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Research & Discovery

A Blog Devoted to UD Innovation, Excellence and Scholarship

Promoting healthy behavior

by | October 16, 2019

Amy Bleakley's Research

ABOVE: UD Prof. Amy Bleakley is exploring communication strategies to encourage more diverse participation in Alzheimer’s disease studies. | Illustration by Jeffrey C. Chase

Communication research ranges from Alzheimer’s to adolescents

Amy Bleakley’s research runs the gamut from adolescents to Alzheimer’s disease, dental cavities to clinical trials, but she says the topics are not as different as they might appear.

“The common thread is the use of communication science to persuade people to engage in healthy behaviors,” said Bleakley, who joined the University of Delaware faculty for the 2019 fall semester as a professor of communication.

Two of her current research projects are funded by grants totaling more than $9 million from the National Institutes of Health.

The newer of the grants was awarded Sept. 1 by the National Institute on Aging to Bleakley and her co-principal investigator, Jessica Langbaum of Banner Health Research Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, for a five-year project related to the study of Alzheimer’s disease. The goal of the research is to find ways to increase participation — and particularly diversity of participation — in brain health registries that feed into clinical studies of the disease.

Banner operates registries of healthy adults who volunteer for possible participation in clinical trials examining Alzheimer’s, focusing on the search for ways to prevent the disease. Bleakley is also working with the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Memory Center, which conducts Alzheimer’s research.

Although hundreds of thousands of people have signed up to be part of possible clinical trials, some 80 percent of those volunteers are white women.

“Obviously, we need more diversity among participants in order to conduct research that reflects the population,” Bleakley said. “The objective of our project is to understand how to effectively communicate the importance of prevention-trial participation to men and diverse groups so that they’ll sign up in greater numbers.”

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