Strategically Focused Research Network

Program overview


Young Native woman making a heart symbol with her hands

Our Strategically Focused Research Network Center, funded through the American Heart Association, addresses the contribution of racial discrimination, subsequent stress, increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and related discontinuities in care to the burden of CVD among urban American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs). 

The specific projects are supported by a long, productive history of collaboration among a large, nationwide network of AI/AN community partners. The scientific and training environments draw upon an extensive array of relevant professional, program, and institutional resources of the highest quality. The newly emerging collaborations promise to build upon, enhance, and broaden a research enterprise of growing importance to this and other underserved populations, especially racial and ethnic minorities.

Research network leaders


Joined by other colleagues in specific research and training roles, we represent a wide spectrum of disciplines, including medical anthropology, social psychology, cardiology, internal medicine, behavioral immunology, and endocrinology, as well as biostatistics, with extensive expertise in personality processes, vascular biology, treatment adherence and control, and translation/implementation science within cultural context.
NameTitle/OrganizationRole
Spero M. Manson, PhDDirector of the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, and Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Psychiatry, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (UCD/AMC)Training Component Lead
Irene Blair, PhDProfessor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado BoulderProject Director for the basic science project
Ed Havranek, MDProfessor and Director (Adult Component) at the Adult and Child Center for Health Outcomes Research and Delivery Science (ACCORDS), AMC/UCDProject Director for the clinical project
John Steiner, MD, MPHSenior Director of the Institute for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Colorado (KPCO), and Professor, School of Medicine, University of Colorado DenverProject Director for the population science project

Research projects


‚ÄčOur Center revolves around three interrelated projects focused on addressing racial discrimination, subsequent stress, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and related discontinuities in care to the burden of this condition among urban AI/ANs. These interdisciplinary projects also serve as excellent training vehicles for research fellows within and across the Center. 

A basic science study (Discrimination and Allostatic Load among AI/ANs, I. Blair, PI) looks at the links between repeated experiences of racism, increased allostatic load, chronic activation of the stress response, and accumulated effects on cardiovascular disease risk. 

A clinical science project (An Intervention to Increase Engagement with Hypertension Care for AI/AN Patients, E. Havranek, PI) evaluates a novel intervention to reduce the detrimental effects of negative, race-based stereotypes on AI/AN patients’ adherence to hypertension treatment and control. 

A population science project (Improving Hypertension Care of AI/ANs through Interactive Voice Response Technology, J. Steiner, PI) assesses the use of innovative, culturally informed health communication technologies to more fully engage urban AI/ANs in systems of care dedicated to treating their hypertension.

Network partners


Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health, drawing upon its 30-year history, coordinates activities within the university, between UIHO partners, across other SFRN Centers, and among national constituents. 

The School of Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is a major collaborator, largely through the Adult and Child Center for Health Outcomes Research and Delivery Science (ACCORDS), which serves as a center for healthcare professionals, researchers, and analysts to pool skills and talents to pursue health outcomes research and education. 

The Colorado School of Public Health is the first accredited School of Public Health in the Rocky Mountain west and has numerous ties to other schools and centers on campus, including the ACCORDS and CCTSI. 

The Colorado Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CCTSI) is supported by a NIH CTSA grant and provides a framework for collaborative career training and access to coursework, core laboratories, and clinical research facilities on the campus as part of one of the largest CTSA awards in the nation. 

Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Institute for Health Research (IHR) partners with its clinicians to develop, conduct, and translate high-quality research into practice and participates in numerous national research collaborations.

Denver Health is a comprehensive, integrated organization providing level-one care, regardless of patient ability to pay and is a collaborator with ACCORDS. 

Our work with Urban Indian Health Organizations (UIHOs) and national advocacy groups such as the Urban Indian Health Institute, National Council of Urban Indian Health, National Indian Health Board, and the National Congress of American Indians assures the scientific and program results will broadly impact cardiovascular disease disparities in this special population.