Breanna Magpantay is a senior pursuing a major in social work and a minor in political science. Magpantay worked with Margarita Terán-Garcia, an extension specialist in Hispanic Health Programs at the University of Illinois Extension and a research assistant professor with appointments in the Carle Illinois College of Medicine and the College of ACES. Magpantay also worked closely with Oluwatosin Akingbule (Tosin), a PhD student in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, who is involved with Prof. Terán-Garcia’s project, Abriendo Caminos. While originally a partner on this project, Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD) had to shift its focus to serving the needs of our community amid a pandemic.
With limitations on in-person activities, Magpantay and her mentors explored ways to advance research on culturally sensitive lifestyle interventions for underserved communities. They chose to do some foundational work to explore the needs of African immigrant communities. Magpantay conducted a literature review to better understand why hypertension rates are lower among recent African immigrants compared to African Americans or African immigrants who have lived in the US for more than five years. Her findings will provide useful information that will assist in the development of obesity prevention intervention for recent African immigrant families. Terán-Garcia explained how this project builds on the work she has done with Abriendo Caminos. “This work is helping us to widen our cultural understanding of dietary patterns towards the goal of using precision nutrition to prevent chronic metabolic conditions and reach health equity.”
Though she was new to research when she first joined the project, Magpantay embraced the opportunity to make a difference, even though it came with challenges. “This program definitely abides by the saying, ‘You get what you put into it,’” Magpantay said. “There was a lot of learning I had to do in the beginning and thankfully, I had my wonderful PhD student mentor, Oluwatosin, helping me with the entire process.”
Akingbule saw how the scholar went above and beyond the literature review project. “I was impressed by how Breanna was upfront with suggestions on how to better serve the African families. She explored resources available in the community to assist families with improved dietary patterns.” Akingbule shared that the scholar also got involved with helping to design the flyer to recruit African families for focus groups.
Magpantay credits her mentors and other involved with the program for such a rich experience. “I learned a lot about myself, more about the research process and types of research from the keynote speakers we had, and how valuable the information I have collected can be towards helping underserved populations and those in need.”
Breanna remains dedicated to this work, indicating an interest being involved with analyzing data from the focus group interviews, and possibly more. "This program has helped me identify the needs of the African immigrants and has challenged me to come up with new ways to help this community in the future.”
Learn more about the project by watching Breanna's Magpantay's research lighting talk.