News COVID-19

Institute awards funding for COVID-19 projects that study its impact on individuals and communities

The Institute for Public Health announces funding for seven research projects aimed at social and policy countermeasures in health that will mitigate the spread and negative impact of COVID-19 among individuals and communities.

“While it’s important to advance research on basic science, testing and treatment for COVID-19, it’s equally important to understand the social, mental, physical and economic impact of this virus on individuals and communities,” said Bill Powderly, MD, the Larry J. Shapiro Director of the Institute. “We can use this information to inform future clinical and public health responses, decision-making and planning at the local, national and international level.”

Funded projects include:

Social and Policy Approaches to Mitigate the Negative Impact of COVID-19 among Individuals and Communities

Team: Principal Investigator: Ashley Houston, OTD, MSCI
Co-Principal Investigator and Community Partner: Catina O’Leary, PhD, LMSW, president/CEO of Health Literacy Media
Academic Collaborator: Mary C. Politi, PhD

Summary: The project will assess current barriers to and opportunities for messaging on COVID-19 between community members and health professionals in underserved populations of the St. Louis Metro and the Southeast Missouri “Bootheel”. Based on interviews and data assessment, new health-literate public messaging will be developed and disseminated through multiple communications channels, from social media to peer-reviewed journals. In addition, an open-access publication will be produced for use by other communities.

Financial Strain and Healthcare Utilization During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic

Team: Principal Investigator: Aimee S. James, PhD, MPH
Academic Collaborators: Ana Baumann, PhD and Jean M. Hunleth, PhD, MPH
Community Partner: Southern Illinois Healthcare, Carbondale

Summary: During a pandemic, the inability to access or afford prescribed medications, cancelled/rescheduled appointments, and income loss has a devastating impact on the health and well-being of vulnerable community members. This project will identify critical needs (social, basic, and health care related) of low-income residents during and after the pandemic, and assess how health care inequities and needs have changed following the pandemic. Researchers will target specific areas for intervention and identify ways that public health and medical providers can use the information to help with COVID-19 recovery efforts.

*This project is funded by the MTM, Inc. Community Health Access Fund.

Frontline Healthcare Personnel and Hospital Incident Command System Perspectives of Infection Prevention and Crisis Management during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Team: Principal Investigator: Stephen Liang, MD, MPHS
Academic Collaborator: Virginia McKay, PhD, MA
Community Partners: Missouri Baptist Medical Center and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital (BJC); Abbott Emergency Medical Services; Christian Hospital EMS; and other BJC Hospitals as needed

Summary: Given the widespread and devastating nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare provider perspectives on infection prevention, emerging infectious diseases, and crisis response have changed overnight in ways not previously imagined. This project will assess current responses and help better prepare healthcare providers to respond to future pandemics as well as gain a structured understanding of shifts in perspective and lessons learned from this pandemic.

COVID-19 and the Impact on Contraceptive Access, Pregnancy Intendedness and Mental Health

Team: Principal Investigator: Tessa Madden, MD, MPH
Academic Collaborator: Shannon Lenze, PhD
Community Partner: Hope Clinic for Women

Summary: A decrease in healthcare access during COVID-19 may contribute to increased rates of unintended pregnancy and health disparities, and may disproportionately affect women of color and low-income women. This project will provide evidence about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s contraceptive access and the association with unintended pregnancy. This evidence can inform policies regarding contraceptive provision as an essential healthcare service. Additionally, data about perinatal mental health in pregnant women can show how the pandemic may negatively affect pregnant women and pregnancy outcomes, which can inform future clinical care.

Compound Vulnerability and COVID-19: African American and African Low Wage Allied Healthcare Workers and Ancillary Staff

Team: Principal Investigator: Shanti Parikh, PhD
Academic Collaborators: Vetta Sanders Thompson, PhD; Carol Camp Yeakey, PhD; Will Ross, MD, MPH; Jeffrey McCune, PhD; John Baugh, PhD; Cecilia Hegmin-Younger, PhD; Mungai Mutonya, PhD; El Hadji Samba A. Diallo, PhD; and Rudolph Clay, MS
Community Partner: Black Nurses Association (BNA) of Greater St. Louis

Summary: This study focuses on African-American and African low-wage allied, healthcare workers and ancillary workers in hospitals, clinics and home healthcare settings who care for Covid-19 patients. These care providers are at increased occupational risk for COVID-19, but also serve as a bridge between health systems and the black community. This study will examine workers’ perceptions, experiences with and knowledge of COVID-19; their access to risk reduction measures such as PPE, patient flow and social distancing; their occupational risk for COVID-19; and their psychosocial, cultural and other coping behaviors. The project aims to strengthen community health services for this and future highly infectious diseases.

Navigating a Pandemic: The Experiences of Diverse Older Adults and Their Care Partners

Team: Co-Principal Investigators: Brian Carpenter, PhD; and,
Beth Prusaczyk, PhD
Academic Collaborators: Nancy Morrow-Howell, PhD, and Eric Lenze, MD
Community Partners: STL Village (non-profit for community-dwelling older adults) NORC (non-profit for community-dwelling older adults); Tower Grove Manor (senior living apartments); Crown Center (senior living apartments); Greater Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association; Memory Care Home Solutions (home health agency);
Continuum (home health agency); and SAGE (non-profit focused on LGBTQ Aging)

Summary: The COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate effect on older adults and those who care for them, with an even more pronounced effect on vulnerable groups such as African Americans and low-income individuals. This study will investigate how older adults and their care partners have reacted to the disease and subsequent public health messages, with a particular focus on their mental and physical health, continued social engagement, information seeking and processing behaviors, their opinion on portrayals of aging in the media, and more. This study can be used immediately to develop strategies to support older adults and care partners during and post-pandemic; and, will help society to more effectively disseminate and implement information and practices during the next public health crisis.

Determining COVID-19-related Impacts, Experiences and Needs Among Immigrants and Service Providers in St. Louis

Team: Principal investigator: Kim Thuy Seelinger, JD
Academic Collaborators: Vetta Sanders Thompson, PhD; Julia D. Lopez, PhD, MPH, LCSW; Christopher Prater, MD, MPH; Katie Meyer, JD; and Randi Foraker, PhD, MA
Community Partner: Immigrant Service Providers Network

Summary: As the different levels of state, county and city government develop COVID-19 response plans, it is imperative to understand and address immigrants’ relevant experiences, challenges and needs. This project aims to strengthen policymakers’ and service providers’ awareness of immigrants’ unique and urgent experiences and needs related to COVID-19, and control measures affecting the St. Louis area. It will also provide critical insights into immigrant access to healthcare services, protective measures and information.