Research and Initiatives at the College: Fall 2020

Across the College of Health, our faculty are working on a range of studies and initiatives that improve health and well-being for Alaskans and communities across the state. Through its projects, research and community partnerships, the College of Health is developing new knowledge and better solutions to some of Alaska’s most pressing issues.

The Center for Human Development

  • The Center for Human Development has begun a new initiative funded by the WITH Foundation, which supports organizations and projects that promote comprehensive and accessible healthcare for adults with developmental disabilities. Led by Karen Ward, CHD director, the Partners in Health project will improve health care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) through trainings designed to empower self-advocates, family members and caregivers in building inclusive relationships with health care providers. Trainings for health care providers—which will be facilitated by self-advocates—are designed to increase understanding of patients with IDD, promote best practices in communication strategies, and promote supported decision making in the patient/provider relationship. Trainings for self-advocates, family members and caregivers will aim to increase participation in health care appointments and promote self-advocacy.

The Division of Population Health Sciences

  • The Division of Population Health Sciences (DPHS) has been awarded a grant from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority to enhance the Alaska Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Strategic Plan. The project will be led by principal investigator David Parker, professor and DPHS director, in collaboration with Troy Payne, associate professor in the Justice Center and director of the Alaska Justice Information Center, and Karen Ward, director of the Center for Human Development.

    The project involves three parts: an assessment of the systems of involvement and care encountered by individuals living with FASD and their caregivers in Alaska; a resource guide/toolkit to help justice professionals and policymakers identify and provide appropriate services to Alaskans with FASD who enter the state’s justice system; and a study of FASD prevalence in Alaska’s educational system. Together, these components will identify new opportunities to coordinate systems of care and to connect individuals living with FASD to diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and education resources.

  • In the Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies, Assistant professor of environmental health Micah Hahn has published an article in the peer-reviewed journal Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases focusing on tick surveillance in Alaska. Hahn and her research team compiled and analyzed historical data and recent tick occurrence records collected through the Alaska Submit-A-Tick Program and through tick drag sampling at sites throughout southcentral Alaska. The research team found that over the past ten years, the numbers of tick records and tick species recorded in the state each year has increased substantially. The authors also suggest that continued monitoring and reporting will be essential for understanding—and responding to—the changing risk of ticks and tick-borne diseases in the state going forward. Read the full article in Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases here (paywall).

  • In partnership with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Hahn has also received funding from the National Science Foundation for a community-based study to characterize the lived experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic in remote Alaska Native communities, as well as individual- and community-level response to local pandemic-related challenges. Through interviews and surveys, Hahn and other researchers will identify the pandemic’s impacts on daily life and the ways in which individuals and communities are adapting. The study is a response to calls from tribal leaders and public health officials to monitor community needs, risk perceptions and adaptations during the pandemic. It is designed to enhance the existing network of Alaska Native individuals involved in research and public health response networks, and to broaden the participation of under-represented Alaska Native individuals living in remote communities.

The Justice Center

  • Associate Professor Troy Payne, director of the Alaska Justice Information Center (AJIC), has received a continuation of funding from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (part of the U.S. Department of Justice) to create a series of interactive online visualizations of Alaska criminal justice data. The visualizations are intended to provide policymakers, criminal justice agencies and the general public with a dynamic and compelling way to explore and understand data related to justice issues in the state. AJIC’s newest data visualization is the Alaska Victimization Survey dashboard, which focuses on the state’s intimate partner violence victimization patterns. Other visualizations focus on data relating to arrests, motor vehicle theft, homicide, and institutionalized populations. You can explore all of AJIC’s data visualizations on its website.

  • Assistant Professor Ingrid Johnson is leading the 2020 Alaska Victimization Survey (AVS) with funding from and in partnership with the State of Alaska’s Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (CDVSA). The AVS is a state-wide survey conducted every five years that gathers first-person responses related to experienced domestic and sexual violence, and that is designed to provide estimates of intimate partner violence victimization among adult women residing in Alaska. The survey enables CDVSA and its partner agencies to refine victim service delivery models, enhance prevention and intervention programming, and strengthen advocacy efforts with state, local and tribal providers and policymakers. Read more about the Alaska Victimization Survey.

  • Associate Dean of the College of Health (and former Justice Center faculty member) Andre Rosay has published an article in the Journal of Family Violence examining the psychometric properties of stalking victimization and related fear-based measures in the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), in order to better understand the ability of these items to produce valid estimates and comparisons among gender groups. Rosay and fellow researchers found that no meaningful gender differences were found among these items, indicating that the NISVS provides reliable estimates of the prevalence of stalking across gender groups. Read the full article in the Journal of Family Violence here.

The School of Social Work

  • Jo Ann Bartley, associate professor and chair of the Department of Human Services, has received a two-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bartley will lead a group of UA campuses across the state in developing a new curriculum that expands education for substance use disorder treatment practitioners in Alaska. The curriculum is intended to be integrated into different courses, and can be instructor-taught or initiated by students. This project is part of a larger initiative in the Department of Human Services to enhance education for the treatment of substance use disorders.

  • Associate Professor of Social Work Heidi Brocious has published an article in the peer-reviewed journal Collaborations focused on a study of a new program in Juneau that provides stable housing for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, which Brocious developed. Data from the study indicated that among residents of the new housing facility, there were decreases in use of city services such as ambulance transports, hospital emergency room visits, nights spent in the sobering center, and contacts with the police department in their first six months of permanent housing. Data also indicated significant improvements in tenants’ sense of safety, physical health, and self-esteem. Ultimately, the study data were instrumental in generating support among Juneau community leadership for the project, including a financial investment to expand similar housing services in the coming years. Read the full Collaborations article here.

  • Assistant professor Vanessa Meade has launched Operation Mary Louise with funding from the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska Community Foundation and other organizations. Operation Mary Louse as a statewide community-based project that provides Alaska women veterans with a platform to learn about veteran services and resources, improve their visibility, and reach others in the state’s growing community of women veterans. Meade, who is a U.S. Army veteran, developed the project in collaboration with local organizations and other female veterans to meet a critical community need: There are more than 10,000 women veterans in Alaska, and although they can access health services and other resources through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other state and community organizations, fewer than one third of the state’s women veterans access these services. Through connections, advocacy and information, this project aims to change that. Visit the Operation Mary Louise website here.