Mike Troy and Alicia Kunin-Batson
Mike Troy, PhD, Children's Minnesota and Alicia Kunin-Batson, PhD, University of Minnesota.

Multi-institute research project to study effects of racism and discrimination on children’s health and development begins

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Children’s Minnesota are collaborating on a study that explores the effects of racism and discrimination on children’s health and development, thanks to funding from CTSI, Children’s Minnesota, and the University’s Department of Pediatrics.

“While Minnesota ranks among the healthiest states overall, it is also home to some of the greatest health disparities in the country. This novel project will study the individual differences in the overall negative health, emotional, and neurocognitive consequences due to racism that are not well understood,” said Mark R. Schleiss, MD, CTSI child health champion.

Mike Troy, PhD, LP, Children’s Minnesota, and Alicia Kunin-Batson, PhD, LP, University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics are teaming up to conduct the research through a $200,000 Child Health Collaborative Grant Award, which supports collaborations between researchers at the University of Minnesota and Children’s that address important, unmet child health issues in Minnesota.

Their two-year study which began last month will examine multiple levels of exposure to racism on children’s health, well-being and development, and will include measures of children’s stress physiology through cortisol levels, as well as potential moderators of those relationships such as parenting factors and racial socialization. Ultimately, the study will provide key information on the pathways, risks, and protective factors that translate racism-related stress into emerging health risks during childhood.  

Tapping key collaborators

The study will build on the strengths of a racially-ethnically diverse cohort of 600 children and their parents in the Twin Cities participating in a parent longitudinal observational study of obesity disparities, which is directed by Jerica M. Berge, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Medical School, through an R01 grant.

Measurements of parent stress, coping, acculturation, and discrimination have already been collected at two timepoints over 18 months with the parent study. A new 24-month measurement timepoint has been added for the ancillary study that will include measures of children’s physical health, social-emotional well-being, and neurocognitive development.

Berge, and Rachel Hardeman, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health are co-investigators on the Child Health Collaborative funded study and will provide expertise in public health, associations between racism-related stressors, and aid in the translation of study findings to inform public policy.

Hearing from reviewers

A study section of peers reviewed nine proposals for the 2019 Health Collaborative Grant Award and here’s what they had to say about the funded proposal:

“It is promising the collaboration will bring about significant discoveries from synergistic collaborations.”

“The Principal Investigators have assembled an excellent team of investigators with complementary expertise in child health and human development.”

“An innovative, feasible proposal and will likely produce significant findings.”

“The proposal is built on available resources and will likely produce new data and findings which will serve as existing data for future external funding.”

Learning more

The Child Health Collaborative Grant Award Program, in its third cycle, is managed by CTSI’s Office of Community Engagement to Advance Research and Community Health (CEARCH).

The funding program represents a major effort on the part of the University of Minnesota and Children's Minnesota to build significant long-term partnerships between University of Minnesota and community investigators, and aims to develop innovative, evidence-based health improvement strategies and translation of such strategies to improve health outcomes for child and adolescent populations throughout Minnesota.

The effort has also spurred the development of a Child Health Advisory Committee, which includes a mixture of clinicians and academic researchers from Children’s Minnesota and the University of Minnesota, that promotes shared leadership of collaborative research and engages clinicians in furthering translation of research into practice. The committee is led by Stuart Winter, MD, Children’s Minnesota, and Mark R. Schleiss, MD, CTSI child health champion and professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota.

Congratulations to Drs. Troy and Kunin-Batson for their funded project titled, “The Effects of Racism and Discrimination on Children’s Health & Development: Implications for Screening and Intervention”!