Population Health

December 8, 2020

Awardees of 2020 pilot research grants report on project progress

r. The Block W statue at the North entrance to the UW Seattle campus.The Population Health Initiative awarded six pilot research grants in March 2020 to faculty-led teams from 10 different University of Washington schools and colleges.

The initiative’s pilot research grant program seeks to spur new, interdisciplinary collaborations among investigators for projects addressing major population health challenges.

At the half-way point, investigators are reporting significant progress in their work despite the disruptions posed by the pandemic. Work to date from the respective projects can be found in the following sections.

PATHSS Study: Participatory Active Transportation for Health in South Seattle

Katherine Hoerster, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Barbara Baquero, Department of Health Services
Rachel Berney, Department of Urban Design & Planning
Dori Rosenberg, Department of Health Services
Stephen J. Mooney, Department of Epidemiology
Brian E. Saelens, Department of Pediatrics
Crystal Hall, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance

Project update
The project team is conducting a participatory study with the following aims: to identify mobility challenges and opportunities in South Beacon Hill; identify improvements that could be made to support active transportation by conducting five community-partnered mobility audits on and near the Beacon Avenue Trail; and evaluate the community engagement process to inform future collaboration. The overall study goal is to identify key cross-cutting themes to present to community members and decision-makers to prepare for the City of Seattle’s Beacon Avenue Trail improvement project.

The team has conducted interviews with stakeholders and community members after making research approach adjustments due to COVID-19. They began utilizing a technology called Photovoice to gather community opinions about mobility issues. The team has also connected with young Beacon Hill residents to gather youth opinions about community issues. Additionally, the team attends monthly meetings with members of the Beacon Hill community to continue to gather information to support and shape their work.

Looking forward, the team will present their preliminary findings virtually at the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s annual meeting, as part of a symposium on the syndemic of climate change and chronic disease. Additionally, they hope to finalize their publications and prepare to apply to NIH funding to continue their research.

Environmental and human health impacts of a new invasive species in Madagascar

Half of the funding for this award came via a partnership with UW’s EarthLab, which works in partnership with others to co-produce and catalyze actionable science.

Chelsea Wood, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
Peter Rabinowitz, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
Luciano Andriamaro, Réseau International Schistosomiase Environnement Amenagement et Lutte
Susanne Sokolow, Stanford University
Giulio DeLeo, Stanford University
Julia PG Jones, Bangor University

Project update
The project team’s primary objective is to test whether there is a negative association between the presence of marbled crayfish and the presence of schistosome-competent snails at Malagasy water-access sites. They had originally planned to test this in two field missions with a joint US–UK–Malagasy team.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the team’s project execution has needed to adjust. The UW team will perform laboratory experiments in the United States to experimentally test whether marbled crayfish preferentially feed on schistosome-infected versus uninfected snails of various sizes. The field missions will be rescheduled based on COVID travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders.

Once travel is possible, they plan to sample several sites in the Schistosoma haematobium-endemic region of the country, measuring crayfish density, density of schistosome-competent snails, and infection status of each snail collected (aiming for February/March of 2021).

Analysis to Translation: Accelerating and Tailoring Responses to Student Mental Health

Paula Nurius, School of Social Work
Jennifer Mankoff, Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering
Eve Riskin, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
Anind Dey, Information School

Project update
The undergraduate student experience provides an exciting opportunity to learn, innovate and grow, but students also routinely encounter stressful life experiences that can increase their risk for a wide range of mental health problem. This project is a longitudinal study of student mental health at the UW, with the ultimate aim of using the research findings to work with UW mental health services to inform practice.

Given the pandemic, the team had to make necessary accommodations and revisions to their data gathering and analysis. This included adding an SES measure to the baseline surveys—perceived social standing of family, which was incorporated into a marginality index to highlight any distinctive needs of more marginalized students. The marginality index identifies students with one or more of the following: first generation, disabled, low income, international, immigrant and non-heterosexual. A number of COVID-19 related questions were added to the surveys to understand the impact of COVID-19 on students mental health and academic progress.

