Attendees at Child Health Dinner Forum
Attendees at 2022 Research in Child Health Dinner Forum

Three research teams receive Child Health Collaborative Grants

John Merritt

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Children’s Minnesota, along with collaborators from Hennepin Healthcare, state and county agencies, and Centro Tyrone Guzman, the oldest and largest Minneapolis-based multi-service Latine organization, were awarded grants to study a wide range of health issues affecting Minnesota children and adolescents.

The Child Health Collaborative Grant program aims to support collaborative projects that address important and unmet child health issues within communities across Minnesota. The ultimate goal is to translate evidence-based health improvement strategies into improved health outcomes for children and adolescents throughout Minnesota and the nation.

“I was thrilled to see so many qualified applications to our RFA,” said Dr. Stuart Winter, Chief Research Officer, Children’s Minnesota. “Congratulations to the winners! We will follow the outcome of these projects with great interest. In thinking about the outcome of the selection process, I am reminded of a quote from Margaret Mead, who once said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’”

Dr. Mark Schleiss of the U of M Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) commented that the quality of the applications this year was uniformly outstanding. “Our reviewers had a tough job sorting through these applications,” he observed. “This continuing partnership between CTSI, the U of M Department of Pediatrics, and Children’s Minnesota has been a huge success over the years we have had this program in place. Most awards culminate in high-quality, peer-reviewed papers that have a substantial impact on child health, and many awards have led to long-term NIH and other extramural funding to continue these collaborations.”

The three research teams and projects that received awards this year include:

Project Title: “Uplifting Resilient Parent Feeding Practices to Promote Child Health: Launching a New Community-University-Clinical Research Partnership.”
PIs: Melissa Laska, PhD, RD, McKnight Distinguished University Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, U of M School of Public Health, and Amanda Nickel, MPH, Biostatistician, Children’s Minnesota.
Description: This project seeks to address health inequities and marks the formation of a new partnership between the U of M Schools of Public Health and Nursing, Children's Minnesota, and Centro Tyrone Guzman, the oldest and largest Minneapolis-based multi-service Latine organization. The project will design and pilot a culturally-tailored digital storytelling intervention focusing on positive parent feeding practices among Latine families with children ages 3-6. The researchers aim to design a scalable strategy to promote parental healthy feeding practices that ultimately could be disseminated through pediatric primary care clinics.

Project Title: “A Synergistic Solution: Piloting a Physical Activity-Based Positive Youth Development Program to Support Transgender and Gender Diverse Adolescents' Mental Health.”
PIs: Sarah Espinoza, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, U of M Medical School, and Kathleen Miller, MD, Medical Director of Adolescent Medicine, Children’s Minnesota.
Description: There is a profound need for effective interventions to synergistically promote transgender and gender diverse (TGD) adolescents' mental health and physical activity. TGD adolescents bear disproportionate health burdens in both areas, which likely exacerbate one another; these burdens seem to be worsening with increased sociopolitical antagonism surrounding their healthcare and participation in team sports. This study will develop and assess the feasibility, acceptability, and appropriateness of a physical activity-based positive youth development program for TGD adolescents. The researchers will design the program using a youth participatory planning approach and deliver it through the Children's Minnesota Gender Health Program.

Project Title: “Assessing the Roles of Family Race and Class in Hospital and Clinic Reporting of Child Neglect to a Child Protective System.”
PIs: Susan Mason, PhD, Associate Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, U of M School of Public Health, and Chelsea Weinstein, MSW, Lead Clinical Social Worker, Children’s Minnesota.
Description: By the time they turn 18 years old, 1 in 3 children in the United States will be involved in a child protective system (CPS) investigation. There are stark disparities by race and class in CPS involvement. The process of CPS involvement begins with reports, often by mandated reporters such as healthcare providers and staff. The decision to report is often subjective, particularly those reports filed for neglect, making this system vulnerable to racial and class biases. Building on ongoing work at Children's Minnesota, the proposed project will advance knowledge of the potential for race and class bias in neglect reports using several methods.

The U of M Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), Children’s Minnesota, and the U of M Department of Pediatrics teamed up to create the Child Health Collaborative program in 2014. Child Health Collaborative Grants have been awarded annually since then as part of a broader effort to support child health research partnerships among community and University of Minnesota researchers.

As part of this effort, in December 2022 the Child Health Collaborative hosted a “Research in Child Health Dinner Forum,” an annual event that gathers local child health researchers and practitioners. The event is a celebration of the efforts of the Child Health Collaborative and an opportunity to learn about research projects and findings from grantee teams.

The speakers at the 2022 Dinner Forum included:

Stuart Winter, Mark Schleiss, Jerica Berge, Alicia Kunin-Batson, Nneka Sedestrom, Mike Troy
(l to r): Stuart Winter, Mark Schleiss, Jerica Berge, Alicia Kunin-Batson, Nneka Sedestrom, Mike Troy

Alicia Kunin-Batson, PhD, Department of Pediatrics, and Mike Troy, MD, Children’s Minnesota, who spoke on their collaborative project “The Effects of Racism and Discrimination on Children’s Health and Development: Implications for Screening and Intervention.”

Nneka Sedestrom, PhD, MPH, Hennepin Healthcare, who spoke about Hennepin Health’s highly innovative equity programs in her talk “Creating a Comprehensive Health Equity Strategy in a Healthcare System.”