Research in Service of Action


Utilizing services of the SSRC this summer, Associate Professor of Sociology Fernando De Maio and students from the Master of Public Health program have been working with Rush University Medical Center to compile a portrait of what health looks like in the eight West Side and three Oak Park Community Areas that make up the hospital’s city and suburban patient base.

This is among the first projects of the new LAS Center for Community Health Equity (CCHE). Co-directed by Fernando and Dr. Raj C. Shah, a geriatrician and an associate professor in Rush’s Department of Family Medicine and its Alzheimer’s Disease Center, the Center is embarking on an ambitious goal: to help improve community health outcomes and eliminate health inequities in Chicago. By linking the two institutions’ research, teaching and experiential assets in a strategic partnership across disciplines, it aims to connect research and action, recognizing that, “it is not enough to identify a problem and then do nothing to fix it,” Fernando said.

Every three years, as a condition of the Affordable Care Act, non-profit hospitals must conduct a Community Health Needs Assessment describing the health needs of the residents within their service area and to what extent they are meeting them. They receive a mandate and an injunction (don’t exclude any populations within the service area), but get little methodological guidance, Fernando noted. DePaul’s participation through the CCHE now offers an opportunity to introduce “a social science approach” previously missing from Rush’s health assessment, Fernando said. Before, qualitative data was a very small component of the report, which lacked the “richness” valued in social research. “The actual voice of the participants was lost,” he noted.

The benefits of collaboration are already evident. A combination of health care utilization information from Rush, sociodemographic and economic data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), along with GIS mapping and data analysis from the CCHE (assisted by the SSRC) have added a significant change to the next report: Austin will be included in Rush’s Chicago service area for the first time. The 2015 assessment will also include quantitative data collected by a Cook County-wide collaboration of hospitals and qualitative information from focus groups. “The end result, I think, is going to be one grounded in qualitative insight,” Fernando said. “The voice of residents — in Austin, West Garfield Park, North Lawndale and other high-hardship communities — should have a more prominent role in the report.”

DePaul students are benefiting from the opportunity to directly observe the assessment planning, implementation and analysis processes. Students Denisha Brown, Kerianne Burke, Ernesto Flores, Aneta Jedrazsko, Maggie Nava and Adenike Sosina have participated as focus group note-takers, facilitators and transcribers. Denisha and Maggie got to join Fernando on a Rush committee that formulated the focus group questions, and Kerianne helped Fernando and Dr. Shah analyze the CDC data. The SSRC has trained students in how to represent data through GIS maps and how to use SSRC transcription equipment to capture the focus group discussions. Fernando said his preliminary examination of the initial transcripts is already revealing “valuable insight, which should add a layer of richness to the community health needs assessment.”

As of September, the Center will be housed at the Loop campus. An official kick-off event is scheduled for Oct. 29 at Rush. “All of us are really excited by the potential of the Center,” Fernando said. “It is a way for us to meaningfully collaborate across disciplines and professions, with community involvement, and work on one of the big injustices in our city — the simple and stubborn fact that your zip code largely determines your life expectancy.”


Mess Hall: Collaboration at DePaul

How well does DePaul support cross-disciplinary collaboration? While intra-college projects do happen, a model for accommodating partnerships across colleges seems more pipe dream than reality. Moving innovative collaborative projects from the individual “hero-driven” approach to a process supported and valued by the institution was the topic of the May 19 Mess Hall session by Robin Burke of the College of Computing and Digital Media. Within the frame of innovation and supporting collaboration, Robin also discussed CIRSCI, the Collaboratory for Interdisciplinary Research, Scholarship and Curricular Innovation that he and SSRC Director Greg Scott have proposed to DPU administration.

“If you want to work together, you’ve got to be together,” Robin declared. A good starting point, Robin suggested, might be locating informal meeting spaces and federating existing institutes or resources that could facilitate fledgling partnerships. We recorded Robin’s brief presentation, which you can watch here. You can access related documents the links below.

