Population Health

September 6, 2017

Initiative announces winners of inaugural pilot research grants

Pilot Research GrantsThe University of Washington Population Health Initiative has awarded five pilot research grants of $50,000 each to faculty-led teams from 10 different UW schools and colleges. This first $250,000 in funding was matched by additional school, college and departmental funds, bringing the total value of these awards to nearly $445,000.

“We were incredibly impressed by the breadth and innovative nature of the project ideas that were submitted,” shared Ali H. Mokdad, vice chair of the Population Health Initiative and professor of global health. “The number of responses we received demonstrates there is a strong demand for this type of an award to support interdisciplinary and collaborative population health work at the UW.”

The Population Health Initiative pilot research grant encourages new interdisciplinary collaborations among investigators for projects that address critical components of grand challenges in population health. This year’s awardees were selected by a panel of judges from a pool of 60 applications from faculty investigators representing the UW Bothell and UW Tacoma campuses as well as every school and college on the UW Seattle Campus. The awardees are:

Connecting fishery and health policies for diet-specific solutions for vulnerable populations

Edward H. Allison, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs
John Zachary Koehn, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
Jennifer Otten, School of Public Health (Nutrition)
Christopher M. Anderson, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
Ray Hilborn, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Project abstract
Each year, millions of pounds of fish and shellfish are caught in the California Current running along the length of the US West Coast. While fisheries tend to target higher-value species, there are many associated species that are harvested along with targeted species as “bycatch.” Bycatch includes both fish and shellfish that are discarded at sea or on land, as well as species that are retained and typically sold at lower prices. For the hundreds of tons of bycatch discarded, a considerable opportunity to contribute more healthful diets in coastal populations is lost.

In low-income coastal populations, access and availability of affordable healthy foods can be low, and there is high incentive for people to substitute towards more affordable but energy-dense nutrient poor food commodities associated with the high prevalence of diet-related diseases including obesity and diabetes. Cost-effective bycaught species can provide a competitive alternative particularly for the rural coastal communities where fishery landings are high. Unfortunately, there is little guidance on how fishery managers and related institutions can operationalize these goals towards equitable population health outcomes, particularly for tribes or low income and diaspora populations with traditional reliance on seafood.

This project seeks to establish a baseline understanding of the potential for West Coast fisheries to contribute to positive diet-based health outcomes and evaluates where such interventions could have the greatest impact. This baseline will then be used to evaluate plausible scenarios that encourage fishery policy towards cost-effective and culturally-appropriate ways to improve population health outcomes for adjacent coastal communities.

InterACTION Labs: Piloting an interdisciplinary built environment community health program with an informal settlement in the Peruvian Amazon

Joseph R. Zunt, Global Health, Neurology, Epidemiology, Medicine (Infectious Diseases)
Sarah Gimbel, Family and Child Nursing
Rebecca Neumann, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Peter Rabinowitz, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
Ana Lucia Seminario, Dentistry
Ben Spencer, Landscape Architecture

Project abstract
We propose to develop an interdisciplinary, action-oriented program – InterACTION Labs – to improve human and animal health, environmental resilience and social equity through participatory design, implementation and assessment of projects, processes and technologies in vulnerable communities. We will pilot the first InterACTION Lab in Claverito, Iquitos, Peru – an informal urban floating community living on the Amazon River.

The Lab will design and implement innovative interventions to improve the built and natural environments in Claverito and then assess for improvements in health by examining the “microbiome,” or flora, in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract of human and animal residents and the environment, alongside traditional measures of health (e.g., blood pressure, hemoglobin levels) to determine if these interventions can reduce exposure to harmful bacteria (e.g., Escherichia coli), parasites (e.g., Giardia lamblia), and metals (e.g., lead) that stunt growth and development of children and health of adults. Initial interventions will address community-defined challenges and will likely involve integrated productive gardens and floating pathways that clean water and soil, provide microhabitat, food and medicinal plants and carry future community services (e.g., electricity, water, sewer).

Our project will not only improve health conditions for the Claverito community, but also provide collaborative service learning opportunities for UW and Peruvian students and faculty, and contribute to knowledge about the influence of the built and natural environment upon the microbiome – a determinant of health. The InterACTION Lab in Claverito will inform future Labs in other vulnerable communities in Peru, the US, Washington and internationally.

