Social & Environmental Determinants of Population Health

CURRENT PROJECTS (listed in alpha-order by PI)

Project Title: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program
PI: Lisa Berkman, PhD, Thomas Cabot Professor of Public Policy and Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Director, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, and Ichiro Kawachi, MD, PhD, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Social Epidemiology and Chair, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Summary: This project’s goal is to train scholars in the social determinants of health through a tightly knit, interdisciplinary training program integrating social, behavioral and biological sciences with a rich historical perspective.

Project Title: Infrastructure-Building and Cross-Jurisdictional Governance of Vector-borne Disease in a Time of Environmental Change
PI: Angie Boyce, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This project examines institutional decision-making in the surveillance, control, and prevention of vector-borne disease using a mixed methods approach. It focuses on understanding how social factors shape institutional decision-making, in particular the politics of attention, investment, and prioritization. The project integrates urban planning and population health approaches.

Project Title: The Effect of Family Planning on Fertility, Reproductive Health, and Economic Development in Africa
PI: David Canning, PhD, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences and Professor of Economics and International Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Funder: Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Summary: The study will develop a protocol for study to be conducted in a poor urban African setting where total fertility is high, contraceptive prevalence is low, and access to family planning services is costly.

Project Title: The Impact of Reproductive Health and Family Planning Services on Health and Poverty
PI: David Canning, PhD, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences and Professor of Economics and International Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Funder: William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Summary: This study will examine the determinants of fertility and the economic consequences of fertility reduction.

Project Title: Social Ladders to Health: How Can a Cross-sector Partnership Improve Cardiometabolic Risks for Unemployed Patients in Primary Care?
PI: Cheryl Clark, MD, ScD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program
Summary: The aim of this study is to design and pilot an innovative “primary care health ladder” intervention to address unemployment stress as a social determinant of cardiometabolic risk for primary care patients in a hospital-licensed community health center in Boston.

Project Title: Psychosocial Stress and Weight Gain: The Role of Acculturation Status and Country-of-Origin
PI: Adolfo Cuevas, PhD, Research Fellow, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program
Summary: The goals of this pilot project are to (1) investigate the association between psychosocial stress exposures and weight gain within the Latino population; (2) investigate the mechanisms underlying the associations between psychosocial stress and weight gain; and (3) investigate whether these associations are contingent upon acculturation status and country-of-origin.

Project Title: The Effects of Income Inequality on Health Disparities in the US
PI: Christopher S. Jencks, PhD, Malcolm Weiner Professor of Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program
Summary: The goal of this project is to provide new evidence about the hypothesized causal relationship between rising income inequality in U.S. states and increased SES disparities in health. The researchers will examine a range of empirical relationships in order to evaluate whether the data show patterns that are all consistent with the hypothesized causal link.

Project Title: The Role of Development Assistance for Health in Reducing Child Mortality
PI: Chunling Lu, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Funder: NIH/Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Summary: This five-year K01 project explores the integration of economic and demographic methods for studying the role of Development Assistance for Health (DAH) in reducing child mortality through cross-country comparative study and a country case-study in Rwanda.

Project Title: Health and Economic Mobility
PI: Rourke O’Brien, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: Recent research has looked at links between economic mobility and factors such as inequality, social capital, school quality, and family structure; this project fills in the gaps of previous work by looking at health as a factor in economic mobility. The project will demonstrate the robust association between health (including infant/child health) and key economic mobility pathways, such as human capital attainment and labor market performance.

Project Title: Greenspace as an environmental buffer to social stressors
PI: Colleen Reid, MPH, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: Recent research has found many health benefits of exposure to greenspace, however there are many gaps in the current understanding of greenspace as a potentially positive environmental exposure. This research aims to fill identified gaps in the research on greenspace by analyzing which metrics of greenspace are relevant for understanding health benefits of greenspace exposure, assessing the effects of greenspace on three hypothesized mediating pathways to health, and using a well-established longitudinal cohort to understand the effects of greenspace on cardiovascular disease onset.

Project Title: Mental Health Impacts of Drought
PI: Colleen Reid, MPH, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program
Summary: This study uses data from the Gallup-Healthways well-being index to investigate the effects of drought on subjective well-being (including positive affect, negative affect, and energy/fatigue) in the continental United States,

Project Title: Stop Stunting in South Asia
PI: SV Subramanian, PhD, Professor of Population Health and Geography, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Funder: UNICEF
Summary: The objective of this project is to conduct a series of analyses to document: 1) the epidemiology of child stunting in South Asia including time trends and current distribution, disparities, and inequities; 2) the consequences of stunting on child growth, development, and learning; 3) the consequences of child stunting on economic growth and national development; 4) the proximal variables most significantly associated with stunting in South Asian countries; and 5) the implications of these findings for policy development, programme design and research prioritization in the context of the post 2015 development goals in South Asia.

Project Title: Tobacco Norm Conflicts on Social Networking Sites and Young Adults’ Perceptions and Tobacco Use Behaviors
PI: Andy Tan, MBA, MPH, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program
Summary: The long-term goal of this line of research is to develope evidence- and theory-based interventions to counter the effects of tobacco-related information on young adult tobacco use, ultimately reducing that use. The objective of this pilot project is to lay the groundwork for this goal by establishing the construct validity of tobacco norm conflict in the context of SNS among young adults.