News Center for Health Economics & Policy Health Equity Violence & Abuse

Faculty scholar receives NIH grant to study impact of social services on multiple forms of family violence


Associate Professor, Institute Faculty Scholar and frequent Center for Health Economics & Policy contributor, Derek Brown, PhD is studying how economic conditions affect child abuse and neglect, and intimate partner violence.

Derek Brown

According to his study, “Child and family violence are prevalent, costly, and serious public health problems which have been linked to household economic stress, which has also been greatly increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. Supporting household income and reducing food insecurity during periods of under- or unemployment (including the pandemic) may prevent multiple forms of family violence, improving the health, safety, and well-being of children and women.”

Brown’s research team is using a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant totaling $1,049,998 (over three years) to fund the project, “Estimating the impact of SNAP, WIC, and UI in the primary prevention of multiple forms of family violence: a causal and computational approach.”

We caught up with Professor Brown to find out more about his research and how his work has been enhanced through his engagement with the Center for Health Economics & Policy.

Q: What was the impetus for your research?

A: I’ve spent much of my career studying the economic consequences and costs of child abuse and neglect (i.e.: child maltreatment or CM) but much less time studying the reverse. That is, how do economic conditions affect rates of CM? When I saw a CDC call for proposals around policy analysis and violence, we jumped on it. The CDC also requested that grant recipients study multiple forms of violence, so we were able to measure intimate partner violence (IPV) as a second outcome.

Q: What does the project seek to do?

A: We are studying the relationship between specific public assistance programs (unemployment insurance (UI), food stamps (SNAP), and the WIC program) and child maltreatment and intimate partner violence. We believe that states with more generous, and more easily accessible, assistance programs may have lower rates of CM & IPV than other states. We are using emergency department (ED) and hospital claims, child welfare system reports, and 911 call data.

Q: How will the NIH grant fuel these efforts?

The CDC grant provides the necessary resources to purchase access to some of the data sources and to hire graduate students and programmers to assist with the analysis. There is a lot of computing and statistical setup involved to convert these large administrative sources into feasible research datasets.

Q: Has your engagement with the Center for Health Economics & Policy affected your work? If so, how?

The CHEPAR community always has great ideas and is very supportive. At one of the CHEPAR meetings, I did a preliminary seminar to share initial experiences in setting up and coding emergency department data. I plan to show work in progress about every six months to get feedback, which is important to help keep a big project like this on track. CHEPAR meetings also often lead to side conversations, ideas for additional papers or analyses, and new collaborations. In fact, I am in conversations with a CHEPAR colleague about ways that we can exchange code, data, and computing resources so that each of us can be more productive.

The CHEPAR meetings always get me excited about research and provide energy to the workday. It’s one of my favorite activities of each month.

Derek Brown, PhD

Key findings from Brown’s project will be reported in the coming months.

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