Social and Environmental Determinants of Population Health Projects

CURRENT PROJECTS (listed in alpha-order by PI)

Project Title: Body Image Community Indicators Mapping Project: A Pilot Study of Beauty Industry Spatial Distribution and Viable Regulatory Responses to Protect the Public’s Health
PI: S. Bryn Austin, ScD, Director of Fellowship Research Training, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston; Associate Professor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; and Assistant Professor in Society, Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health.
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This study involves conducting a scientifically rigorous and innovative community indicators assessment and mapping project to identify selected beauty industry businesses that vary geographically and to examine their links to health behaviors.

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: Causal Effects of Access to Cell-phone Based Futures Prices Information on Agricultural Decision-making in India
PIs: Shawn Cole, PhD, Associate Professor of Business Administration & Marvin Bower Fellow, Harvard Business School and David Yanagizawa-Drott, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Funder: Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Summary: This project will evaluate the impact of improved price expectations from regular access to price information through mobile-text messages on agricultural investment decisions of smallholder farmers in rural India.

Project Title: The Cognitive Link between Micronutrient Deficiency in Utero and Schooling Attainment in Tanzania
PIs: David Cutler, PhD, Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics, Dept of Economics, Harvard University and Plamen V Nikolov, Doctoral Candidate and Teaching Fellow, Dept of Economics, Harvard University
Funder: Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Summary: Using data from an experimental intervention in Tanzania and building on a pilot phase already conducted in 2011, the study will examine: 1) How much do biological setbacks – due to pre-natal maternal malnutrition – in brain development in utero, influence subsequent child schooling attainment? 2) To what extent do parents allocate resources so as to compensate for or to reinforce inequalities across children in endowments?

Project Title: Spatial Dynamics and Neighborhood Effects on Obesogenic Behaviors and Tobacco Use among Urban Youth
PI: Dustin T. Duncan, ScD, Alonzo Smythe Yerby Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This study proposes to examine the spatial patterns and spatial (neighborhood environmental) correlates of tobacco use and multiple obesogenic behaviors among urban minority youth.

Project Title: Assessing the Social Resistance Framework for Understanding High-Risk Behavior among Non-Dominant Minorities
PI: Roni Factor, PhD, Takemi Fellow, Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: The proposed study deals with an innovative multidisciplinary social resistance framework for understanding high-risk behavior among non-dominant minorities. The aims of the study are (1) to construct an instrument for testing the framework; (2) to psychometrically evaluate the instrument; and (3) to conduct a preliminary test of the framework’s core hypotheses.

Project Title: Evaluating the Effects of Large Scale Health Interventions in Developing Countries: The Zambian Malaria Initiative
PI(s): Gunther Fink, PhD, Assistant Professor of International Health Economics, Department of Global Health and Population, HSPH, and Nava Ashraf, PhD, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
Funder: NBER Africa Project
Summary: We investigate the degree to which these improvements in health have improved other aspects of the real economy. Does better health lead to higher productivity? Does it increase school enrollment?

Project Title: Impacts of Maternal Deaths on Living Children
PI: Jocelyn Finlay, PhD, Research Scientist, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Funder: Hansen Program on Maternal/Child Health (FXB – Leaning/Yamin)
Summary: This study will examine the cumulative burden of maternal mortality on the family and the community and to propose concrete steps those governments and other actors can take to reduce the resulting grave family and larger societal consequences. The study focuses on eastern and southern Africa where the burden of maternal mortality is particularly high.

Project Title: The Effects of Social and Individual Determinants in the Impact of Message Interaction on Decisions about Influenza Vaccination
PI: Ezequiel M. Galarce, PhD
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: The primary aims of this study are to: (a) to examine the association between social and individual determinants with attitudes and intentions about influenza vaccination among a nationally representative population of American adults; (b) to examine the effects of social and individual determinants in the impact of message priming on attitudes and intentions towards influenza vaccination; (c) to examine post-priming vaccination behavior.

