Institute supports Ferguson Academic Seed Fund projects

The Institute for Public Health is pleased to offer additional support to projects, that have the potential to impact public health, funded by the Ferguson Academic Seed Fund (FASF). We provide matching funds to support the projects described below. The FASF was established by the Washington University Chancellor and Provost’s offices to provide support for addressing issues related to the development of sustainable urban communities.

The Baden Pilot Project

Principal Investigator: Rod Barnett (Professor and Chair, Landscape Architecture Program, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts)

Baden is a north St. Louis neighborhood with many challenges, including poverty, high crime rates, poor health outcomes, and insufficient educational and employment opportunities. These challenges can be multiplied by inequitable development, urbanization, and housing practices. This project aims to address these spatial issues in Baden through strategic redevelopment of green space, and to research best practices that might be translated into other under-resourced neighborhoods in the St. Louis metro area. It will include the development of a master plan (integrating community feedback) and a survey assessing local perceptions of health and well-being.

Understanding the Role of School Discipline as a Stressor in the Socio-emotional Health and Well-being of Marginalized Youth

Principal Investigator: Rowhea Elmesky (Associate Professor, Department of Education, Arts & Sciences)

Through Ferguson, our nation is compelled to make the connection between schools and neighborhoods and to begin to link maltreatment within educational institutions—entrusted to take care of children—to hostility and social unrest in confronting authority outside of school. This proposed research project seeks to study one school’s disciplinary culture and teaching practices with youth already experiencing marginalization within their neighborhoods. It will highlight the public health implications when anger, aggression, and alienation are normalized experiences inside and outside of schools.

The Black Body in White space: Does Racialized Fear Inhibit Health-Promoting Use of Public Space?

Principal Investigator: Melody Goodman (Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine)

St. Louis and the United States as a whole has a long history of racial segregation, which has impacted all sectors of society, especially residential areas. This project aims to explore how access to urban green space is affected by race, and if structural racism creates “exclusionary symbolic boundaries” that limits the participation of people of color in shared public parks (thereby perpetuating health outcome inequality). It will serve as a foundation for further study on what has been called “White space” – public areas that Blacks and other minority groups may perceive as “off limits” to them but they must navigate to live. It will include a literature review, qualitative interviews with African American city residents, development and testing of quantitative survey items, and systematic observation of parks in St. Louis to evaluate usage by different racial groups.

An Examination of Race and Costs of Upward Social Mobility in St. Louis

Principal Investigator: Darrell Hudson (Assistant Professor, Brown School)

While the presence and persistence of black-white health disparities is well documented, qualitative examinations of these phenomena are limited at best. Furthermore, there is a paucity of research aimed at examining blacks of middle class status and how black Americans experience and live middle class lifestyles. A qualitative examination of health disparities is necessary to help illuminate and explain quantitative differences that have been observed in health disparities research. This qualitative study will provide a better understanding of the experiences of middle class blacks in the face of persistent health disparities, despite socioeconomic advantage.

Engaging Older Adults in Shaping Ferguson’s Future

Principal Investigator: Nancy Morrow-Howell (Bettie Bofinger Brown Distinguished Professor of Social Policy, Brown School, and Director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging)

The project focuses on the potential for older adults to contribute to community development efforts. This work builds on the ideas of successful aging, productive aging, age-friendly communities and civic engagement of older adult. Making these connections has the potential to improve the well-being of not only the individuals involved, but also improve and strengthen the overall community. The project involves three phases over twelve months: 1) assessment and information gathering to understand the current status of older adults living in Ferguson and nearby communities; 2) engagement, through focus groups and interviews with older adults; and 3) strategy development for longer-term community projects and research.