Equity, Evidence & Engagement
UNM TREE Center Studying Effects of COVID-19 Policies
on Underserved Communities
Submitted By: Dr. Cindy Foster, UNM Communications

Long-standing systemic health and social inequities such as intermittent internet access, grave health care workforce shortages, racial discrimination, unemployment, crowded housing and lack of access to water and food have put many rural residents at increased risk of getting COVID-19. 

The University of New Mexico Health Sciences TREE Center recently received a grant to study how local and state governmental COVID-19 policies are mitigating existing health inequities of racial, ethnic and rural populations nationally and regionally.

The UNM HSC Transdisciplinary Research, Equity and Engagement Center for Advancing Behavioral Health (TREE Center) goal is to both document what has been working as well seeking best practices that can benefit the state’s – and ultimately, the nation’s – most vulnerable populations in the future, according Lisa Cacari Stone, Phd, Associate Professor, College of Population Health and TREE Center Director/Principal Investigator.

“The $190,000 grant brings together infectious disease specialists with social scientists to analyze the structural structural determinants of COVID-19 on the nation’s racial and ethnic populations” according to Cacari-Stone.

“We know that governmental policy is the largest determinant of health equity and access to care in these communities yet they are overlooked by all levels of government,” she says.
This study expands on several aims of the TREE Center including: compilation of common data sets for team analyses, scientific workforce development, translation and dissemination of evidence for health disparity interventions and community and multi-stakeholder engagement for advancing health equity outcomes. Researchers will be working with a sensitivity toward pandemic-fatigued communities around the state, she says. 

The pandemic has already effected research projects around the state and the TREE Center wants to maintain a respectful distance while working to investigate the effects of local policies.

“We went for a secondary data analysis to avoid disturbing communities, who are suffering from grave health, social and economic hardships. We want to pull together the best data that will drive future interventions and research priorities, while respecting the needs of our communities at this time,” she says.

 “We believe the study will produce science-based policy recommendations designed to improve health and arrest the amplification of health inequities during our current COVID-19 pandemic," adds Blake Boursaw of the College of Nursing.

TREE Center Investigators involved in the project include Cacari Stone, PhD (COPH), Blake Boursaw,MS College of Nursing; Kasim Ortiz, MS, sociology doctoral fellow, Carlos Linares, MD, MPH student and CTSC researchers Yiliang Zhu, PhD, and Jessica Reno, MPH along with nationally known social epidemiologists Dr. Zinzi Bailey are collaborating to pair infectious disease modeling with the structural determinants of health. 
Addressing the Social-Structural Determinants of Mental Health and Suicide through Digital Storytelling and Youth Advocacy for Rural, Latino Youth

The National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities recently awarded a competitive diversity supplement to Dr. Shannon Sanchez-Youngman, Assistant Professor, College of Population health. 

The funding will further her research career development and support her engaged scholarship with key community leaders in San Miguel and Mora Counties ($145,748, July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020, 3U54MD004811-09S2). 

The goal of the study is to test a multilevel digital storytelling and youth advocacy intervention to reduce stigma and reduce mental health and suicide disparities among rural, Latino youth in Northern New Mexico. 

Drawing from the partnership process and results of a pilot grant funded by the TREE Center and UNM Office of Research, this study will further test community-based participatory research measures that impact policy change (TREE Center, NIMHD Grant # U54 MD004811-09).

This research is innovative and significant because it employs cutting edge strategies to address social-structural determinants of mental health. It promotes collective empowerment resiliency related to suicidality and develops intergenerational strategies that honor youth-led policy input to reduce suicide disparities and promote new ideas for suicide prevention. The intervention emphasizes a sustainable and replicable partnership model between community-based organizations and UNM that involves Latino youth, adult stakeholders, researchers, and community leaders working together to: a) increase youth leadership in suicide prevention; b) increase collective and political efficacy among Latino youth; c) increase communication and social connectedness between Latino youth and adult stakeholders; d) decrease public stigma related to suicide; and e) promote long-term youth resiliency factors to decrease suicide among Latino youth.
Virtual Writing Studios:
Advancing Team Writing and Knowledge for Health Equity

Thursday, Fall 2020, 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM


  • October: 15, & 29

  • November: 12

  • December: 3 & 17

Nina Wallerstein, DrPH, Steven Verney, PhD & Lisa Cacari Stone, PhD
NIH Career Award Panel

The University of New Mexico Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) received a notice for an upcoming panel “NIH Career Award Panel” being offered on Monday, October 12 from 10:00-11:00 am. Please sign up for this panel if you are interested.
At this virtual meeting, early-career academic faculty who intend to grow their research careers will learn more about the NIH series of awards that are designed to foster the development of outstanding scientists. Michael Sesma, PhD and Behrous Davani, PhD will share their experience and insights into the award process. 

Monday, October 12 from 10:00-11:00 am

Michael Sesma, Ph.D., is chief of the Postdoctoral Training Branch in the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity (TWD), where he oversees postdoctoral programs for research training, postdoctoral fellowships, career development programs, as well as the Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training (IPERT) and research programs in training interventions. Sesma also is program officer for the Genetics of Behavior and Circadian Biology Research grant portfolio in the Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology.
Behrous Davani, Ph.D., is a program director in the Division for Research Capacity Building, where he manages Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE), Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA), and the Native American Research Centers for Health (NARCH) programs.
Please contact R&I at ri-registration@unr.edu with any questions.
Tuesday, October 13 | 5:00pm - 6:30pm PT

Zoom Webinar Register here (free)

Jamila K. Taylor
Director of Health Care Reform and Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation

Janene Yazzie
Co-founder and CEO of Sixth World Solutions

Mari Lopez

Moderated by Charles L. BriggsProfessor of Anthropology and Co-Chair, Berkeley Center for Social Medicine
Welcome by Heidi Hoechst, Education Lead, National Nurses United 

Sponsored by: Berkeley Center for Social Medicine and 

The Covid19 pandemic has revealed racism as the public health crisis facing the United States. Health disparities are also shaped by employment, immigration, housing, land use, and many other systemic issues and institutions. The United States government's response has largely been reactive; this event is an opportunity to focus on redefining health policy in ways that go beyond debates about testing or restaurant re-opening. Drawing on their experience of working for change at the grassroots, three visionary leaders will engage in a conversation about health policy that would encompass the social and structural changes we need to promote good health. 
This event is part of ISSI's Scholarship for Black Lives event series, which highlights research on systemic racism and anti-racism as well as scholarship that asserts that Black lives matter.

NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research Now Available

The NIH-Wide COVID-19 Strategic Plan, released on July 13, 2020, provides a framework describing how NIH is accelerating the development of therapeutic interventions, vaccines, and diagnostics in response to the SARS-CoV-2 global pandemic. It describes how NIH is rapidly mobilizing the biomedical research community, such as through establishing new programs that leverage existing resources, to lead a swift, coordinated research response.
Resources on Health Equity in the Context of COVID-19 and Disproportionate Outcomes for Marginalized Groups

Disproportionate outcomes for people of color related to COVID-19 most recently illuminate the structural barriers to good health faced by our nation's most vulnerable and marginalized populations. The realities of systemic bias and structural racism that give rise to inequities have health consequences for individuals and communities across the United States and on the well-being of our society.

The National Academy of Medicine's Culture of Health Program is committed to advancing the scientific underpinnings for progress in health equity and sharing evidence-based strategies to bring about the transformation necessary to dismantle structural racism and ultimately achieve health equity for all - mitigating the effects of the current crisis and safeguarding the well-being of our nation for the future. 

They have compiled a list of resources on health equity in the context of COVID-19. These resources will be updated regularly.  
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