Eastern Michigan University professor Tsu-Yin Wu receives major CDC grant to improve health disparities among Asian-Americans across Michigan.

An Asian-American family picks fresh vegetables from a garden.

YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University professor Tsu-Yin Wu has received a federal award of nearly $3 million to lead a broad effort to improve the health of Asian-Americans in Wayne and Kent counties in Michigan.

Tsu-Yin Wu headshot
Tsu-Yin Wu

Dr. Wu, a professor of nursing in Eastern’s College of Health and Human Services, will serve as principal investigator on a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and lead a team of co-investigators, including EMU faculty from Dietetics and Nutrition and Geography and Geology.

The award totals $593,306 per year for five years and is the only grant of its kind awarded this year to a university in Michigan. CDC has committed funds for year one, with subsequent years of funding based on EMU’s progress towards project goals.

The CDC notification letter noted the competitive nature of the process while welcoming Eastern to the broad national effort.

"Congratulations on being successfully funded to help CDC continue the important work of (its) Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH), and to work to improve the health of the communities you’ve chosen to serve as a part of this funding opportunity,” the letter reads in part. “We are very pleased to welcome you to the REACH family! It was a highly competitive application process, and unfortunately we were only able to fund a small percentage of the many qualified applicants."

The CDC-REACH award, one of a variety of awards Wu has received from federal and state agencies and private foundations in her career, involves working closely with the Asian Communities toward Innovative Visionary Environment (ACTIVE) Coalition in accomplishing a variety of objectives. Those include:

• Increasing access to healthy foods and improving nutrition standards.

• Improving connectivity to healthy food and physical activity, enhanced by geographic information system-based (GIS) technology.

• Implementing culturally tailored strategies to improve access to preventive health programs in order to reduce health disparities in this underserved Asian population.

Eastern Michigan is one of 31 national recipients the CDC REACH program is funding this year in its continuing goal of reducing health disparities among racial and ethnic populations with the highest burden of chronic disease such as hypertension, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

The EMU REACH team will develop, implement and evaluate culturally tailored interventions to address preventable risk behaviors such as tobacco use, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity among Asian Americans who were affected with heightened risks for diabetes and other chronic conditions.

In particular, the project will focus on underserved Asian-Americans in the two counties, specifically those with limited English proficiency and/or health literacy.

The ACTIVE Coalition members include a wide range of social, cultural and public health professionals with particular understanding of the state’s Asian communities.

Eastern is one of only two institutions in Michigan to receive such CDC REACH funding this year, and the only university institution. The EMU REACH program is the only one of 31 grantees solely focused on Asian American populations.

The EMU-CDC REACH team also includes:

Co-Principal Investigators:

Alice Jo Rainville, PhD, RD, CHE, SNS, FAND (Professor, Nutrition & Dietetics)

Olivia Ford, PhD, MPH, RD (Assistant Professor, Nutrition & Dietetics)

Xining Yang, PhD (Assistant Professor, Geography & Geology)

Program Manager/Communication Liaison:

Meriam Caboral-Stevens, PhD, RN, NP-C, FNYAM (Assistant Professor, Nursing)

Program Evaluator:

John Sonnega, PhD (Assistant Professor, Health Promotion & Human Performance)

Wu, who has done groundbreaking work in her native Taiwan, China and the Philippines, is familiar with helping Michigan Asian communities as well. In 2016, with a four-year grant from the federal Center for Medicare Services (CMS), Wu developed a Michigan navigator program for underserved Asian communities to obtain healthcare coverage as part of a tristate effort that included Ohio and Illinois.

Wu received her bachelor’s in nursing in Taiwan, and earned her master’s degree and doctorate and post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan.

She acknowledges her command of Chinese helps in her massive public outreach effort, although just as important in securing funding is her track record with various funding organizations and her personal commitment to the effort.

 “Within all these years of working in Asian communities, we saw health disparities in every level and aspect,” Wu said. “We are hoping this grant support can bring more resources to the underserved groups to keep them healthier by preventing modifiable risk factors and linking them to clinical care that they need.”

CDC REACH Grant kickoff event

The EMU REACH Team invites interested campus and community members to a kickoff event from 3-5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, at the EMU Student Center to learn more about the CDC REACH grant, to connect with Asian community leaders and have dialogue and discussion.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 19,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

November 28, 2018

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Media Contact:
Geoff Larcom