U.S. Latinos are 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than non-Hispanic whites. Latinos also develop symptoms of the brain illness earlier, are diagnosed at later stages and are less likely to be treated for it, although they live longer than whites.

Despite those statistics, Latinos represent less than 1% of the participants in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease. To increase health literacy among Latinos about the illness, a researcher is launching a new initiative.

Luis D. Medina, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston (UH), will use a $2.35 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to build the Engaging Communities of Hispanics for Aging Research Network.

“There are various barriers to getting involved in research, including health literacy or what people actually know about Alzheimer’s disease,” said Medina in a statement. “In the Hispanic/Latino communities, it is often thought of as just a part of aging.”

The network will launch in Houston and Denver. From those cities, the project is planned to expand to Las Vegas. The goal is to create a template for other cities.

The first step will be to immerse community stakeholders in learning about Alzheimer’s disease, which will then be followed by community members educating the trainers on how to speak to their communities.

Assisting Medina on the project are Steven Woods, a UH professor of psychology, and Jennifer Vardeman, a UH associate professor of communication.

The project is being conducted in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas.

“This is about lifting all of us up and improving brain health,” said Medina. “The more representative our research samples are the better we can understand the disease.”