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Dr. Kentya Ford: Examining Behaviors of African American College Students

Dr. Kentya Ford

Dr. Kentya FordDr. Kentya Ford, assistant professor of health outcomes and pharmacy practice, is dedicated to developing courses that can help future pharmacists address the Healthy People 2020 goals to decrease healthcare disparities among underserved populations.

“Pharmacists are in community settings and patients have free access to pharmacists,” Ford explained. “If pharmacists have rapport with patients, if they understand how to communicate with patients, they can help explain how to prevent disease and manage disease.”

Ford is passionate about getting African Americans to quit smoking given the high rates of early mortality. Through National Institutes of Health and St. David’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research grants, she and an interdisciplinary research team will assess the incidence of cancer-related health risk behaviors and the role of culturally based social and environmental factors in the adoption of those behaviors among African American college students. The behaviors include risky sexual behavior, poor diet, tobacco use, alcohol use, physical inactivity — the five most cited behaviors that lead to cancer. The team also will examine family-related factors, peer influence, health literacy and mental health indicators that are associated with the adoption or avoidance of the five behaviors. The two-year longitudinal study will be conducted at Prairie View A&M University, a historically Black college.

Ford explained, “HBCUs provide a nurturing environment to a large percentage of our African American students, but there are still unique challenges the students face due to family influence, having families early, needing to work full time, financial challenges, and mental health indicators. These all play a role in the students’ potential for success even in that supportive environment.”

Ford said the initial NIH grant will help her advance this particular line of research to larger studies. “When you look at overarching health outcomes, we can help develop interventions to prevent negative risk behaviors and make a real difference in health outcomes,” she said.