Participating Faculty

More than 20 faculty from three colleges have been integral to the formation of the Community Health Research Group. The following section describes the research of the six core faculty who will work closely with the new Community Health hires, as well as the other contributors to the research group. These faculty span a wide range of disciplines, but are united by their interest in understanding the determinants of health disparities. Other cluster-affiliated faculty are listed below the members of the nucleus

Community Health Research Nucleus

Kelly Austin
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Director of the Health, Medicine, and Society (HMS) program
Lehigh University Community Health Research Group Kelly AustinKelly’s research examines the social and environmental causes of infectious disease, namely HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, in less-developed nations. Although global health policy prioritizes technological interventions and economic growth in addressing human well being, Kelly’s research points to the significance of basic public and community health resources, such as sanitation and the availability of physicians. Additionally, her research connects economic dependency and neoliberal economic policy to urban slum development and natural resource extraction in poor regions, which serve to exacerbate disease trends. Kelly’s current research examines provisions for health services in communities in less-developed regions. In particular, Kelly is interested in evaluating the efficacy of health NGOs in reducing disease and improving health. This work connects to larger global health and development dynamics, as NGOs play an increasing role in providing health resources to communities in poor nations. However, given that NGOs are supported by volunteers and foreign donors, the extent to which this form of health service results in lasting, consistent, or significant gains in health for the public needs further assessment. An assessment of the impact of NGOs on health requires a serious partnership with host communities as well as epidemiological studies of changing health status. The new Community Heatlh hires will make critical contributions to such research, both directly through collaboration on grants and research design, and indirectly through training students in data collection and in CBPR methodology. Students could then apply those skills to evaluating NGO programs and interventions in various settings and communities, both locally and abroad.
Chris Burke
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Director of the Community Health Research Group
Chris studies the mechanisms that connect psychosocial stress to physical and mental health outcomes. In particular, he examines individuals’ interpretations of their stress and coping experiences and how these interpretations impact their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Stress can impact health via its immediate and cumulative physiological consequences (which have been linked to immune suppression, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes), but also more indirectly via its influence on self-evaluation and self-esteem, and health behaviors (such as eating and smoking). Chris is currently conducting two community-based studies of the link between stress during pregnancy and postpartum depression. Stress experienced during pregnancy is a risk factor for postpartum depression, but the mechanisms responsible are unclear. In one study, Chris is examining the extent to which perceptions of low self-efficacy contribute to this relationship and how the presence and quality of social support can modify this association. Chris’s primary contributions to the Community Health Research Group are his background in social psychology, his experience designing and conducting longitudinal research studies, and his expertise in longitudinal data analysis. 
Breena Holland
Associate Professor of Political Science
Director of the South Side Initiative (SSI)
Lehigh University Community Health Research Group Breena HollandBreena’s research focuses on inequities in exposure to environmental harms, such as air pollution. Public policies often create or reproduce inequities in which those who benefit most from activities degrading the natural environment do not share proportionally in the burdens this degradation creates. Breena’s research adapts standard forms of policy evaluation to account for these disproportionate impacts. The relationship between environmental exposures and human health is central to her research because federal environmental protection policies justify their goals in terms of protecting “public health,” despite the common practice of evaluating these policies in narrowly economic terms. The problem with policy evaluation that relies on aggregated economic data is that it cannot reveal the various channels through which environmental exposures threaten human lives, and therefore, it cannot sufficiently inform solutions for preventing these exposures. To address this problem, Breena draws on a multidimensional conception of individual well being in which one’s bodily health is understood as intimately connected to other important components of a flourishing life, such as meaningful social relationships. Her current research project uses personal air monitors to assess children’s exposure to carbon particulate pollution, which can inform air pollution policy with a more nuanced account of the causes of and solutions to childhood asthma. Breena’s contributions to the Community Health Research Group are in the areas of environmental policy, pollution exposure, and ongoing relationships and collaborations with citizens and institutions in the south side community of Bethlehem, PA.
Judith Lasker
N.E.H. Distinguished Professor of Sociology
