Strengthening social connections for a healthier nation

Strengthening social connections for a healthier nation
Oct 4, 2021
Our public health experts share research supporting government programs at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting

Resourceful, driven, and passionate about making a difference, our team of 1,000+ health professionals play a central role in finding new ways to solve public health challenges and improve outcomes. Soon, 12 of these experts will co-present scientific abstracts at the largest public health meeting in the world: the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting. Alongside our clients and research partners from the American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Cognistx, and Morehouse School of Medicine, we're sharing the results from a number of studies that impact the daily lives of Americans.

COVID-19 testing and vaccination: Insights from African American and Hispanic audiences of the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network communication program

"When we started this research early in the pandemic, communities were looking for answers in how to best navigate the landscape. I’m honored to have had an opportunity to hear their stories and apply those insights into compelling messages and materials that I think can really make a difference.”
Vickie Gogo
MA, APR, senior partner, multicultural communications

Our multicultural communications expert Vickie Gogo teamed with Morehouse School of Medicine's Rhonda Conerly Holliday and others for this insightful research. The team conducted online focus groups and in-depth interviews to guide the planning of the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network's communication program, in an effort to encourage African American and Hispanic/Latino adults to get tested for COVID-19 and increase their vaccine confidence. The conversations revealed that participants felt overwhelmed by the changing nature of information, hesitancy over testing and vaccination, and a general distrust in government. The findings of this research are guiding the development of plain language, culturally tailored messages and materials to be disseminated by trusted partner organizations in local communities.

Impact of COVID-19 on HIV testing in CDC-funded health departments

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted HIV prevention activities and services throughout the U.S. Our experts Renee Freeman and Victoria Donnelly partnered with CDC researchers Erica Dunbar and Kimberly Fambro for a study of 60 health departments. They found that the more successful programs combined as many facilitators as possible and were often supported by local plans and policies that can be implemented and maintained. The team recommended that HIV prevention programs collaborate with other community-based organizations and partners to sustain HIV testing strategies as their staffing resources remain reduced during the pandemic.

Benefits of a nationwide transition to electric vehicles

The U.S. transportation sector is a leading contributor to poor air quality, which can cause an increased risk of adverse health. Policies promoting transition to zero-emission vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce air pollutant emissions, improve air quality, slow climate change, and reduce the public health burden from exposure to vehicular emissions. ICF's Seth Hartley, Kate Munson, Anna Belova, and Jeffrey Rosenfeld teamed up with the American Lung Association's William Barrett and Paul Billings to develop national business-as-usual and policy scenarios for increased electrification for on-road vehicles. They found, in an achievable 2050 scenario, the transition to zero-emission vehicles paired with increasing renewables on the electric grid could achieve emissions reductions that could avoid 6,300 premature deaths and other adverse health effects nationally.

Bladder cancer burden of disinfection byproducts in the U.S.

Exposure to water disinfection byproducts, including trihalomethanes (TTHM), has been linked to cancers, birth defects, and adverse birth outcomes. Our researchers Anna Belova, Isabelle Morin, Elena Besedin, and Kate Munson partnered with Cognistx's Uxue Zurutuza to use lifetable and bladder cancer incidence data to simulate bladder cancer morbidity and mortality for 200 age/sex-specific U.S. population cohorts during 2018-2118. They found the cohorts not exposed to TTHM experienced 657,000 fewer cancer cases and 260,000 fewer premature deaths. The team concluded that further reductions in TTHM exposure could yield significant public health benefits.

Interactive training for integrating prescription drug monitoring programs into healthcare practice

Our expert Gary Chovnick supported CDC researchers Loretta Brown and Wesley Sargent Jr. for this study about electronic prescription drug monitoring programs. CDC developed a self-paced online training module to promote safer opioid prescribing and dispensing by helping healthcare providers fully implement an electronic prescription drug monitoring program into their daily practice. The training was developed by a team of CDC subject matter experts, instructional systems designers with expertise in adult learning theories, and multimedia developers experienced in creating engaging e-learning. CDC used formative research to ensure that the training met the target audience's needs and addressed knowledge and skill gaps. Over 94% of the learners indicated the course had the right balance of interactivity and the training is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars on the CDC Train platform.

Promoting positive childhood experiences among those impacted by parental substance use: The role of systems, community, family, and individual connectedness

Children impacted by parental substance use are at increased risk of child abuse and neglect, substance use disorder as adults, and other health challenges. Our expert Gary Chovnick supported CDC's Jennifer Matjasko, Sarah Treves-Kagan, and Joivita Bradford with a qualitative study conducted in six geographically diverse high- and low-burden U.S. counties. The theme of connectedness emerged as a possible positive childhood experience at the individual, family, community, and system level. The study found that connectedness across the social ecology is important for comprehensive support to children, parents, and caregivers. And this could lead to better short- and long-term outcomes for children affected by parental substance use.

Race/ethnicity-specific relationships between infant mortality and birth weight

Studies show significant correlation between birth weight and infant mortality. Our researchers Kate Munson, Jessica Balukas, Anna Belova, and Elena Besedin found that birthweight effects vary significantly by gestational age and the relationship between birthweight and infant mortality also varies by race/ethnicity. Their work underscores the importance of addressing disparities in maternal and infant healthcare services.

Syndromic surveillance for monitoring health impacts of pollen exposure

Air pollen concentrations can vary within relatively short distances, and gaps in monitoring create local blind spots. Our expert Zachary Stein wanted to know if emergency department data could be used as a proxy for pollen counts and tracking pollen-related health outcomes. In a collaboration between the CDC and the Georgia Department of Health, daily pollen measurements were obtained from the Atlanta Asthma and Allergy Clinic monitor for 2017-2018. Five health districts near a National Allergy Bureau monitoring station showed an association between allergy emergency department visits and pollen measures. Zachary concluded this association between syndromic data with pollen measurements supports the further exploration of syndromic surveillance data to track pollen-related health outcomes.

Building social and cultural connectedness for indigenous elders

Social connectedness is a key component of healthy aging. To protect the well-being of older Indigenous Americans, the Older Americans Act now includes Title VI: the promotion of community- and home-based supportive services for elders and caregivers. Our experts—Sofia Campos, Gretchen Clarke, Elizabeth Douglas, Marnie House, and Elizabeth Vaughn—partnered with the Center for Policy and Evaluation, Administration for Community Living’s Kristen Hudgins to conducted a culturally responsive evaluation of the Title VI programs, exploring the impact of the nutrition, supportive, and caregiver support services on elders, as well as how tribes and indigenous organizations implement their programs to support the health and well-being of elders.

Congratulations to this year's presenters on your collaborative work that helps promote a healthier nation. Follow the APHA Annual Meeting conversation on social media using @APHAAnnualMtg and #APHA2021.

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