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SPH Research Special Populations

SPH Research Focuses On Special Populations

Specific populations of people often have specific health concerns and health problems as a group. They may have less access to health services, or experience other barriers in their lives that affect their overall health.

More than a dozen faculty members at the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health perform research that focuses on public health issues within special populations of people — including American Indian/Alaska Native peoples, rural and global communities, the elderly, the homeless and people with disabilities.

Here is some of what we’re working on:

American Indian/Alaska Native

  • Our researchers are working with other partners on a school- and community-based youth development program intended to lower the high rates of teen birth and sexually transmitted infections in younger people in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The program also addresses substance abuse and suicide issues and violence, and provides guidance on developing healthy relationships.
  • Using a model that encourages American Indian/Alaska Native peoples to help guide the research, our researchers are examining health disparities among reservation- and urban- based American Indian and Alaska Native populations. Another research group is examining disparities in care for American Indian/Alaska Native people with addictions.

Rural Communities

  • Several of our faculty and staff work as part of an Integrated Program in Community Research that provides public health and scientific expertise to communities throughout Oregon that are working to understand and address a community health issue. The program, with liaisons living in communities throughout the state, helps the communities seek and obtain grants and then helps conduct the research.

Global Health

  • Our researchers are working to develop cost-effective ways to fight often-neglected tropical infections that have a major impact on very poor areas of the world. One project focuses on a pork tapeworm that infects humans and is a major cause of preventable epilepsy across much of Latin America, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • One of our researchers directs PSU’s Sustainable Water, Energy and Environmental Technologies Laboratory — or SweetLab. The lab develops and implements cellular- and satellite-based “Internet of Things” sensor technologies to help better understand and attack global health problems. It also deploys and studies high-efficiency cookstoves, water pumps, water filters and a range of other technologies in India, Nepal, Indonesia, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Haiti and other countries.

The Elderly

  • Our researchers are examining the public health issues of older adults who live in assisted living, adult foster or dementia-care facilities, and low-income older adults living in public housing. Among the projects is one that explored how state regulatory requirements influenced how daily medicine is given in assisted-living and dementia care facilities.

The Homeless

  • Our researchers examine a wide range of homeless issues, including helping with projects that help homeless youth move towards improved health and self-sufficiency.

People with Disabilities

  • Some of our researchers work within the Oregon Office on Disability and Health, a public health entity housed at OHSU and supported by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • OODH works to improve the health and quality of life for the approximately 900,000 Oregonians living with disabilities. The office helps to create and disseminate programs, trainings and resources that focus on health promotion, health care access and emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.
  • SPH faculty help to analyze data to identify and understand health issues that affect people with disabilities in Oregon and throughout the U.S. The School of Public Health’s Elena Andresen is director of the office.