A substantial number of children in the United States are deemed “socially vulnerable,” growing up with poverty, adverse childhood experiences, or other environments that create short-term and long-term negative health effects. Socially vulnerable children and adolescents include foster youth, youth involved in the juvenile justice system, sex trafficked youth, immigrant youth, and youth afflicted by violence.
Many socially vulnerable youth have higher health risks and may have worse health outcomes than the general pediatric population because of the social risks at play. Conditions such as sexually transmitted infections and childhood cancers are often more difficult to address for children who are socially vulnerable. Current projects include:
Addressing the Family Determinants of Early Childhood Obesity: Familias Unidas Niños Sanos (FUNS)
Principal Investigator: Alma Guerrero, MD, MPH, PI
FUNS is a project geared at developing a family-focused program to prevent childhood obesity among young Latino children. This program is based on formative qualitative research with over a hundred Latino caregivers of young children residing in East Los Angeles (E. LA), components of an evidence-based parent training intervention, and the dietary and physical activity practices consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines.
The program encompasses principles of community-based participatory research and has had early success thanks to partnerships with Volunteers of East Los Angeles (VELA), WIC Centers of E. LA, and various early education centers within E. LA. As the program moves forward the family-focused intervention will be piloted with mothers, fathers, and grandmothers of young Latino children and preliminary outcomes will be evaluated. The feasibility, acceptability, and sustainability of the intervention will also be examined. This work is supported by an NICHD K23 Career Development Award that is also providing coursework, mentorship, and career development activities to support my expertise in Latino children’s health, community-based interventions, and early childhood health outcomes.
LIFT: The Impact of Financial Coaching and Savings Supports on Family Functioning, Mental Health, and Health Related Quality of Life
Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, CDI
Principal Investigator: Adam Schickedanz, MD, PI; Tumaini R. Coker, MD, MBA, Co-PI
Financial strain is highly prevalent in American family life, yet evidence-based approaches to addressing the consequences to health and well-being of economic hardship at the household level are few. This project is evaluating the effect of a year-long financial coaching program and asset-building tools on parent perceptions of their own family strain, health-related quality of life, and mental health. This randomized trial is ongoing at two community development organizations in South and East Los Angeles, with the goal of enrolling 300 families into either the financial coaching program or a comparison group receiving no financial education or support. The results will give a detailed view of the intersections of household finances and family well-being, with the potential to add a new health-related dimension to the work of the hundreds of thousands of financial counselors serving millions of Americans annually in the U.S.
Promoting Health for Youth Transitioning Home after Incarceration
Funding: California Community Foundation
Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Barnert, MD, MPH, MS, PI
This mixed methods study, funded by the California Community Foundation, seeks to understand probation youths' health and healthcare needs in the period following release from juvenile confinement. The study is being conducted in close partnership with the Los Angeles County's Department of Mental Health, Division of Juvenile Justice Mental Health Programs; Department of Health Services, Division of Juvenile Court Health Services; and Department of Probation. Project methods include chart review of correctional health medical records as well as surveys and serial interviews with probation youth who are returning home from incarceration and their parents. The intention of the project is to collect pilot data that will lead to a career development award, and ultimately to a larger grant that will support the development of an intervention to promote the health of youth transitioning home after incarceration.
Understanding the Health and Healthcare Needs of Commercially Sexually Exploited Girls: A Partnership with the Los Angeles County STAR Court
Funder: UCLA Children’s Discovery and Innovation Institute Seed grant
Principal Investigators: Elizabeth Barnert, MD, MPH, MS, PI; Eraka Bath, Co-PI
In partnership with the Los Angeles County Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience (STAR) Court, a specialized juvenile court for commercially sexually exploited youth, the project aims to understand the health and healthcare needs of youth victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The project combines chart review of STAR Court case files with interviews with commercially sexually exploited youth to identify youths’ health risks and health-promoting factors, and to describe the mechanisms commercially sexually exploited youth use to navigate health services, as voiced by the youth.