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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

SDSU Researcher Awarded NIH Grant to Study Oral Health and Social Support

Dr. Tracy L. Finlayson, associate professor of health management and policy at San Diego State University (SDSU), received a new four-year, $2.7 million dollar research study, funded by the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Dr. Finlayson is an interdisciplinary health services researcher who studies the psychosocial determinants of oral health disparities, access to dental care among vulnerable populations, and health policy. She is a Core Investigator of the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health at SDSU.

Dr. Finlayson will lead a multi-disciplinary team of investigators at SDSU and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Dentistry, and two federally qualified and migrant health centers in San Diego and Imperial Counties, California. Phase I will use a qualitative approach and semi-structured interviews to examine the intersection of oral health and social support in depth to inform the creation of a new scale on oral hygiene behaviors and dental care utilization. Phase II will include comprehensive oral health examinations and collect detailed socio-cultural information via surveys, to assess the scale’s validity and reliability.

The development and validation of a new clinically-validated, domain-specific social support scale will move dental public health research forward. The study will explore the structural and functional dimensions of social support relevant for promoting oral hygiene behaviors and dental care utilization among lower-income Mexican-origin young adult men and women. The goal of this study is to develop and validate a culturally-relevant, behavior-specific social support scale in both English and Spanish. Social support research in oral health is scarce, mostly descriptive, and conducted using varied, brief, general scales with mixed results. This study will expand our understanding of socio-cultural determinants of oral health behaviors and oral health status in a population at high risk for dental disease, and set the stage for future intervention research.