luciana lagana
Luciana Lagana

CSUN Psychology Professor Luciana Laganà Receives an NIH Grant to Advance Pain Research on African-American, European-American, and Latina Older Women.

“My research team is very dedicated to helping older women voice their often-neglected needs regarding their physical pain and related psychosocial difficulties”

The National Institutes of Health has approved a continuation award for Dr. Luciana Lagana’s research project entitled “A preliminary model of physical pain among community-dwelling multiethnic older women.” This is a four-year investigation to study the experience of physical pain in older age. This effort is the latest addition to the list of many research projects completed by Lagana in the areas of women’s health and ethnogeriatrics. “My research team is very dedicated to helping older women voice their often-neglected needs regarding their physical pain and related psychosocial difficulties,” she said. “Unfortunately, many older women from ethnic minorities are typically under-treated for pain compared to their European-American counterpart, although the latter also often report under-management of their physical pain by their medical professionals,” stated Lagana. “To my knowledge, we have little or no information regarding what older women living with pain are doing in terms of medical collaboration with their physicians and engagement in medically advised health behaviors that could contribute to lower their pain levels,” she added.

There is a need to develop and test a new measure that quantifies whether the health-related advice given by health providers is appreciated and followed by older women. Thanks to this grant, Lagana’s research team is set to validate her new 6-item measure named “Satisfaction with and adherence to health provider’s advice.” She shared that she enjoys psychometric research and the creation of clinical assessment tools. “In 2011, I received a CSUN research award for developing a social quality of life measure for ethnically diverse older women, and for publishing an article about its validation on two samples. This new tool is a shorter measure, because long assessment tools take too much time to administer in busy medical settings. I have direct experience with this issue because before becoming a clinical psychology professor, I had a two-month waiting list and over 20 medical doctors referred to me their patients with trauma-related psychopathology. I noticed that several women had significant levels of physical pain, often unexplained, and that their physicians were usually struggling to treat it successfully. I learned at that time the importance of assessing physical pain when trauma is present, and vice versa, which is a main focus of my grant,” she said. Moreover, Lagana wondered how many older women are really applying the dietary, exercise-related and other behavioral strategies suggested by their health providers to improve their physical health and reduce pain. “These busy health professionals could ask their patients to fill out a simple measure like the one that I created for this grant, which would allow them to obtain needed feedback that they could apply in collaboration with their patients. The goal would be to improve a patient’s overall health, including pain reduction. I believe that the quality of a person’s relationship with her physician(s) could have a strong positive impact on her physical well-being,” she said.

There is also an unmet need to develop and test a model of physical pain containing factors such as demographics, trauma, ethnic identity, satisfaction with and implementation of health provider’s advice, social quality of life, coping strategies, and mental health variables. “Thanks to this grant, my research team will corroborate and expand our original pain model (by Lagana and Hassija, 2012) to include additional potential risk and protective factors for pain,” shared Lagana. “We are excited about this research endeavor. My team will focus exclusively on African-American, European-American, and Latina older women, to reasonably limit the scope of this study and to complete it within four years. We have based all our hypotheses on relevant theories and empirical findings,” she concluded.

Written by Stefanie Friesen

Luciana Lagana is a caring clinical and experimental psychologist. She is also an established professor of psychology, gerontology, sexuality, and women’s health at California State University Northridge (CSUN), where she teaches classes and mentors many undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, since 2002, she has been conducting government-funded research on ethnically diverse, primarily low-income older women’s physical, psychological, social, and sexual health. Concerning her artistic pursuits, since 2006, she has been studying acting, hosting, and filmmaking in Los Angeles. She is an award-winning actor/screenwriter/director with 44 IMDb credits for acting in many independent movies, web series, and TV pilots. She also wrote, hosted, and directed the award-winning web series “Intimate Temp Agency,” as well as “Dr. Luciana Show – Aging and Falling,” the winner of the best educational show award at the 2015 Houston Film Festival. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute of Health.