Overall, the data shows elevations in several indicators of stress at the period ending Winter term to early Spring term 2020. By the end of Spring term, there was, overall, a reduction in stress and mental health indicators. In student group contrasts, we noted greatest disparities in adversity exposures (e.g., discrimination, loneliness, PTSD symptoms) for those students reporting one or more marginalizing status compared to students with no marginalizations. These disparities were greater in early Spring relative to late Spring term, suggesting overall trends of positive adjustment. However, the data showed variability in outcomes, finding that students with pre-existing mental health vulnerabilities were experiencing greater levels of
mental health struggles across the term.

The team has been working on four different papers based on their research findings, covering topics regarding the student experiences, different marginalizations, disabilities, technology and how they impact mental health outcomes. Additionally, they have engaged in sharing results from preliminary analyses with campus mental health partners, such as the UW Student Well-Being Collaborative and are working on ways the research can add value to UW’s intervention and support services for students.

ActoKids Mobile Application: Information access to physical activity opportunities for diverse King County children and families

Julie McCleery, College of Education
Tracy Jirikowic, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine
Anat Caspi, Paul G. Allen School for Computer Science & Engineering
Cheryl Kerfeld, Seattle Public Schools
Nicholas Bennett, North Seattle College

Project update
The goal of the project is to develop and test the feasibility of an efficient web and mobile application that families can use to identify local physical activity opportunities, programs and resources for their children in King County, Washington. The aim is to enhance information access to increase rates of physical activity of children in the county, specifically youth who are most disenfranchised from physical activity.

The proposed plan involves convening community groups currently working on related information systems; collectively determining the best mechanisms for merging the platforms that meet the aims of the project; developing a mobile and web application and testing its feasibility with users. The community groups include School’s Out Washington, Activities for Kids of All Abilities and King County Play Equity Coalition.

The app design and development has commenced, and the web application is in early stages of development. The team has also conducted a number of focus group interviews to obtain feedback on desired app features and more focus groups are being organized with youth-serving programs from low-income areas of King County. The team plans to make adjustments accordingly based on feedback, and run a second round of user research about usability of the app.

Ensuring equal access to trauma care in Washington State through system modeling

Rebecca Maine, Department of Surgery
Shan Liu, Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering
Eileen Bulger, Department of Surgery
Charles Mock, Departments of Global Health and Epidemiology
Monica Vavilala, Department of Anesthesia

Project update
The project team is working toward developing a mathematical model of trauma care in Washington State using data from the Washington State Trauma Registry and the Comprehensive Hospital Abstract Reporting System for Washington State (CHARS). Through that work, they plan to build a model that could optimize patient access and outcomes by building on the existing trauma structure in Washington state, and to compare the results of the novel modeling approach to geographic information system-based approaches.

Due to COVID-19, the team has shifted focus to developing a deeper understanding of the data and clarifying the fundamental methods for this project to support applications for additional funding to build on this work.

The team has worked with an available subset of the CHARS data to develop the hospital and system metrics that will be included in a larger model, including determining the variation in trauma care provided by hospitals at different levels across the state and to explore non-trauma care related hospitals variables, aiding in establishing the larger system model. The team has also started to work on a novel mortality prediction model for injured patients that incorporates both patient and system-level variables, currently using data from Harborview Medical Center.

The team has been applying for additional funding, such as grants from National Science Foundation, an NIH R01 through the Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities and the Harborview Injury Prevention Exploratory Grant.

Formative Research with the Female Community Health Workers (Marwo Caafimaad) Program to Reduce Maternal Mortality in Puntland, Somalia

Half of the funding for this award came via a partnership with the UW Office of Global Affairs, which seeks to enhance the UW’s global engagement and reach.

James Pfeiffer, Department of Global Health
Anisa Ibrahim, Department of Pediatrics
Rachel Chapman, Department of Anthropology
Stephen Gloyd, Department of Global Health
Joel Walker, Department of History
Hamza Zafer, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilization

Project update
The proposed project is an innovative collaboration among the Seattle-based Somali Health Board (SHB), Health Alliance International (HAI, a UW Department of Global Health Center), and UW faculty and students to conduct formative research and design an intervention to help reduce maternal mortality in Puntland, Somalia.

The project is currently on hold due to restrictions on travel that have been necessary due to COVID-19.

The next funding call for population health pilot research grant applications will occur during winter quarter 2021.