News

Sociology and health policy scholar Tyson Brown has been named the inaugural Presidential Fellow by Duke President Vincent E. Price. The one-year, part-time fellowship is designed to prepare promising mid-career faculty members for future leadership roles and to engage them in the administration of the university. Brown is associate professor of sociology, director of the Center on Health & Society, and a DUPRI Scholar. His research explores connections between social and health inequities. Most recently he has focused on identifying the structural and psychosocial mechanisms behind disparities in the health of older Americans.
DUPRI is pleased to announce a recent NICHD R25 award (1R25HD105602) to a consortium of several population research centers, including the Duke Population Research Center, to fund NextGenPop (Recruiting the Next Generation of Scholars into Population Research). This program will use the pressing growth of inequality as a lens for studying population composition and change, with the goal of increasing the pipeline of undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds into the population sciences.  It has three specific aims: 1) to introduce advanced undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds to foundational demographic concepts and tools; 2) to integrate students’ training in research and professional development; 3) to foster ongoing engagement of program participants in population research and allied fields.
Matthew Dupre (PI) and Scott Lynch (Co-I) were recently awarded $2 million from NIH for an R01 study that will integrate risk trajectories and social determinants to enhance cardiovascular risk assessment in older adults. Funded by the National Institute on Aging, the study is a collaborative effort among faculty from the Department of Sociology, Population Health Sciences, School of Nursing, and the University of Texas Southwestern.
Anna Gassman-Pines, WLF Bass Connections associate professor of public policy, psychology and neuroscience and DUPRI Scholar has received an award from the American Psychological Association (APA.) It is the Mid-career Award for Outstanding Contributions to Benefit Children, Youth and Families.
Most of us remember a time when we could eat anything we wanted and not gain weight. But a new study suggests your metabolism -- the rate at which you burn calories -- actually peaks much earlier in life, and starts its inevitable decline later than you might guess. These findings were published Aug. 12 in the journal Science. “There are lots of physiological changes that come with growing up and getting older,” said study co-author, DUPRI’s  Herman Pontzer, associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University. “Think puberty, menopause, other phases of life. What's weird is that the timing of our ‘metabolic life stages’ doesn't seem to match those typical milestones.” Pontzer and an international team of scientists analyzed the average calories burned by more than 6,600 people ranging from one week old to age 95 as they went about their daily lives in 29 countries worldwide.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a serious and prolonged public health emergency. Older adults have been at substantially greater risk of hospitalization, intensive care unit admission and death due to COVID-19. As of February 2021, over 81% of COVID-19-related deaths in the US occurred in people over the age of 65. Growing evidence  from around the world suggests that age is the greatest risk factor for severe COVID-19 illness and for the experience of adverse health outcomes. Effectively communicating health-related risk information requires tailoring interventions to the needs of older adults.
Despite overall improvements in health and living standards in the Western world, health and social disadvantages persist across generations. Using linked nationwide administrative databases for 2.1 million Danish citizens across multiple generations, DUPRI’s Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt together with Leah Richmond-Rakerd at the University of Michigan and Signe Hald Andersen, Rockwool Foundation Research Unit, Denmark,  leveraged a unique three-generation approach to test whether different health and social disadvantages—poor physical health, poor mental health, social welfare dependency, criminal offending, and Child Protective Services involvement—were transmitted within families and whether education disrupted these associations.
Taken together, the bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes that live in our intestines form the gut microbiome, which plays a key role in the health of people and animals. In new research from Duke University, the University of Minnesota, and  the University of Notre Dame scientists found that genetics nearly always plays a role in the composition of the gut microbiome of wild baboons. In the study published recently in Science under the leadership of Jenny Tung and collaborators at Duke, UNM and Notre Dame, reserachers discovered that most bacteria in the gut microbiome are heritable after looking at more than 16,000 gut microbiome profiles collected over 14 years from a long-studied population of baboons in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. However, this heritability changes over time, across seasons and with age. The team also found that several of the microbiome traits heritable in baboons are also heritable in humans.
Special diets, exercise programs, supplements and vitamins -- everywhere we look there is something supposed to help us live longer. Maybe those work: human average life expectancy has gone from a meager 40-ish years to a whopping 70-something since 1850. Does this mean we are slowing down death? A new study published in Nature comparing data from nine human populations and 30 populations of non-human primates says that we are probably not cheating the reaper. The researchers say the increase in human life expectancy is more likely the statistical outcome of improved survival for children and young adults, not slowing the aging clock.
The NIA supported Animal Models Research Network  under the leadership of Jenny Tung, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Biology at Duke University, Alessandro Bartolomucci, Associate Professor of Integrative Biology and Physiology at University of Minnesota, and Kathleen Mullan Harris,  James E. Haar Distinguished Professor of Sociology at UNC, has recently selected its 2021-2022 cohort of Bruce McEwen Career Development Fellows. These awards support outstanding junior scientists with high potential to advance the use of animal models or comparative approaches to understand the social determinants of health and aging.