Nursing faculty land WSU health equity research projects

Health equity means something different to Spanish-speaking agricultural workers, suburban children of color, and Asian families and Pacific Islander families. Yet all these groups face challenges of health equity – the economic, social or historical obstacles to living their healthiest possible lives.

Three new projects led by or including WSU College of Nursing researchers were awarded seed-grant funding by the Washington State University Health Equity Research Center (HERC) to address aspects of health inequity in these groups. They are among the six projects awarded funding this year by the center, which supports innovative research on health disparities and the development of partnerships with communities and health systems.

“Health equity is absolutely critical for the well-being of all; we truly are a global, connected community,” said WSU College of Nursing Dean Mary Koithan. “When we support mechanisms to reduce racism and structural barriers to care, and improve access to all of the resources necessary to support health (e.g., jobs, affordable housing, access to clean air, food and water, safe communities), we create communities that are sustainable, productive, and ultimately resilient.”

The purpose of the Health Equity Research Center seed grant program is to jump-start research addressing the myriad causes of health inequity. The grants range can range in size from $10,000-$50,000 to address health equity issues in ways that present new opportunities for impact and the potential for additional grant funding from an external source.

The projects involving WSU College of Nursing faculty are:

  • “Building capacity to reduce agricultural worker exposure to smoke and heat during wildfires”

The research team will build partnerships with a federally qualified health center that serves agricultural workers and a research center focused on agricultural safety and health. It will examine current risk communication tools for heat and wildfire smoke used by Spanish-speaking agricultural workers and protective actions to take to minimize risk.
Principal investigator: Julie Postma, Associate Dean for Research, WSU College of Nursing

  • “Coalition building for anti-racism and community-participatory health equity research in Asian communities and Pacific Islander communities: Planting the seed to dismantle structural racism”

This project has three aims: to lay the groundwork for a multi-state Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Justice Coalition for anti-racism; to identify community perspectives on healthcare needs and barriers to accessing healthcare among Asian families and Pacific Islander families; and to explore experiences of racial discrimination, trauma, healing and resilience with multi-generational households. The project also will assess feasibility and acceptability of physiological stress measurement via hair cortisol concentration among Asian families and Pacific Islander families.
Principal investigator: Connie Kim Yen Nguyen-Truong, Assistant Professor, WSU College of Nursing
Principal Investigator: Sara F. Waters, Assistant Professor, WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, Human Development Department
Co-investigator: Erica Crespi, Associate Professor, WSU School of Biological Sciences
Co-investigator: Deborah U. Eti, Clinical Assistant Professor, WSU College of Nursing

  • “Decolonizing the Outdoors: A Community-Based Approach to Improving Health Equity in Early Childhood”

This project focuses on the first licensed, all-outdoor preschool in the U.S., Tiny Trees in Burien, Washington. All 200 children enrolled this fall come from families of color. The WSU HERC-funded study will hold focus groups and establish a community working group to design an activity to optimize physical and mental health in preschool-aged children through nature-based learning. It also includes a health needs assessment and survey.
Principal investigator: Amber Fyfe-Johnson, Assistant Research Professor, IREACH, WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
Co-Principal investigator: Ka’imi Sinclair, Associate Professor, IREACH, WSU College of Nursing.