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School and Program Updates

School and Program Updates

Maryland Mental Health Initiatives

The University of Maryland School of Public Health’s research spans a wide array of mental health topics, ranging from the effects of natural and built environmental factors on children’s neurodevelopment to improving population mental health through system-level care coordination. Recent examples of research related to mental health include:

Assistant professor Devon Payne-Sturges’ recently funded project, “Systems Science Approaches for Assessing Cumulative Impacts of Air Pollution and Psychosocial Stressors On Neurocognitive Outcomes Among Children.” The project is funded by a K01 Career Development Award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences totaling more than $400,000. Dr. Payne-Sturges’ project will build on her work with Project TENDR, a collaboration of scientists, health professionals, and children’s and environmental advocates calling for more aggressive regulations to significantly reduce children’s exposures to toxic chemicals and protect brain development.

The paper, “The Impact of Housing Assistance on the Mental Health of Children in the United States” from assistant professors Dr. Andrew Fenelon, Dr. Michel Boudreaux, Dr. Natalie Slopen of the University of Maryland and assistant professor Dr. Sandra J. Newman of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The paper revealed that children who live in public housing experience significantly better mental health outcomes than those who are on a waitlist to receive public housing. A similar effect is not found in other housing assistance program types such as housing choice vouchers or multifamily housing programs, despite their emphasis in federal housing policy.

The study, “Immigration, Citizenship, and the Mental Health of Adolescents” from Department of Health Services Administration MPH student Nicole Filion that shows non-citizen immigrant adolescents have better mental health than their citizen counterparts, and that this protective effect fades out the longer they have been in the United States.

Associate professor Dr. Kerry’s new 5 year R01 grant from the National Institute on Aging to continue the Woodlawn Project’s fifty two year legacy of research. Her study, “Understanding the Aging Process of Urban African Americans Across the Life Course: Identifying Early Risk and Protection for Cognition and Health in Midlife,” will examine how early life experiences through the 40s influence aging outcomes at age 60 including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Two new papers from assistant professor Dr. Natalie Slopen and colleagues assessing the adverse psychological and physical health outcomes of maternal experiences with intimate partner violence on children from Tanzania and maternal trauma, stress, and adversity on children from Tennessee.

Department of Family Science doctoral student Allison Schroeder’s research on the associations between the accumulation, timing, and duration of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) in early childhood and internalizing and externalizing behavior problems at age 9. Her study, “Accumulation, Timing, and Duration of Early Childhood Adversity and Behavior Problems at Age 9,” found that children exposed to six or more ACE before the age of 5 were more likely to exhibit behavior problems at age 9 when compared to children exposed to zero to one ACE.

The paper, “Examining the Association of Antidepressant Prescriptions With First Abortion and First Childbirth by assistant professor Dr. Julia R. Steinberg and colleagues. First to explore the risk of antidepressant use around an abortion as a proxy for depression, the study reveals that having an abortion does not increase a woman’s risk for depression.

The Hospital and Public Health Interdisciplinary Research (HAPPY) lab’s work on three projects using interdisciplinary approaches and collaboration with clinical leaders, community partners, and organizational decision makers. The projects include the System-level Multidisciplinary Integration for Population Health and Equity (SMILE) project, the Local Health Departments and Mental Health Care Disparities (LHD) project, and the Patient Activation and Empowerment Strategies (PAES) subproject.