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Summer Scholars #4 - Solange Saxby

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As one of the most debilitating neurological diseases afflicting young adults across the world, multiple sclerosis (MS) has been on the rise in recent years. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the United States has the second highest international prevalence of multiple sclerosis globally. Within the US, the Midwest has the second highest regional prevalence of MS, and in Iowa, 236 to 254 people per 100,000 have been diagnosed.

To better understand how food access affects the well-being of individuals living with MS, Solange Saxby, a postdoctoral research scholar at the Carver College of Medicine, is developing a mixed-methods analysis involving rural and urban Iowan residents with MS. Using both surveys and focus group interviews, Saxby intends to delve into the facilitators and barriers to food access and its impact on quality of life.

“I myself was food insecure as a college student, and I think there needs to be resources available to support such circumstances,” Saxby said. “The beauty of qualitative research like this is being able to provide a voice to people in areas that might be hard to reach.”

Appropriately named “FARMS – Food Accessibility in Relation to Quality of Life for Rural versus Urban Iowans with Multiple Sclerosis,” Saxby’s study will explore whether Iowans living with MS in rural areas experience greater food access barriers than those living in urban areas.

“Because there is no cure, people with MS end up living with it for the rest of their lives,” Saxby said. “They have a lot of quality of life issues, one of which is fatigue, and food insecurity exacerbates these challenges. This – of course – may add another layer to the rural versus urban divide.”

Saxby has developed the project methodology and has submitted the project for approval with the University of Iowa’s Institutional Review Board. She hopes to begin recruiting study participants by the end of the summer and report her findings by the end of Spring 2024.