two older people walking

SPH Assistant Professor Manka Nkimbeng receives career development NIH grant to focus on immigrant health

Five-year grant to develop a dementia education program culturally tailored to Black immigrant older adults with dementia and their caregivers

Virgil McDill | December 6, 2022

As a researcher, University of Minnesota (U of M) School of Public Health (SPH) Assistant Professor Manka Nkimbeng’s passion is to be out in the community interacting with the people her work focuses on. 

“I’m a community researcher, so I am often out attending different churches, or spending time at various community organizations,” Nkimbeng said. “My work is with minoritized communities, and I’m always looking to gain expertise and find ways to work with the community to develop culturally relevant interventions and programs that can improve their health outcomes.”

Manka Nkimbeng
Dr. Manka Nkimbeng

With a new grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Nkimbeng and SPH researchers will be immersed in Black immigrant communities in the Twin Cities to explore how their cultural beliefs, values, customs, language, learning methods, and health care practices can be incorporated to improve care practices for Black immigrant older adults with dementia.

The study will be conducted in two phases. Phase one will explore the experiences and care strategies used by Black immigrant older adults with dementia and their caregivers. Researchers will use this information to assess how an existing program called Active Caregiving: Empowering Skills (ACES) can be culturally adapted for Black immigrant communities. In phase two of the study, researchers will determine the feasibility of implementing the culturally adapted ACES intervention for Black immigrant older adults with dementia and their caregivers. 

“We’re going to be out in the community asking people about their care practices. And then we’re going to present ACES to them and say, this is an education program that has been used successfully with other communities. We’ll discuss whether this is something that would work for them as care partners or people living with dementia. What doesn’t work? What can be changed to fit your own unique cultural context? What should be taken out? What should be added? How should it be delivered? Once we have those responses, we’re going to adapt the program, prepare a new protocol and then go out and test it.”

While research shows that culturally tailored interventions are more effective than generic health interventions, few efforts currently exist to culturally adapt dementia care and caregiving interventions for racial/ethnic minority populations. Also, when these efforts have been conducted, they have not been documented, and none of these adaptations have focused on Black immigrants — despite the fact that Black immigrants are a growing segment of the older adult population.

SPH researchers’ local partner for the study is African Career Education and Resources, Inc, a nonprofit based in Brooklyn Park. Immigrant communities in the study will include people from African and Afro-Caribbean nations.

Two SPH faculty will serve as co-primary mentors for the study: Professor Joseph Gaugler, who has extensive expertise in the development, implementation, and sustainability of community-based interventions for older adults with dementia and their caregivers; and Associate Professor Tetyana Shippee, a national expert in disparities in health outcomes over the course of one’s life.

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