KSU Social Science Professors Awarded NIH Grant for Health Disparities Research

KENNESAW, Ga. | Feb 28, 2019

Project to focus on chronic disease self-management for low-income African-American men

Three Kennesaw State University researchers studying health disparities among various rural and urban populations in Georgia have recently been awarded a National Institutes of Health grant.

Evelina Sterling, assistant professor of sociology, along with associate professors of social work Carol Collard and Vanessa Robinson-Dooley, were recently awarded the $404,000 three-year grant to develop a new self-management and support intervention program for low-income African-American men with multiple chronic conditions.

Evelina Sterling, Carol Collard, Vanessa Robinson Dooley

“The broad goal of our study is to better understand how factors such as race/ethnicity, gender, culture, socioeconomic status, and geography, influence people’s ability to manage chronic disease,” said Sterling, the grant’s principal researcher who teaches in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “I knew it was the perfect opportunity to bring this research to Kennesaw State because NIH had a specific funding opportunity on self-management, and probably not many schools would focus on such a specific niche.”

Self-management practices enable people to take on active roles in understanding their medical conditions so they can better navigate the healthcare system, explained Sterling. However, individuals who are also experiencing social and/or economic hardships have more challenges such as transportation, money and insurance issues.

“From my experiences in the social work capacity, there is a significant need to better understand what challenges are disproportionately affecting vulnerable and underserved populations living with poverty and multiple chronic conditions,” said Collard, who teaches in the WellStar College of Health and Human Services.

For the first year, focus groups will be conducted with participants, their families and healthcare providers from rural and urban communities to figure out the opportunities and challenges they face. Then a peer-led self-management and support invention program called “Healthy Together” will be developed by the trio of researchers based on those interviews. The third year will focus on implementation and evaluation of the program. 

“We are excited about this project, especially the psychosocial aspect, because people already innately have the coping mechanisms to manage their health more effectively,” said Robinson-Dooley, who also teaches in the WellStar College of Health and Human Services.

This is the first NIH grant awarded to Kennesaw State focused on the social sciences in almost a decade.

Joëlle Walls

Photo by Rob Witzel

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.