iTHRIV and community groups partner to address health needs across Virginia

Four biomedical research projects to improve the health of Virginians will be funded by the integrated Translational Health Research Institute of Virginia (iTHRIV), a Clinical Translational Science Award Hub.

"iTHRIV is excited to partner with the National Institutes of Health in supporting our community nonprofit and governmental organizations who are collaborating with academic researchers to address important health needs across Virginia," said University of Virginia Associate VP for Clinical & Translational Research and Director of iTHRIV Karen Johnston. "It is our hope that these pilot grant projects will benefit underserved communities and improve research partnerships."

The projects address autism spectrum disorder, improved access to colorectal cancer (CRC) screening, postpartum depression, and the benefits of walking in cities. Community organizations will be involved in the efforts, working with teams of physicians and researchers from the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Our unique approach to community engagement through regional iTHRIV advisory boards in northern, central, and southwest/southside Virginia ensures that we foster collaborative research among community, clinical and academic organizations and institutions to serve diverse communities across the majority of the Commonwealth. The opportunity to involve our community partners in research that is a priority for them is extremely rewarding."

Kathy Hosig, Associate Professor & Director, Center for Public Health Practice and Research, Virginia Tech

The four teams will be awarded a total of $80,000 in funding.

Improving access to care for autism spectrum disorder in rural southwest Virginia

Disparities exist in access to care for parents and their children affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in rural communities. The iTHRIV seed grant funding will address barriers to accessing ASD specialty services in southwest Virginia, including diagnostic assessments and case management. The partnership between K.J. Holbrook from the Mount Rogers Community Services Board and Angela Scarpa, a professor of psychology at Virginia Tech, will provide information on the best ways to provide education and support for underserved communities about ASD care.

The impact of urban walking on public health

Based on the 2017 Community Health Assessment undertaken in Richmond, Va., there is a need to improve city-wide physical activity by increasing walking. It is important to understand the optimal conditions for these walks, taking into account the benefits of some spaces over others on personal outcomes such as mood and cognition and environmental outcomes such as air quality and temperature. Led by Jeremy Hoffman from the Science Museum of Virginia, Jenny Roe Director of the Center for Design and Health at the University of Virginia, Chris Neale from the University of Virginia Frank Batten School of Public Policy, and Julia Gohlke, an associate professor of population health sciences at Virginia Tech, this research will help address the issue of understanding the benefits of walking in cities.

Improving effectiveness of colorectal cancer screening through a community health center partnership

Rural and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups have lower colorectal cancer screening rates and higher mortality rates. Community health centers are ideal organizations to improve colorectal cancer screening for these groups. This research, led by Michelle Brauns from the Community Health Center of the New River Valley and Jamie Zoellner from the University of Virginia Department of Public Health Sciences, seeks to develop sustainable cancer prevention and detection programs in the New River Valley and test a scalable and low-cost CRC screening intervention.

Addressing postpartum depression and other mood and anxiety disorders in childbearing women in Charlottesville

Postpartum depression (PPD) and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are the most common complications of pregnancy and childbirth, affecting 1 in 5 mothers. At least 700 women in Greater Charlottesville will experience PMADs each year, affecting an additional 2,400 family members. Untreated PMADs can have long-term impact on the mother, baby and society. The project team, led by Adrienne Griffen from Postpartum Support Virginia and Sharon Veith from the University of Virginia School of Nursing, has the goal of educating local stakeholders about PMADs, establishing additional resources for recovery and ensuring that all childbearing women are educated about, screened for and receive treatment for PMADs from conception through one year after giving birth.

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