Adriana Perez, PhD, ANP-BC, FAAN
Promoting physical activity among older Latinos with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a public health priority.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), the pre-dementia stage of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), increases the risk of developing AD and related dementias (ADRD). The number of Latinos living with AD is expected to reach 3.5 million by 2060, an increase of over eight-fold, which underscores the need for interventions to slow disease progression.
There is strong evidence that increasing physical activity reduces risk of cognitive decline among previously sedentary individuals. As one of the most sedentary older racial/ethnic groups, older Latinos experience multi-level barriers to physical activity, including cost, environmental factors, safety concerns, and lack of social networks. Few physical activity interventions are designed for older Latinos with MCI and the population remains underrepresented in clinical trials.
“Physical activity can be a powerful tool for reducing chronic disease risk factors, including cognitive decline. Designing interventions that center the needs of older Latinos, in partnership with community organizations and leaders, is necessary to advance cognitive health equity.”
- PhD, Arizona State University, 2009
- MS, Arizona State University, 2004
- BS, Arizona State University, 2000
Advancing social justice and health equity has been central to Dr. Perez’s teaching, research, and practice. She served as Principal Investigator for 1 of 13 grants funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, Partnerships to Increase Coverage in Communities initiative, as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This project used a train-the-trainer model in partnership with the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) and prepared approximately 100 bilingual NAHN members and students to lead community workshops in 15 states with the largest Latino uninsured populations. The project provided a platform for nurses to hone their leadership skills to reach more than 6,000 uninsured individuals and families, including seniors who were interested in learning more about expanded Medicare benefits through the ACA. For the last 7 years, Dr. Perez has served as consultant for The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Steering Committee, who’s mission includes promoting health equity and addressing systemic and institutional racism and other inequities for historically marginalized populations.
Dr. Perez teaches Leadership Development in Health Care (NURS748) in the DNP program and has been acknowledged by Penn Nursing’s Graduate Student Organization with the Outstanding Nurse Educator Award. She has developed Social Justice sessions for ABSN students to foster dialogue and activate actions that address structural racism and advance health equity as students prepare to become nurses in today’s world. She is energized by Penn Nursing students and enjoys teaching, mentoring, and learning from them.
Dr. Perez’s research is focused on the influence of multi-level factors on physical activity, cardiovascular health, cognitive health, and sleep among Spanish-speaking older Latinos with ADRD. She is a Scientist at the Center for Improving Care Delivery for the Aging (CICADA), Penn’s Resource Center for Minority Aging Research (RCMAR), funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Her research is grounded in practice, as a board-certified Adult Nurse Practitioner at Mercy LIFE, she provides community-based long-term care for diverse, frail elders who reside in North Philadelphia.
Tiempo Juntos por Nuestra Salud: A Community-Based Physical Activity Intervention for Spanish Speaking Latinos
This 4-year R01, funded by the NIA (#1R01OD031698), tests a Spanish-language, community-based intervention aimed at increasing physical activity and improving cardiovascular health, cognitive health, and sleep quality among Latinos 55 years and older with MCI. Tiempo Juntos por Nuestra Salud (Time Together for Our Health) builds on an interdisciplinary team’s research in partnership with multicultural health centers and community advisory board. Guided by a socio-ecological framework, this Stage III randomized controlled trial (RCT) includes multi-level strategies: empowerment education for behavior change and individual motivation, social support networks, and cultural and community resources for safe walking led by Community Health Promoters.
Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing
Dr. Perez moved from Arizona to Philadelphia to join the Penn Nursing faculty in 2015. At Penn, she has the opportunity to strengthen her work so that it has a greater impact and is more sustainable across diverse communities across the United States. As faculty member of the NewCourtland Center for Transitions of Health and Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, she is focused using her research to advance health policies in Latino communities.
Selected Career Highlights
- Principal investigator, funded by NIH/National Institute on Aging regarding A Physical Activity Intervention to Promote Cognitive Health, Cardiovascular Health and Sleep in Older Latinos
- Family & Community Health Department Research Award, University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing
- Outstanding Nurse Educator Award, University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing
- Senior Service America Senior Scholar Award for Research Related to Disadvantaged Older Adults, Gerontological Society of America
- Past Chair, Public Policy Committee, National Association of Hispanic Nurses
- Congressional Health and Aging Policy Fellow, Funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Principal Investigator, “Hispanic Nurses Educating Multicultural Communities on the Affordable Care Act,” funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health
- Chair-Elect, American Academy of Nursing Expert Panel on Aging
- Winner, Leadership in Action Award – Arizona Action Coalition
- Fellow, Gerontological Society of America
- Fellow, American Academy of Nursing
Perez, G.A., Mertz, L., & Brassard, A. (2019). A literature scan and framework of a diverse nursing workforce and its effect on the social determinants of health. Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action at the Center to Champion Nursing in America. Washington, DC.
*Brody, A.A., Bryant, A.L., Perez, G.A., & Bailey, D.E. (2018). Best practices and inclusion of team science principles in appointment promotion and tenure documents in research intensive schools of nursing. Nursing Outlook.
Perez, G.A., Ackerman-Barger, K., Eddie, R., Nichols, B., Gualtieri, C., & Cooper, C. (2019). Building Coalitions to Promote Health Equity: A Toolkit for Action. Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action at the Center to Champion Nursing in America. Washington, DC.
Perez, G.A. (2020). Chapter 20: The National Association of Hispanic Nurses Educating Multicultural Communities on the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act. Elsevier Health Sciences. St. Louis, MO.
*Perez, A. G. (2019). Culturally Adapting A Timed Activity Intervention for Older Latinos With Dementia and Their Caregivers. Innovation in Aging, 3(Suppl 1), S28-S28.
*Schroeder, K., Ratcliffe, S. J., Perez, A., Earley, D., Bowman, C., & Lipman, T. H. (2017). Dance for health: an intergenerational program to increase access to physical activity. Journal of Pediatric Nursing: Nursing Care of Children and Families, 37, 29-34.
Perez, G., Nichols, B., & Quinn, W. (2018). Growing Diverse Nurse Leaders: the current progress of the Future of Nursing- Campaign for Action. Nurse Leader, 16(1), 38-42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mnl.2017.10.009
*Perez, A. (2018). Physical Activity and Sleep in Older Latinos With Mild Cognitive Impairment. Innovation in Aging, 2(Suppl 1), 974.
Mason, J., Dickson, E.L., McLemore, M.R., & Perez, G.A. (2020). Policy & Politics in Nursing and Health Care, 8th Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. St. Louis, MO.
*Perez, G. A., Mason, D. J., Harden, J. T., & Cortes, T. A. (2018). The growth and development of gerontological nurse leaders in policy. Nursing Outlook, 66(2), 168-179.