Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and Portland State University (PSU) School of Public Health

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Dr. Marguerita Lightfoot, Associate Dean for Research, receives $9 million National Institute Of Health Grant

Study of Black youth will address health disparities and advance health equity

Marguerita Lightfoot, PhD, recently appointed Associate Dean of Research at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health (OHSU-PSU SPH), is one of three Principal Investigators (MPI) on a collaborative health disparities study which, it was announced today, has received a $9,023,523 grant from the National Institute of Health’s “Transformative Research to Address Health Disparities and Advance Health Equity” program.

“Increasing Financial and Health Equity Among Low Income Black Youth and Young Adults” is a collaboration between OHSU-PSU SPH, the University of California at San Francisco, and MyPath (a community-based non-profit dedicated to building economic pathways for youth). The study is a five-year trial to examine how guaranteed income paired with financial capability training can impact the financial, mental, and physical well-being of low-income Black Emerging Adults (BEA), ages 18-24, during their critical period of transition to independence.

“This study will provide the critical data needed to understand the potential of guaranteed income for Black youth,” said Lightfoot,” and how to maximize its impact on health at a time when multiple municipalities, counties, and states are considering legislation to support such programs.”

Dr. Marguerita Lightfoot

BEA in the U.S. experience higher levels of poverty, illness, and discrimination than White youth. These exposures to harm, coupled with the lack of supportive services to address and mitigate poverty and structural inequities, result in health inequities. BEA experience high mental health service needs, but much less service utilization than White youth, have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and less access to family planning. Disrupting the social determinants of poverty that systematically affects BEA, can have a transformative impact on a healthy transition into adulthood during a critical time in their development. Guaranteed basic income (GBI) is an economic strategy that could redress financial inequities and transform the mental and physical health outcomes of BEA, which has shown tremendous promise in adults populations and youth in families receiving income, but little is known about how GBI programs would work when cash is transferred unconditionally and directly to Black emerging adults and what critical supports would be needed to ensure GBI is most effective.

This study includes implementation and evaluation of an innovative, multilevel intervention to address these health inequities by providing GBI and access to financial coaching, peer-support, and real-time monitoring of needs and referral to services. The project will provide critical data needed to understand the potential of GBI for Black youth and how to maximize its impact on health with targeted programming at a time when multiple municipalities are considering GBI legislation.

“Dr. Lightfoot’s critical study on increasing financial and health equity among Black youth reflects the core mission of the School of Public Health and the commitment of our faculty to advance antiracism and social justice through our research, teaching, and service,” said Dr. David Bangsberg, Dean of SPH. “I look forward to working with her to focus on the public health and social justice impacts of our faculty’s research.” 

About the NIH Transformative Research Initiative
The Transformative Research to Address Health Disparities and Advance Health Equity initiative is a trans-NIH effort managed collaboratively by the NIH Common Fund, Office of Research on Women’s Health, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Tribal Health Research Office, and the National Institute of Nursing Research.  

The NIH Common Fund developed the initiative to support highly innovative, translational research projects, which if successful will prevent, reduce, or eliminate health disparities and advance health equity. Additionally, this initiative is expected to increase the competitiveness of investigators and expand the research base dedicated to health disparities research at minority serving institutions (MSIs). The new Common Fund initiative supports the goals of NIH’s UNITE, an effort aimed to end structural racism and racial inequities throughout the biomedical research enterprise. 

The grants of this initiative are innovative because the applications focused on the significance of the research problem, the novelty of the idea or approach, and the magnitude of the potential impact rather than on preliminary data or experimental details. The hope was to attract bold new ideas and new perspectives to health disparities research.