College & Career Summit, Community-Academic Partnerships for Public Health Advocacy
On Saturday, July 29th, faculty and student researchers from the Department of Public Health presented a panel at the SCU Health, College and Career Summit on Community-Academic Partnerships for Public Health Advocacy.
Dr. Alice Villatoro was joined by Student Research Assistant Mae Krause '24 (Public Health Science, Anthropology majors; History minor) as they presented highlights from their community-based research study on perinatal mental health. This study, a collaboration with Anthropology faculty member Dr. Veronica Miranda, examines the social determinants of postpartum health among Latinx birthgivers, working closely with the Sherman Oaks Family Resource Center. Nearly 50% of research participants indicated that they had experienced depression and/or anxiety symptoms in the postpartum period, emphasizing the stressors of immigration policy, Covid-19 and distrust of medical professionals. Resources included paternal family leave policies, extended family networks, and medical support. Students in Dr. Villatoro’s Public Health Senior Capstone course have also contributed to this project through their mixed methods research training. Mae Krause will be extending this work with her De Nardo Fellowship, A Qualitative Analysis of Postpartum Education and Resources in San Jose.
Dr. Sheila Yuter (Public Health and Sociology) presented findings from her community-based research study, a VR Training for Dementia Caregivers, in collaboration with the SCU Healthcare Innovation & Design Program/Brain & Memory Care Lab, and the Departments of Psychology and Neuroscience. Together with her team of student researchers, Dr. Yuter worked with community partners Hearts and Minds Dementia Care, Asian Americans for Community Involvement, and the Family Caregiver Alliance to develop and pilot a virtual reality training program to provide support and skills for those caring for loved ones with dementia. Students pitched evidence-based ideas to the funder, developed scripts, and worked with caregivers to pilot the program as they gained hands-on training in how to apply technology to the growing health issue of dementia, anticipated to affect 9 million Americans by 2030. Of the 16 million caregivers for people with dementia in the US, two-thirds (65%) are women, and almost two-thirds (57%) work full-time. This innovative project has engaged students and community members alike, receiving recent media attention as it continues to address the real-world public health challenges of an aging population.
Both projects draw on long-standing relationships with community organizations and illustrate how research for health equity must be community-driven from the outset. Research must also address the structural determinants of health and bring a broad vision of health that encompasses physical, mental and emotional well-being. At the SCU Department of Public Health, we are committed to innovative and community-driven public health research that is driven by a clear goal of building health equity, so every person has an equal chance to live and thrive across the lifecourse. Here in Silicon Valley, where we see some of the most extreme health and economic disparities of anywhere in the world, it is all the more important for us to understand how to harness technology for health equity, and to address the under-studied issue of mental health among Latinx birth-giving communities.
The panel fielded questions from prospective students who came to learn from experts and to network as they consider careers in health at SCU. Dr. Sonja Mackenzie, Chair of the Department of Public Health, moderated a lively discussion about the benefits of a public health training for future careers and heard from prospective students about their varied interests in applied public health research.