said. “The overall goal is to improve risk factor control among individuals who have had a stroke or transient ischemic attack.”

Commonly known as a “mini-stroke,” a transient ischemic attack refers to the temporary disturbance of the blood supply to the brain, which often results in a sudden and brief reduction in brain function.

Nerses Sanossian, assistant professor of neurology at the Keck School, is a co-investigator on the trial.

The study is partnering with multiple local community organizations, including Healthy African American Families, Watts Labor Community Action Committee, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, the Worker Education & Resource Center, and the American Heart Association, among others. A central component of the entire center will be the creation of a Community Action Panel made up of individuals encompassing much of the racial and ethnic diversity of Los Angeles.

This panel will formally and regularly review and advise on the work in progress and products of the center overall, promote ways to effectively disseminate the work in the targeted communities and provide feedback to investigators at every stage of the research. An annual symposium also will be held to engage and foster the sharing of knowledge between community members and academic investigators in Los Angeles.