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College of Medicine faculty join interdisciplinary Social Science Research Institute projects

Penn State College of Medicine faculty are part of three Penn State research teams that were awarded Social Science Research Institute pilot funding to address human and social problems.

The grants allow the formation of collaborations to pursue new and high-impact research in preparation for securing extramural funding. Funded projects focus on education, health or economic disparities, inform policy and systems development to address these disparities, and emphasize the engagement of communities and other stakeholders. This year, three large pilot awards were announced:

“Developing an automated system to counter health misinformation in electronic media preferred by persons who identify as Black or African American” 

Principal Investigator Dr. Robert Lennon, associate professor of family and community medicine, joins other Penn State faculty in studying whether counter information can reduce knowledge gaps about COVID-19.  COVID-19 has highlighted health disparities, with African Americans suffering the highest death rate of any racial group in the U.S. Research has shown that COVID-19 misinformation can lead to health knowledge gaps, and identifying misinformation is the first step to countering it.

“Towards Sustainable Rural Health Care Delivery: A Pilot Study to Explore Preventive Health Care Access Using a Mobile Health Clinic”

Principal Investigator Dr. Michael McShane, assistant professor of medicine; and co-principal investigator Dr. Mark Stephens, professor of family and community medicine, join Penn State peers to conduct a pilot study that will investigate preventive health care delivery to medically underserved rural communities in central Pennsylvania through the lens of sustainability. The team hopes to establish the infrastructure needed to design, implement and evaluate further interventions in medically underserved rural communities. Residents of rural America face unique barriers to accessing and utilizing health care services, while the current model for rural health care is increasingly financially and socially unsustainable.

“Financial wellbeing for individuals living with mental illnesses: Toward a privacy-preserving and data-driven intervention platform” 

Dr. Erika Saunders, Gerald B. Shively and Robert Y. Tan Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, joins two other Penn State faculty to address financial stability for individuals with mental illnesses. Symptomatic periods often manifest in poor financial decision-making, which can drastically reduce the recovery rate as well as negatively impact stability and quality of life for people with mental illnesses in the long term. The research team’s goal is to address this gap by leveraging objective financial data in a privacy-preserving manner to develop intervention methods.

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