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Social work faculty receive university funding to expand research on diverse populations

July 3, 2014

Social work faculty receive university funding to expand research on diverse populations

Three School of Social Work faculty have received funding from the Wayne State Division of Research to pursue studies that should improve outcomes for Michigan foster youth, African American men with cancer, and mothers struggling with addiction.

Assistant Professors Suzanne Brown, Angelique Day and Jamie Mitchell were awarded 2014-15 University Research Grants to advance existing lines of research. Brown, whose work focuses on mental illness and substance abuse, is undertaking a study of perceptions of parenting competence among women with substance abuse disorders. Specifically, Brown hopes to explain why these women sometimes perceive themselves as highly capable mothers.

“During my work with this population, I’ve found that women may report high parenting competence and efficacy even when their children have been placed in foster care as a result of their substance abuse,” Brown said. “It’s important to identify what social conditions or personal traits are contributing to this overconfidence so we can support these women and their children during the recovery process.”

Day, who as director of the School of Social Work’s Transition to Independence Program oversees Wayne State’s various supports for students aging out of foster care, will be conducting the first systemic examination of a 2010 policy impacting the provision of health care to foster youth under Medicaid. The policy changed many services from a fee-for-services scenario to a managed care system as a cost-cutting measure, she noted, but it’s unclear whether this has improved health outcomes.

“Health information collection has not traditionally been a priority for child welfare agencies responsible for these children,” Day said. “This research is needed to determine the impact these health care services are having on this population and to identify areas for improvement.”

Mitchell, who has researched the social and environmental correlates of unmet health needs and preventive health behaviors among African American men, will focus her study the underlying dynamics of communication between African American men, their oncologists, and companions who may accompany these patients to their visits. Research has shown that patient-centered communication, which is communications that prioritizes the needs of the patient during medial interaction, can reduce cancer-related disparities.

As part of her project, Mitchell will review video footage of patient-provider-companion interactions during oncology visits and consider these patients’ post-interaction, self-reported ratings of levels of trust, confidence, partnership and relationship status with regard to their doctors. Mitchell hopes the work will lead to the development of training materials for oncologists on developing and tailoring their patient-centered communication and patient resources for underserved minority male patient populations.

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