RWJF Health & Society Scholar:
Public Health, Social Demography
Area(s) of Expertise:
Black-White Disparities in Cardiovascular Disease, Black-White Disparities in Birth Outcomes, Stress and Black-White Health Disparities, Biological Mechanisms of Cardiovascular Disease and the Stress Process
Margaret Hicken received her doctorate in public health in May 2010 from the University of Michigan. Through her dissertation, she investigated the interactive role of social and environmental factors in black-white hypertension disparities. Using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), she found that black but not white Americans exhibit a positive association between blood lead and blood pressure, and that this disparity in the effect of lead is not due to higher levels of blood lead in black Americans. Rather, she found that psychosocial factors and social disadvantage explain the stronger effect.
As an RWJF Health & Society Scholar, Maggie explored two lines of interdisciplinary research in psychosocial factors and black-white health disparities. First, to build on her dissertation work on the interaction between social and environmental factors. Specifically, exploring the role of social disadvantage and psychosocial stress in heightened susceptibility to the harmful health effects of air pollution. Second, developing her empirical exploration into novel approaches to stress measurement in population surveys. Maggie is examining hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction through the resulting effects at its target sites in numerous ways including loss of cortisol-effect relation and DNA methylation.