Project Title: The Health of Black Immigrants in the United States: The Relative Importance of Country of Origin, Cohort of Arrival, Assimilation, and Selective Migration.
PI: Tod Hamilton, PhD, Kellogg Fellow
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: Utilizing data from the March Current Population Survey (CPS), National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), and the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Reports, the research objectives of the project are to: 1) evaluate the health profiles of black immigrants within the United States, 2) explore how country of origin factors impact the health of black immigrants, and 3) examine the degree of health selection among black immigrants in the U.S.

Project Title: Early determinants of childhood obesity: Etiology, disparities and policy analysis
PI: Summer Hawkins, PhD, Research Associate
Funder: National Institute of Child Health & Human Development
Summary: This K award study will seek to clarify peri- and post-natal risk factors for disparities in childhood obesity and to examine the effects of policies on disparities in these risk factors.

Project Title: Individual variation in brain structure and symptoms of anxiety and low mood in young adults
PI: Avram Holmes PhD, Research Fellow, Dept of Psychology, Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This study seeks to establish the relationship between individual differences in limbic system anatomy and symptoms of anxiety and low mood; identify changes in brain structure that precede illness onset; gain a better understanding of the neurobiological correlates of negative affect; and benefit development of prediction, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment strategies for anxiety and affective illnesses.

Project Title: The Effects of Neighborhood Violent Crime on Health Disparities
PI(s): Jennifer Jennings, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar, and Andrew Papachristos, PhD, RWJF Health and Society Scholar
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: Using patient-level and crime data, this study seeks to examin the effects of exposure to violent crime on health. Specifically, this study will test the hypothesis that proximate homicides increase hospital admissions for conditions that are aggravated by stress as well as attempt to unpack the pathways through which homicides affect health.

Project Title: Causal Effects of Occupational Class and Perceived Discrimination on Health
PI: Dolly John, PhD, Kellogg Research Fellow, HSPH
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This study is examining occupational class disparities in health and health services use between midlife and older age and how they may vary by immigrant status and race & ethnicity. The second project will apply a twin fixed-effect approach to twin data (n=998 twin pairs) from the 1995-1996 National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) to estimate the causal effect of perceived discrimination on poor mental health.

Project Title: Jim Crow & Health Disparities: Exploring Age-Period-Cohort Effects
PI: Nancy Krieger, PhD, Professor of Social Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: The pilot study seeks to advance understanding of societal determinants of trends in the magnitude of health inequities through an analysis of all-cause mortality and infant death rates as well as comparisons on the US black vs. white population, and the US black population in Jim Crow vs. non-Jim Crow states, analyzed in relation to spatiotemporal scale and level (state, county, individual).

Project Title: Hair Cortisol as a Biomarker for Chronic Stress in High and Low Risk Mothers and Infants
PI: Cindy Hsin-Ju Liu, PhD, Instructor in Psychology and Ed Tronick, PhD, Lecturer, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: The goal of this project is to evaluate the use of hair cortisol as a biomarker for chronic stress in mother-infant dyads. Reported chronic stress, depression and anxiety symptoms, and trauma exposure will also be collected from the mother through questionnaires and interviews. We plan to calculate differences in hair cortisol across groups, associations between mother and infant hair cortisol, and associations of hair cortisol levels with reported chronic stress.

Project Title: Non-communicable Diseases among Middle-aged Adults in Urban Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
PI: Enju Liu, MD, PhD, Research Scientist, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Summary: The project will determine the prevalence and risk factors for selected Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) in an urban population of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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: Measurement Errors in Estimating Universal Financial Risk Protection using Household Surveys in Developing Countries: The Effects of Survey Design and Implementation
PI: Chunling Lu, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Funder: Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Summary: This study will address a methodological issue in measuring universal financial risk protection when using household survey data in developing countries.

