KSU Social Science Professors Awarded NIH Grant for Health Dispararities Research

KENNESAW, Ga. (Mar 4, 2019) — Three Kennesaw State University researchers studying health disparities among various rural and urban populations in Georgia have recently been awarded a National Institutes of Health grant.

Evelina Sterling, assistant professor of sociology, along with associate professors of social work Carol Collard and Vanessa Robinson-Dooley, were recently awarded the $404,000 three-year grant to develop a new self-management and support intervention program for low-income African-American men with multiple chronic conditions.

“The broad goal of our study is to better understand how factors such as race/ethnicity, gender, culture, socioeconomic status, and geography, influence people’s ability to manage chronic disease,” said Sterling, the grant’s principal researcher who teaches in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “I knew it was the perfect opportunity to bring this research to Kennesaw State because NIH had a specific funding opportunity on self-management, and probably not many schools would focus on such a specific niche.”

Self-management practices enable people to take on active roles in understanding their medical conditions so they can better navigate the healthcare system, explained Sterling. However, individuals who are also experiencing social and/or economic hardships have more challenges such as transportation, money and insurance issues.

“From my experiences in the social work capacity, there is a significant need to better understand what challenges are disproportionately affecting vulnerable and underserved populations living with poverty and multiple chronic conditions,” said Collard, who teaches in the WellStar College of Health and Human Services.

For the first year, focus groups will be conducted with participants, their families and healthcare providers from rural and urban communities to figure out the opportunities and challenges they face. Then a peer-led self-management and support invention program called “Healthy Together” will be developed by the trio of researchers based on those interviews. The third year will focus on implementation and evaluation of the program. 

“We are excited about this project, especially the psychosocial aspect, because people already innately have the coping mechanisms to manage their health more effectively,” said Robinson-Dooley, who also teaches in the WellStar College of Health and Human Services.

This is the first NIH grant awarded to Kennesaw State focused on the social sciences in almost a decade.

– Joëlle Walls