Lehigh University Community Health Research Group Judith LaskerJudy studies the role of relationships within and across communities in promoting health. Her past research includes a study of the role of community relationships in protecting residents of Roseto, PA from heart disease mortality and the value of multilateral service exchanges through Time Banks in promoting well being. With a long-standing research interest in global health, Judy’s current project looks at volunteer relationships across country borders and how they contribute to health in the poorer countries. Approximately one million Americans travel annually to other countries to participate in short-term programs, sponsored by educational institutions, faith-based organizations, NGOs and corporations, focused on improving the well being of people in poor communities. There is evidence of the advantages to the volunteers of participating in these projects, but little attention to studying whether there are benefits to the recipient communities. This project examines the characteristics of the global health volunteering “industry” and aims to identify criteria and methods for evaluation of its effectiveness, as defined by host communities as well as by volunteer organizations. Judy provides many important components to the Community Health Research Group, including her extensive experience in working with local community health organizations on research (and involving many undergraduate and graduate students in such research), which will be valuable in working with new hires. She has also developed a large network of contacts in international health volunteering and can make valuable connections for new hires interested in this field.
Lucy Napper
Assistant Professor of Psychology and HMS
Lehigh University Community Health Research Group Lucy NapperLucy’s research focuses on understanding substance use and risky sexual behaviors, as well as exploring effective risk reduction approaches. Her past research includes the study of perceived risk of HIV infection and predictors of HIV testing among active drug users and other high risk populations. Lucy’s work also involves developing and evaluating substance use interventions. Her current research focuses on substance use among emerging adults. Despite considerable prevention efforts, rates of high-risk drinking and associated negative consequences remain at concerning levels among college students. Lucy’s research explores the context of high-risk alcohol use and the influence of peers and parents on risk behaviors. For example, she is currently conducting research examining the influence of parent communication and perceived parent approval on student substance use. In addition, she is interested in novel approaches to engaging high-risk students who respond defensively to alcohol-risk information. Lucy brings to the cluster expertise in developing and evaluating measures of substance use, mental health, and other health-related cognitions and behaviors. Lucy is currently working on projects applying psychometric principles to assess parent-child health communication, acculturation stress, and sexual risk behaviors.
George White
Professor of Education Leadership
Director of the Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders (CDUEL)
Lehigh University Community Health Research Group Goerge WhiteGeorge researches leadership development and community engagement in urban school communities. In order to address the issues associated with the quality of education provided to students in urban schools, he uses a systems approach to discover how the community and school work together. George studies what leads to effective parent, community and school partnerships, with a particular emphasis on how communities can come together to develop a “place-based” approach to address the quality indicators (mental and physical health and wellness, academic readiness, employment opportunities, and housing) to enhance educational opportunities for all children. George is currently involved in community-based initiatives designed to implement community partnerships on the south side of Bethlehem and to gain insight into the barriers and supports that influence student learning. To that end, he leads the Community School program in two south side schools, in which George and his colleagues investigate what students and their parents need to improve education opportunities. One current study involves working with Hispanic parents to learn how they define parent engagement and to identify how schools support and/or hinder their engagement. The work on community-based quality indicators has led to the establishment of a free health and wellness clinic in partnership with the St. Luke’s/Temple medical school and the Counseling Psychology program at Lehigh. This program is designed to provide mental and physical health treatment to uninsured families on the south side. The partners are currently studying the impact of this model on health care in the community. George brings his extensive network of community connections to the Community Health Research Group, particularly his formal involvement with the public school system, and his success as a grant writer.

Additional Cluster Members

College of Arts and Sciences:
Sue Barrett (Associate Professor of Psychology)
Dena S. Davis (Presidential Chair in Health; Professor of Religion Studies; and co-director of the Community Health proposal group)
Elizabeth Dolan (Associate Professor of English; and co-director of the Community Health proposal group)
Sharon Friedman (Professor of Journalism and Communication)
Linda Lowe-Krentz (Professor of Biological Sciences)
Gordon Moskowitz (Professor and Chair of Psychology)
Jessecae Marsh (Assistant Professor of Psychology)
Ageliki Nicolopoulou (Interim Director of the Social Science Research Center; Professor of Psychology)
Laura Olson (Professor of Political Science)
Lloyd Steffen (Professor of Religion Studies)
College of Education:
George DuPaul (Professor and Chair of Education and Human Services)
Ed Shapiro (Professor of School Psychology)
Arnold Spokane (Professor of Counseling Psychology)
P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science:
Derick Brown (Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Kristen Jellison (Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering)

© IMRC CAS 2016

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