Project Title: Measuring the Impact of Global Health Aid on Child Mortality in Low and Lower-Middle Income Countries— A Cross-Country Quantitative Analysis
PI: Chunling Lu, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Funder: Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Summary: The study will examine the causal relationship between global health aid and child health by developing an evaluation model using time-series, cross-country data from 1995 to 2009.

Project Title: Quantifying Change in Cardiometabolic Disease Risk
PI: Miguel Marino, PhD, Yerby Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: The goal of this study is to integrate novel biostatistical and epidemiological methods with cardiometabolic expertise to develop and evaluate a cumulative cardiometabolic risk score that is optimized on modifiable risk factors so as to detect intervention or experimental effects.

Project Title: Whole-genome methylation analysis of fetal exposure to maternal depression/anxiety
PI: Amy L. Non, MPH, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: We propose a study to test for differences in patterns of genome-wide methylation and biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress, resulting from exposure to maternal depression and antidepressant use during pregnancy.

Project Title: Epigenetic effects of maternal stress during pregnancy
PI: Amy L. Non, MPH, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: We propose a study to test the overall hypothesis that intrauterine stress leads to epigenetic changes at stress-signaling genes, such as those that are involved in the expression of placental CRH.

Project Title: Epigenetic Consequences of Extreme Social Deprivation in Early Childhood
PI: Amy Non, PhD, MPH, RWJF Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This study will investigate if differences in DNA methylation patterns are associated with the extremes of early caregiving experiences these children received.

Project Title: The Diffusion of Gun Violence in High-Risk Social Networks
PI : Andrew V. Papachristos, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: The proposed study—in particular the population based approach and the large number of networks within the study communities—represents a significant advancement of (1) the study of gunshot injury as well as (2) the more general study of the effect of social networks on public health.

Project Title: The Maternal Imprint: Situating the Science Maternal Effects, 1900-Present
PI: Sarah S. Richardson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of the History of Science and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This book project theorizes and historically situates the emergence, during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, of the science of “maternal effects.”

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: Family Context, Community Violence and the Biology of Disadvantage
PI: Natalie Slopen, ScD, Postdoctoral research fellow, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: This project will analyze the relationship between social adversity and biomarkers of cardiometabolic risk and immune dysregulation in youth using data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhoods Study (LAFANS).

Project Title: Genotype-by-Social Environment Interplay (GxE) in Depressive Symptoms
PIs: S.V. Subramanian, PhD, Professor of Population Health and Geography, Harvard School of Public Health; RWJF Affiliated Faculty and Erin C. Dunn, ScD, MPH, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, MGH
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: The study will address gaps in the literature linking gene/environment exposures to adolescent depression by conducting secondary analyses in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a prospective, nationally representative survey of over 20,000 youth which contains data on candidate genes, as well as school and neighborhood environments and provides a rare opportunity to examine gene by social environment interplay.

Project Title: The Impact of Stressful Life Events on Tobacco Smoking Behavior in the French Population: Longitudinal Findings from the GAZEL Cohort Study
PI: Sara L. Tamers, PhD, MPH, Postdoctoral research scholar, Harvard School of Public Health
Funder: Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Summary: This study will examine on how socio-environmental and adverse health events (together referred to as stressful life events or SLEs) impact tobacco smoking behavior for a cohort of French adults.

Project Title: Social Integration and Suicide Mortality Risk among Women: 18-Year Follow Up of Nurses in the U.S.
PI: Alexander Tsai, MD, PhD, RWJF Health & Society Scholar at Harvard University
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars Program at Harvard
Summary: The central objective of this RWJ Seed Grant application is to test a long-standing theory linking social integration to suicide.

Project Title: Failing Markets and Failing Health: Counterfeit and Substandard Drugs in Uganda
PI: David Yanagizawa-Drott, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Funder: Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
Summary: Using a rigorous methodology and drawing from a large sample size, this study aims to unveil the extent and prevalence of counterfeit drugs both across countries and within them. Additionally, the project seeks to determine adverse health effects of substandard drugs and how it is possible to intervene in the markets to solve the problem.