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Research Incubator: 5 pilot projects funded

In summer 2020, the LCIRN awarded its first round of funding to support researchers to conduct preliminary research and data collection that will help them to secure external funding for life course intervention research. The release of the RFA in March 2020 coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, so funding opportunities were expanded to include pilot studies around the impacts of COVID on children and families, to support the development of future interventions in that field.

Proposed projects were required to meet the criteria for life course intervention research developed by the LCIRN steering committee, including being: optimization-focused, longitudinally-focused, strategically-timed, multi-level or holistic, and horizontally and vertically integrated. After an objective review process, five projects were selected:

  • Monitoring of youth experiencing homelessness in California during the COVID-19 ear and post-COVID-19 era, Coco Auerswald, UC Berkeley

Youth experiencing homelessness (YEH) are not only at greater risk of being infected by COVID-19 than their peers, but are also more likely to have their developmental trajectory to adulthood be affected by COVID-19 and its social and economic sequelae. To meet the need for a feasible, scalable and sustainable, as well as youth-engaged approach to monitor youth wellbeing and inform policies that will support their transition to adulthood, we will pilot and evaluate a youth-engaged approach. All study activities will either be informed by, conducted with or conducted by members of a team of youth community interns who will be recruited from the population of youth experiencing or exiting homelessness in San Francisco or Alameda Counties.

  • Population-wide integration of multi-tiered, evidence-based interventions to promote early childhood and parent mental health and development: two-generation strengths-based approach in an early childhood education center, Erica Coates, Georgetown

The Family Wellbeing Program (FWP) is a multigenerational, multi-tiered, early childhood education center-based intervention strategy offering a range of trauma-specific evidence- based and evidence-informed practices to families in under-resourced communities to promote mental health for young children and their parents. Using a population- based approach at an early childhood education center, we will investigate whether participation in the FWP is associated with 1) promotion of emotional and behavioral wellbeing in children and parents, 2) prevention of mental health problems in children and parents exposed to trauma, and 3) effective treatment of trauma-exposed children and parents with clinical distress or impairment.

  • Families of children with disabilities during COVID-19: exploring issues of service utilization and access, Priyanka Fernandes and Denise Nunez, UCLA

Children with developmental disabilities depend greatly on receiving appropriate services during crucial developmental stages to maximize their learning, health and independence during their life-course. The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant challenges in safe and effective delivery of services and high stress levels in families, highlighting the importance of emergency planning for this population. Our study aims at 1) understanding the service and health burden among families and children with disabilities, and 2) understanding best practices from local experts during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Results will inform programmatic adaptation, allowing decision makers to plan for emergencies like the pandemic.

  • A Life Course Health Developmental Perspective to Develop Trauma-Informed Care for Obesity, Janet Rich-Edwards, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The prevention of obesity and care for people with obesity would be improved by a life course health development perspective that incorporates an understanding of the roles of trauma and stigma in obesity. To brainstorm and develop such a Trauma-Informed Care for Obesity (TICO) approach, we propose to convene diverse groups that have yet to engage with each other: fat activists, domestic violence advocates, academics, and the weight loss/wellness industry. The preliminary data will inform novel TICO programs and new funding applications.

  • The Impact of COVID-19 on economic adversity, parent mental health, parenting self-efficacy, and child development, Adam Schickedanz, UCLA

Low-income, socially marginalized communities are at greatest risk not only of being exposed to COVID-19 infection but suffering disproportionately under the economic fallout of the pandemic as a result of structural economic inequalities. We propose a detailed study of short-term trajectories of harms to family financial, health, parenting efficacy, and developmental outcomes in the rapidly-evolving epidemic’s first year, with subsequent longer-term follow-up measurement of these trajectories into the end of early childhood leveraging a study of an existing cohort of low-income, racially minoritized dyads of parents and their infants and young children. We will also examine resilience factors in each of these domains and time windows that could form the basis for targeted interventions to help socially marginalized families weather the economic and social storms of the post-COVID era.

Look for updates and results from the LCIRN pilot projects on our website and newsletter in the coming months!

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