New grants: Tisch College awards $18,000 for community-based public health research

Community Research Center provides grants to projects that combine health and education in Tufts host community of Boston’s Chinatown
Chinatown Gate
Members of the Tufts University School of Medicine Class of 2019 learn about the history of the Chinatown Gate during a tour of the neighborhood. The Tufts Health Sciences campus is in the heart of Boston's Chinatown. (Credit: Kelvin Ma, Tufts University)
December 20, 2017

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Jen McAndrew

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. (Dec. 20, 2017) – The Tisch College Community Research Center at Tufts University (TCRC) has announced that it will fund two projects in 2018, one aimed at increasing awareness of air pollution among residents in Boston’s Chinatown and another  that seeks to improve the mental health of Asian-American young women in that community.

The TCRC awards seed grants for research projects undertaken jointly by Tufts faculty and/or students in collaboration with community members -- particularly in Tufts University’s host communities of Medford, Somerville, Grafton and Boston’s Chinatown, Mission Hill and the Fenway neighborhoods. Research projects must produce both valuable academic scholarship and a tangible benefit to the community as it strives to address a pressing problem.

An $11,000 TCRC grant will fund the project “Achieving Whole Health through Gender Responsive and Culturally Relevant Curriculum.” The initiative is based on the fact that young Asian-American women experience a wide range of serious mental health issues, including depression and suicidal ideation, and face a number of cultural and structural barriers to accessing effective mental health interventions. This initiative will pilot and evaluate a series of group sessions utilizing the Achieving Whole Health program initially developed by the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, and adapted for use with adolescent girls in conjunction with Asian Women for Health (AWFH), a peer-led, community-based non-profit organization.

The study is a collaboration between AWFH, led by Founder and Executive Director Chien-Chi Huang, and Sasha Fleary, an assistant professor in Tufts University’s Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development with expertise in adolescent development, child and adolescent psychology, and program evaluation.

“The pilot data collected during this project, and the collaborative relationship between Asian Women for Health and Tufts University will pave the way for large-scale projects developing and disseminating community-based interventions to improve mental health of Asian-American adolescents,” said Fleary.

A second grant of $7,000 will support “Exploring Uses of Portable Air Pollution Monitors for Environmental Health Education.” The project builds on the work of previous TCRC-funded research, the Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health (CAFEH), which produced groundbreaking scholarship on ultrafine-particle contamination in Chinatown and other highway-adjacent communities.

This new study will evaluate the benefits of engaging local high school students from the youth program of the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC) in participatory data collection of particulate matter. 

The research will be led by Carolyn Wong, research assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine; John Durant, associate professor at Tufts School of Engineering; Georges Grinstein, a member of the research faculty at University of Massachusetts Amherst; and Sandra Lee, director of youth education at BCNC. 

“This pilot project, giving youth hands-on experience in taking measurements of particulate pollution and analyzing data, will inform longer-term research on environmental health education,” said Wong.

Both projects aim to explore the feasibility and potential of their respective interventions in order to inform future proposals for more comprehensive, far-reaching research. Previous studies initially supported by the TCRC, including CAFEH, have gone on to receive millions in funding from the National Institutes of Health and other sources.

“We are proud to support this year’s funded projects, which show exceptional promise in developing solutions to difficult problems like pollution and mental health, and exemplify the ways that collaboration between academics and community members strengthens scholarship,” said Doug Brugge, a professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and the TCRC faculty co-chair. 

 

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About Tufts University

Tufts University, located on campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville and Grafton, Massachusetts, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university's schools is widely encouraged.

 

About Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University

The only university-wide college of its kind, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life offers transformational student learning and service opportunities, conducts groundbreaking research on young people’s civic and political participation, and forges innovative community partnerships. Its work is guided by two core beliefs: that communities, nations and the world are stronger, more prosperous, and more just when citizens actively participate in civic and democratic life; and that higher education has a responsibility to develop the next generation of active citizens.