Fig: Carly works in the Faustman lab on a salivary cortisol assay.
Exposure to environmental stress can impact health and affect wellbeing. The National Children’s Health Study (NCS) has a specific interest in the effect of maternal stress on prenatal health. The objective of this formative study is to quantify the best method of achieving stress data within- and between- individuals across socioeconomic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Results of this study will help inform prenatal stress assessment techniques used by NCS. For my portion of this study I am evaluating acute and chronic salivary cortisol levels within- and between-individuals in a Hispanic agricultural community and a low-income non-Hispanic urban community. My data will go into a national database that includes data across a wide range of socioeconomic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. In order to characterize susceptibility to stress and the related health effects, it is necessary to quantify the exposure. Exposure to stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, allowing it to be used as a biomarker. I will evaluate daily average salivary cortisol concentrations and diurnal indexes to characterize acute and chronic within-individual variability. Similar evaluations will be made between individuals within each community to better understand between-individual variability of cortisol levels. I will also quantify the between community variable by comparing the non-Hispanic urban cohort to the Hispanic agricultural community. Characterizing the within- and between- individual variability of salivary cortisol is important to the NCS because it will eventually allow us to optimize prenatal stress assessment techniques.
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