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March 16, 2016
National Consortium on Psychosocial Stress, Spirituality, and Health

ohn Templeton Foundation Awards $6.5 million to Harvard/MGH Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations, and Health Disparities.

The Harvard / MGH Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations, and Health Disparities, directed by Alexandra E. Shields, is pleased to announce its recent $6.5M award from the John Templeton Foundation to support the creation of the National Consortium on Psychosocial Stress, Spirituality, and Health. This Consortium will pursue cutting edge research on the mechanistic pathways through which psychosocial stressors contribute to the etiology of highly prevalent diseases (e.g., hypertension, cardiovascular disease) that disproportionately affect poor and minority communities via methylation analyses of stress-related and serotonergic genes and telomere attrition. We will also investigate the potential impact of spirituality, religious coping, social support, and other positive factors that may buffer the adverse biological impact of stress on the body, and contribute to resiliency and health.


This Consortium brings together Principle Investigators from the Black Women’s Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study IIMASALA, the Strong Heart Study, the Jackson Heart Study, and the University of Chicago Cohort of Patients, Family, and Friends to form a large, diverse cohort of 5,000 African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, South Asians, and white women. The resulting Consortium Cohort will constitute a unique national resource for studies addressing the intersection of psychosocial stress, racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities, and positive mediating resources for resiliency. Spirituality is a particularly salient cultural influence in Black, Latino, South Asian, and Native American communities, and our research will be the first large-scale, national project to rigorously assess the relationship of religion and spirituality to health across many racial/ethnic groups within a biologically-meaningful framework.

Our project will generate several public use resources to support disparities-focused psychosocial research in the future, including an online database of all psychosocial and religion/spirituality measures ever collected by leading U.S. cohorts to facilitate collaboration across cohorts. We will also be making recommendations, based upon our empirical research, regarding which measures of religion and  spirituality appear to have particular biological resonance and thus may be important to collect going forward. Our goal is to generate new insights into the mechanisms underlying the etiology of disease, and persistent racial/ethnic disparities in the burden of chronic illness.


For more information, please contact Anna Schachter, Program Manager, at or phone: 617-724-9915. 

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