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Athens professor hypothesizes stress and diabetes link

ATHENS — An Athens State University professor is exploring whether black people’s self perception leads to more stress which leads to diabetes.

Malcolm Cort, assistant professor of sociology, said blacks have a high incidence of type II diabetes.

Cort is studying whether there is a connection between blacks and their own acceptance of stereotypes that produces stress, and initiates an accumulation of abdominal fat associated with heart disease and type II diabetes.

He said researchers contend the acceptance of those stereotypes is internalized racism and a form of demoralized self-worth.

Potential effect

“This study has a powerful potential in that it postures an interdisciplinary blending of sociology and medicine, the investigation of the power of a population’s own self-perception as a factor determining an important aspect of that population’s health,” Cort said. “This could have a strong impact in many areas of research.”

Researchers are collecting sample data from populations within the United States and Caribbean Islands and comparing it with data collected from select locations in Africa.

A $1 million grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, a division of the National Institute of Health, is funding the project. This grant is in its second year of a supported four-year period.

Cort is collaborating with Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina on the research project, and they will present their findings in 2009.

He traveled to Zimbabwe in 2003 for a previous phase of the project.

Last summer he traveled to Swaziland, where he will return next summer to continue gathering data. He said Swaziland is one of a few locations not marred by apartheid or influenced by oppressive colonization.

Cort will integrate his findings into Athens State’s curriculum by teaching a course called “Sociology and Health and Illness” in fall 2007.

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