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Grant Aims to Help Improve Depression in Elderly Latinos

Grant Aims to Help Improve Depression in Elderly Latinos
Maria Aranda, associate professor at the USC School of Social Work

Maria Aranda, associate professor at the USC School of Social Work, was awarded a $452,442 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to examine the implementation of structured psychotherapy and supportive depression care management in adult health care, the first known study of its kind.

The two-year grant will fund research that aims to compare the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of adding individually administered problem-solving therapy to usual care as an approach for treating depression in elderly Latinos enrolled in adult health care.

Problem-solving therapy is a skill-enhancing behavioral depression treatment based on the assumption that life problems cause and maintain depressive symptoms, and through the systematic identification and management of these problems, depression symptoms decrease. This type of psychotherapy is especially effective for late-life depression.

The randomized behavioral trial will include 90 Latino adult health care patients who meet diagnostic criteria for major depression. All patients will receive usual care for treating major depression, and half the subjects in the study will be randomly assigned to receive problem-solving therapy from a social worker functioning as a depression care specialist.

“I’m exuberant that we finally have the opportunity to implement rigorous research methods to the treatment of geriatric depression,” Aranda said. “This is something that is so sorely needed in this community and with this population in particular. We need to go beyond providing depression care as business-as-usual. This study will allow us to develop, modify and refine depression care in a way that is congruent with the social ecology of the participant and the family system.”

Epidemiological research indicates that older Latinos have up to double the rates of clinically significant depression in comparison to both whites and blacks in similar population-based studies.

The study is being conducted in partnership with AltaMed Health Services Corp., the largest provider of adult day health care services in the United States, and site lead Marie Torres, MSW ’78, PhD ’95.

Kathleen Ell and Larry Palinkas, professors from the School of Social Work, are co-investigators of the study.

Grant Aims to Help Improve Depression in Elderly Latinos

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