Social & Environmental Determinants of Population Health

CURRENT PROJECTS (listed in alpha-order by PI)

Project Title:  A Randomized Affordable Housing Experiment in Boston’s Chinatown
PI: Mariana Arcaya, ScD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at HCPDS
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary:  Despite ample observational evidence suggesting that insecure and unaffordable housing negatively affects health, experimental studies are lacking. In the spring of 2015, the Asian Community Development Corporation, a non-profit housing developer based in Boston’s Chinatown, will open a housing lottery for low-income applicants seeking affordable rental housing in a 362-unit, mixed income housing development, currently under construction. The proposed project seeks to develop, pilot, and translate a baseline health and housing screening tool that Asian Community Development Corporation will administer to housing lottery applicants prior to randomization.

Project Title: INDEPTH Training and Research Centres of Excellence (INTREC) on Social Determinants of Health
PI: Lisa Berkman, PhD, Thomas Cabot Professor of Public Policy and Epidemiology, and Director, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, HSPH
Funder: European Commission
Summary: The goals of this project are to build sustainable capacity for research on health and its social determinants in low- and middle-income countries, using methods in epidemiology and demography, health economics, environmental health, evaluation sciences.

Project Title: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program
PIs: Lisa Berkman, PhD, Thomas Cabot Professor of Public Policy and Epidemiology, and Director, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, HSPH; and Ichiro Kawachi, MD, PhD, Chair, Department of Society, Human Development and Health, HSPH
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Summary: 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: 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 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 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: Disease Burden and Early Childhood Development: A Birth Cohort Study in the Brazilian Amazon
PI: Marcia Castro, PhD, Associate Professor of Demography, Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Summary: This pilot study conducted in the Municipalities of Cruzeiro
do Sul (CS) and Mâncio Lima (ML), located in the state of Acre, western Amazon, will test instruments and procedures to be used in a birth cohort study, and to assess barriers to feasibility that need to be addressed.

Project Title: Sociocultural Racial Stress Exposure Effects on Stress Reactivity and Executive Functioning
PI: Courtney Cogburn, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: The study will: 1) utilize pilot data to help validate contemporary stimuli that capture both overt and micro forms of sociocultural stress exposure; 2) examine the associations of laboratory-based overt and micro racial stress exposures on physiological, emotional and behavioral levels of stress reactivity; and 3) examine the mediating effect of physiological, emotional and behavioral levels of stress reactivity in the association between overt and micro racial stress exposure and executive functioning

Project Title: A Mixed Methodological Approach to Evaluating Psychosocial Stress Exposure and Stress Reactivity
PI: Courtney Cogburn, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: The project integrates stress process and social neuroscience frameworks to examine stress vulnerability, appraisal and exposure among black and white adults and the prevalence of sociocultural racial stressors in mass media.

Project Title:  Are we all in the same boat? A rigorous comparison of population-wide and targeted health interventions to reduce racial disparities in coronary heart disease
PI: Goodarz Danaei, MD, ScD, Assistant Professor of Global Health, Department of Global Health and Population, HSPH
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This project aims to develop, parameterize and validate a microsimulation model to estimate the absolute risk of CHD (Coronary Heart Disease) for each individual in a representative sample of the US population.

Project Title:  Social Determinants of Black-White Disparities in Sleep by Occupational Class: A Mixed Methods Approach
PI: Chandra Jackson, PhD, Research Associate in Clinical and Translational Research, Harvard Medical School
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: Suboptimal sleep duration and quality are associated with an increased risk for potentially devastating and costly conditions including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature mortality. This project uses a sequential, mixed methods design to deepen the knowledge of racial and socioeconomic disparities with regards to sleep, in hopes of revealing novel ideas for effective interventions upon suboptimal sleep.

Project Title:  The Development of a Place-Based Model of Community Effects on Health
PI: Adam Lippert, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: With the goal of advancing a “place-based” approach to conceptualizing and measuring health environments, this project will identify the number of distinct health environments across the US and evaluate the qualitative differences among them, then compare how obesity rates differ across residents of these environments.

Project Title: The Role of Development Assistance for Health in Reducing Child Mortality
PI: Chunling Lu, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and in Global Health and Social Medicine at 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:  Left Behind: A Pilot Study of Unemployment and Smoking in US Populations Living with Mental Illness
PI: Cassandra Okechukwu, ScD, MSN, Assistant Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: The goal of this research is to understand the causes and consequences of and solutions to unemployment among those with mental illness in the United States. A second, specific aim of the project is to understand the interaction of unemployment and smoking wih mental illness.

Project Title:  Emotion-Based Language used is Message Framing throughout Online Bariatric Surgery
PI: Selena Ortiz, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: Using a mixed-methods approach including categorical content analysis and semantic network analysis, this study will investigate the use of frames and emotion-based language in presenting messages about bariatic surgery via online advertising and websites, with a particular emphasis on how these messages target adolescents.

Project Title:  Analyzing Changes in Chronic Disease Risk Factor Distributions in the United States
PI: Fahad Razak, MD, PhD, David E. Bell Fellow, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: Many studies rely on prevalences or averages to describe changes in population health. This project seeks to examine whether changes in the mean accurately reflect population-level changes in chronic disease risk factors, suggesting that a broader look at other distributional parameters may supplement conventional examinations of population health.

Project Title: Disentangling the simultaneous influence of school and neighborhood contexts on youth weight status
PI: Tracy K. Richmond, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Division of Adolescent Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This pilot proposal aims to use a mixed methods approach to move beyond hierarchical models to better understand the multiple simultaneous contextual influences on youth weight-related outcomes. The study focuses on weight status as it has been a primary research and clinical interest of the PI and is the target of many school-based interventions despite little empirical evidence to support this context as the most influential context.

Project Title: Marketing the “Health” of Unhealthy Products: Identifying & Addressing Misleading Food
PI: Christina Roberto, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar, Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: In an effort to examine potentially misleading advertising practices and government solutions, this multi-part study will include content analyses of food and diet product packaging, online consumer survey research, and lab-based studies measuring consumer eating behavior and visual attention to on-package marketing as measured by eye tracking technology

Project Title: Impact of Serving Reduced Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Portions on Calories Purchased & Consumer Perceptions
PI: Christina Roberto, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar, Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This study will examine the influence reduced sugar-sweetened beverage portion sizes have on the amount of calories purchased by adults

Project Title: Reliability and Validity of Epigenetic Biomarkers of Stress Response for Large-scale Epidemiologic Research on Childhood Abuse
PI: Andrea L. Roberts, PhD, Research Associate, Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This study will seek to validate epigenetic marks against cortisol levels.

Project Title:  Eating and Leisure-Time Physical Activity in the Context of Work Organization
PI: Jessica Williams, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This study uses a restricted, nationally representative survey combined with additional data sources to evaluate the role of psychosocial and physical workplace factors (such as hours worked, shift schedule, level of job autonomy, etc.) in nutrition and exercise behaviors.

Project Title:  Metabolomic Profiles and Chronic Stress
PI: Laura Kubzansky, PhD, MPH, Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Society and Health Psychophysiology Laboratory, Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: Hypothesizing  that chronic stress is associated with multiple changes in circulating levels of small molecule metabolites,this project proposes to use an animal model to conduct pilot work designed to identify a metabolic profile associated with chronic stress.