Slides: A Collaboratory to Support Interdisciplinary Projects

CIRSCI Proposal

Faculty Council Resolution: Support for Collaboration

Discussion following the presentation focused on communication and documentation of both new and existing projects. Where can potential collaborators find each other or meet to hatch ideas—temporary pop-up locations and events, perhaps? What examples are underway at DePaul and where can we learn about them—maybe document them through a website? What constitutes an acceptable collaborative end product and how do you demonstrate value?

Let’s continue the discussion and talk about collaboration. What do we need? How do we get there?

Mess Hall: October 11

Mess Hall is a “brown bag” series (bring your lunch!) that lets DePaul researchers present their works in progress at any stage (mess & all). Mess Hall is a safe, fun, supportive and no-pressure environment for presenters to practice conference presentations, talk through data analysis problems, or untangle conceptual or framework issues. For those not presenting, Mess Hall offers an opportunity to learn what scholars in other departments and fields are working on and to become part of a supportive community of research at DePaul. Faculty, staff, graduate and advanced undergraduate students are welcome to attend. Please RSVP on Facebook.

This month’s offering:
Transmedia for Students & Emotional Health
Doris C. Rusch (CDM), Anu Rana (CDM), Mona Shattell (CHS)

The Transmedia Project on Students and Emotional Well-Being brings together documentary episodes and experiential games that aim to capture people’s lived experience of personal struggles and inner conflicts. The goal is to raise awareness about emotional health, destigmatize, and build empathy.

We are in the process of developing 4 interactive sequences and webisodes dealing with ADD, OCD, bipolar and eating disorders and collecting written and verbal stories of these experiences from a wide range of individuals.

We have some questions we’d like to open for discussion:
• How can we find a good balance between creating something that is appealing and compelling for a diverse audience of young adults suffering from various afflictions, their friends and families, a generally interested public, and health care practitioners?
• How can we make something aesthetically compelling that communicates to a broad audience, yet remains true to people’s lived experiences?
• What additional applications and research potential should we consider as we design the overall website?

Mess Hall

Civilian Conservation Corps Mess Hall
Civilian Conservation Corps Mess Hall Photo via OSU Special Collections on flickr. (Click on image for more info)

We’re excited to launch Mess Hall, a “brown bag” series intended to allow DePaul scholars to present their works in progress at any stage (mess & all).  Mess Hall is a safe, fun, supportive, no-pressure environment where you can practice conference presentations, talk through data analysis problems, untangle conceptual or framework issues, or solicit collaborators. For those not presenting, Mess Hall offers an opportunity to learn what scholars in other departments and fields are working on and to become part of a supportive community of research at DePaul.

Bring your lunch and your constructive criticism and support your colleagues’ scholarship. If you’d like to present at Mess Hall, send an email to Jessica Speer.

WHEN: Friday, May 17, 1 – 2 p.m.
WHERE: SSRC Conference Room, 990 W. Fullerton Ave., Suite 3100
WHO: John Mazzeo, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology

Social Foundations for a Community-Based Public Health Cholera Campaign in Borgne, Haiti

The rapid and widespread progression of cholera in rural Haiti can be attributed to a “perfect storm” of conditions including the widespread use of unprotected water sources, rudimentary sanitation, the lack of means to afford simple necessities, and the near absence of basic health services to treat the sick. Accessibility of essential health care and reliable sources of clean water in remote areas of rural Haiti are fundamental barriers to addressing acute public health emergencies including the ongoing cholera epidemic. This article explores the notion that positive health outcomes for hard to reach populations can be achieved through community mobilization. The peasant movement (gwoupman peyizan) in Borgne has established an extensive, capillarized social network that served as a model for the mobilization of volunteers in the fight against the cholera epidemic.  This case study from Borgne, Haiti describes the role of Alyans Sante Borgne (ASB), in coordinating community mobilization efforts against the epidemic. It suggests that the treatment of cholera and other infectious diseases requires a model of care delivery that efficiently brings resources to remote areas and recognizes the value of existing models of social organization in this process.