Project HEART (Health and Resilience in Teens)

Principal investigators: Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., and Jo Lynne Robins, Ph.D.

Project HEART (Health and Resilience in Teens) is a collaboration between the Prevention Research Lab (directed by Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., right) and Jo Lynne Robins, Ph.D., left, in the VCU School of Nursing. The goal of Project HEART is to understand linkages between cumulative risk – the piling up of sociodemographic and psychosocial stressors – and physiological well-being, specifically allostatic load and cardiometabolic risk.

Robins and Kliewer received funding from the VCU Presidential Quest Research Fund to conduct Project HEART, which provided pilot data for a larger federal grant application. The Project HEART team conducted home interviews with 100 low-income African American dyads - biological mothers and their adolescent son or daughter aged 13-16. The team obtained data on risk and protective factors, family dynamics, and psychological adjustment from separate interviews with mothers and adolescents, and collected physiological data from all participants, but an extensive physiological assessment (including a blood draw) from half of the sample.

Objectives of Project HEART:

1. Examine associations between cumulative risk (sociodemographic, psychosocial factors) and allostatic load (physiological factors) among low-income African American adolescents;

2. Quantify associations between maternal and adolescent allostatic load;

3. Examine interactions between adolescent cumulative risk and maternal allostatic load on adolescent allostatic load (i.e., to examine whether a high maternal allostatic load exacerbates associations between adolescent cumulative risk and allostatic load); and

4. Identify individual and family factors that attenuate or exacerbate the association between cumulative risk and allostatic load.

Students from the Kliewer Prevention Lab were trained to conduct home interviews using CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing) software with either a mother or an adolescent and also take blood pressure, waist circumference, height and weight measurements. Nursing staff drew participants' blood and took blood pressure, waist circumference, and height and weight measurements.

Data collection was completed in January 2016.