Social and Behavioral Sciences Research


Urban Environment and Health Behavior

Yong Yang, PhD

Dr. Yang focuses on the urban environment and health behavior. He is motivated to examine how people's health behavior is influenced by the built and social environment, to estimate the corresponding impacts on human health, and to explore opportunities for policy interventions. His research methodology is the integration of statistical analysis, spatial analysis and geographical information systems, and system science methods. Dr. Yang's ongoing and previous projects include the influence of neighborhood environment on physical activity, urban environment and aging, mobility and health, neighborhood environment and childhood obesity in Memphis, adults' daily walking, and children's active travel to school.

Implementation of Rapid HIV Testing and Linkage to HIV Treatment or Prevention Among Vulnerable Populations in Tennessee

Latrice Pichon, PhD, MPH, CHES

Dr. Latrice Pichon, associate professor in the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences, was awarded $93,851 from Vanderbilt University Medical Center with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for her project “Implementation of Rapid HIV Testing and Linkage to HIV Treatment or Prevention Among Vulnerable Populations in Tennessee.”

Addressing COVID-19 Health Disparities

Marian Levy, DrPH, RD, FAND

Dr. Marian Levy, interim dean and professor was awarded $927,429 as part of the Shelby County Health Department award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC-RFA-OT21-2103: "National Initiative to Address COVID-19 Health Disparities Among Populations at High-Risk and Underserved, Including Racial and Ethnic Minority Populations and Rural Communities." The School of Public Health team will conduct the evaluation to measure the short-term impact of strategies to improve vaccine uptake among vulnerable populations in nine (9) zip codes of highest transmission and lowest vaccine uptake in Shelby County.

Prevalence of Obesity and Adiposity-Based Comorbidities Within a Cohort of Adolescents Living in Memphis

Marian Levy, DrPH, RD, FAND

Dr. Marian Levy, interim dean and professor in the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences was awarded $17,862 from Dar Salud Care PLLC with the Novo Nordisk Inc for her project “Prevalence of Obesity and Adiposity-Based Comorbidities Within a Cohort of Adolescents Living in Memphis.”

Going Underground in Memphis, TN to Support PrEP in the Mid-south Community

Latrice Pichon, PhD, MPH

Community-based participatory research (CBPR) approaches were used to more fully engage underground social network leaders of Black Men who have Sex with Men (BMSM) in Memphis to understand health needs and gain community support for incentivized testing and linkage to prevention services. Click here for full description.

Global tobacco control research

Kenneth D. Ward, PhD

Dr. Ward's research focuses on global tobacco control and he has worked for the past 15 years in the Eastern Mediterranean region, including Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. He is a founder and Intervention Director of the Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies, and has published extensively on epidemiological and clinical aspects of waterpipe (or "hookah") smoking, a traditional tobacco use method in the Arab world that has become a global epidemic in recent years. Dr. Ward currently collaborates with colleagues at Florida International University, University of Miami, Virginia Commonwealth University, American University of Beirut, and University of Tunis on a NIH grant entitled "Translating evidence and building capacity to support waterpipe control in the Eastern Mediterranean" (Dr. Wasim Maziak, PI). The purpose of this grant is to help Tunisia and Lebanon develop effective health warning labels for the waterpipe, and equip them with the means to implement them successfully. In addition, Dr. Ward works with colleagues at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, where he was recently a Fulbright Scholar, on efforts to improve the ability of medical students to deliver effective smoking cessation interventions.

Modeling the impact of flavor bans among young adult tobacco users using discrete choice experiments and agent-based modeling

Yong Yang, PhD (principal investigator); Kenneth D. Ward, PhD (co-investigator)

R03 Grant Funded by National Institutes of Health (View grant information)

The role of flavors added to tobacco products remains debatable in tobacco regulatory research. From a harm reduction perspective, flavors may help cigarette smokers make the switch to potentially less harmful tobacco products. At the same time, flavored non-combustible tobacco products may serve as a precursor to cigarette smoking, and they are particularly attractive to youth and young adults who otherwise may not smoke. Flavor bans have been under discussion over years and have been recently heightened. In June 2018, San Francisco approved a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored electronic cigarettes. This ban has the potential to spark a national trend. To support the evidence-based decision-making of FDA and policy change at the national level, vigorous research on the impact of flavor bans are needed. The aim of this study is to examine the impact of two major flavor ban alternatives on young adults who are users of tobacco/ENDS. We will assess the empirical change in tobacco use in San Francisco, CA where flavor bans have been implemented (Aim 1), and estimate the reaction patterns to flavor bans in a city where the policy has NOT been implemented using DCEs (Aim 2). Afterward, we will develop an ABM with the result from DCEs (Aim 2) serving as the core behavior pattern at the individual level, and empirical patterns at the population-level (Aim 1) serving for the ABM's assessment. As a bottom-up approach, the ABM can examine various flavor ban policies in both cities (Aim 3). Combining empirical results, estimations from hypothetical experiments and simulations of various flavor bans' scenarios in various contexts, the evidence, and insights generated from the proposed study will allow researchers to explore the implications of a flavor ban policy on a given environment. Results may also be extrapolated to the United States at large.