Prepare for the IT workplace program (PREP for IT)

Hala Annabi, Information School
Jill Locke, Speech and Hearing Sciences
Gary Stobbe, Neurology

Project abstract
Young adults with autism have many talents, but only 58% of them are employed, compared to 99% of young adults without disabilities. Talented young adults with autism who are of average or above average intelligence are three times less likely to be employed than those with intellectual disabilities. Studies attribute low employment of young adults with autism and no intellectual disabilities to social rather than task aspects of the workplace. This raises questions regarding the preparation of young adults with autism without intellectual disabilities for the workplace. Most attention in services and research for young adults with autism has been on transitioning them to post-secondary education (PSE) and not on workforce preparation. There is limited research on how to best prepare young adults with autism without intellectual disability pursuing PSE to transition to the workplace.

We propose to design, deploy, and assess a workforce preparation program to empower PSE students with autism at the University of Washington who are pursuing information technology (IT) careers to secure, persist, and advance in employment in the IT workplace. The program will use an individual, strength-based approach for career planning and skill development that emphasizes community and collaboration with IT professionals. Over the course of their participation, students will engage in a series of workshops, mentoring engagements, shadowing experiences, company visits, and coaching. Our effort will improve health outcomes and social and economic equity for this underserved group of talented young adults with autism.

Islamic trauma healing: Somalia feasibility study

Lori A. Zoellner, Psychology
Debra Kaysen, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Michele Bedard-Gilligan, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Hamza Zafer, Near Eastern Languages and Civilization
Shannon Dorsey, Psychology

Project abstract
Rates of PTSD are considerably higher in war-torn regions like Somalia, known for sexual violence and other human rights violations (e.g., 50.1%; Johnson et al., 2010). In the aftermath of substantial war- and refugee-related trauma, there is a clear need for research addressing the significant, under-addressed mental health needs of Somalis and the broader Muslim community. Although efficacious PTSD treatments exist, such treatments typically require extensive training of providers. Furthermore, there are significant barriers to dissemination due to Islamic beliefs that may inhibit mental health help seeking, language and cultural differences, and limited access to care. No existing trauma-focused treatments have an Islamic focus, despite almost a quarter of the world’s population practicing this religion.

We have developed a brief, group-based, lay-led intervention, Islamic Trauma Healing, specifically targeting healing of the mental wounds of trauma within mosques. The six-session intervention combines empirically-supported treatment with Islamic principles central to spiritual, social, family, and work life. Core components include cognitive restructuring through Prophet narratives and exposure to trauma memories through talking to Allah. Tea, incense, and supplications are included to promote a sense of community and spirituality. We will demonstrate the initial feasibility of implementing the program outside of the U.S. by conducting a small (N = 20) pre- to post-study in Somalia, providing critical pilot data for a later overseas randomized control trial.

The Islamic Trauma Healing program has the potential to provide a low-cost, self-sustaining model of a faith-based intervention that can address the psychological wounds of trauma.

Behavioral health workforce development

Patricia Areán, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Patrick Raue, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Amelia Gavin, School of Social Work
Zoran Popovic, Computer Science and Engineering
Shannon Dorsey, Psychology
Deborah Cowley, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Anna Ratzliff, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Project abstract
Evidence-Based Psychosocial Interventions (EBPI) are the preferred treatment for mental health problems, particularly in underserved communities. Very few people in these communities have access to EBPI because too few clinicians are trained in them. This team has extensive experience training lay counselors (in rural areas and low/middle income countries where mental health specialists are limited) and clinicians in EBPI. The ability to rapidly build a workforce of EBPI providers is limited by the substantial time required for experts to train providers to competence and by the limited number of training programs focusing on EBPI.

We propose to integrate: 1) the strong research base for effective EBPI training methods, 2) evidence that EBPI can be effectively delivered by lay counselors, and 3) an innovative, technology-based educational tool developed at UW to train a diverse cohort of undergraduate students who will extend the EBPI workforce. We will create an early prototype of an intelligent tutoring system with Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). EBPI experts from Psychiatry, Social Work and Psychology will partner with CSE experts in educational software development to create a novel training program for UW social work and psychology undergraduates, which will be compared to established benchmarks on: 1) trainer hours required, and 2) trainee competence. Data collected from the prototype will be used to inform the development of a fully adaptive ITS. We hypothesize that improved EBPI learnability (target mechanism) will allow undergraduates to deliver EBPI elements competently, providing the basis for capacity building in delivery of EBPI.

The next funding call for population health pilot research grant applications will occur during Winter Quarter 2018.