Social Justice Impact Grant Awardees

Social Justice Impact Grants (SJIG) are awarded to catalyze rigorous, solution-oriented research on social justice topics, including criminal justice reform, housing segregation/gentrification, systemic racism, achievement gaps, health disparities, environmental justice, and related topics. 

Learn more about the Social Justice Impact Grants

2024 Awardees

Direct-to-Consumer Marketing of a Transdisciplinary Healthy Eating Intervention for Black Immigrant/Refugee Adolescents

Gail Ferguson, College of Education and Human Development
Description: US structural racism presents Black youth with many risks to their nutrition and health, including disproportionate targeting with junk food ads online relative to White peers. Some evidence-based solutions exist but Black youths’ access and engagement remain barriers, perhaps especially for Black immigrant/refugee-background youth. Therefore, we propose to fight fire with fire: Using similar methods as junk food marketers, we will test cutting-edge direct-to-consumer online marketing ads we recently developed to deliver our evidence-based online healthy eating intervention, JUS Media? Global Classroom, to Black Somali American teens locally. This grant will fund an experimental simulation study among 200 local Somali American teens to test the effectiveness of our newly created culturally- and developmentally-tailored ads for our intervention. Guided by the UK Design Council’s 4-phase Double Diamond Model and CBPR principles, this project will be the first to systematically test culturally- and developmentally-tailored online marketing strategies to promote health interventions for immigrant/refugee adolescents that reduce health disparities. Findings will facilitate intervention delivery locally for near-term impact and provide critical pilot data for future external funding and national scaling, while advancing the careers of the Black immigrant PI and research assistants.

Feasibility and Effectiveness of YouthHealthConnect: A Youth-Driven, Systems Alignment Strategy to Advance Health Equity

Janna Gerwirtz O'Brien, Medical School
Description: More than two decades of research reveals that youth experiencing homelessness (YEH) are a diverse, remarkably resilient population that, in the context of significant trauma and adversity, face a range of poor health outcomes when compared to their stably housed peers, including depression, suicidality, substance use, and communicable diseases. Systems that are meant to serve them, including housing, public health, and healthcare, are often ill-equipped to meet their complex health needs and remain siloed and disconnected from one another, augmenting these inequities. The proposed research will refine and evaluate a youth-driven systems alignment intervention, YouthHealthConnect, which includes two elements: (1) a digital community health resource map (DCHRM) for use by YEH and youth-serving professionals, and (2) training for youth-serving professionals on health literacy and mental health, leveraging the DCHRM. In our prior research, YEH identified and co-developed these strategies for enhancing systems alignment, promoting youth agency in navigating health systems, and supporting youth-serving agencies in connecting youth with vital health resources. The proposed research will: (1) refine and expand YouthHealthConnect for implementation across the state of Minnesota, and (2) evaluate its feasibility and preliminary effectiveness, catalyzing future research on this promising youth-driven strategy to advance social justice and dismantle inequities.

Aging in Place: Aging Community Design Strategies for Rural Minnesota

Sungduck Lee, College of Design
Description: This study aims to explore physical and social barriers that limit older adults’ ability to engage in their communities and maintain their independence in rural Minnesota. The population of age 65 and over was 930,000 in 2020 which is expected to grow to over 1.26 million by 2075 in Minnesota. For rural communities in Minnesota, population aging is one of the major social issues along with population decline, lack of liveliness, and diminished quality of life. The main objective of this study is to build an assessment tool that evaluates physical and social factors and accommodates the needs of the aging population in rural communities. Unlike urban communities with targeted facilities for the aging population (e.g., health centers, nursing assistance, and public transit options), most rural communities are dependent on neighboring major cities for resources which make the rural aging population more vulnerable. This study tackles these major challenges faced by rural communities and addresses practical strategies of aging in place.

2023 Awardees

Co-Design of Mobile Health Technologies for Mitigating Health Disparities: Leveraging Strengths of the Hmong Community

Ji Youn Shin, College of Design 
Description: Immigrant communities in the US are particularly affected by Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), such as lower rates of health insurance and limited English proficiency, which drive immense health disparities. The Minneapolis-St Paul metropolitan area is home to the largest Hmong-American population in the country. The Hmong were largely, and remain, a rural population, and have formed ethnic enclaves; as a result, many still face cultural challenges and have not wholly integrated into American society in terms of healthcare. Therefore, many chronic conditions are prevalent in the Hmong community, including diabetes and cancer. Previous studies have viewed the members of marginalized community as passive individuals who lack sufficient resources, and whose deficits can be resolved simply by providing more information and service through a digital platform. This leads to mistrust of Western medicine, and less effective health management strategies. We will conduct a two-phase study: (1) semi-structured interviews and participatory design with members of the Hmong community and clinicians, and (2) iterative design of a digital platform and pilot user tests. This effort will inform the initial design of a mobile app aimed at facilitating health management for underserved population, including the Hmong community.

Promoting a Culture of Health: Exploring Mental Health Stigma and Protective Factors in the Somali American Community

Sophia Vinogradov, Medical School 
Description: The Somali community is affected by severe psychological trauma, depression, substance use, and chronic suicidality due to exposure to pre-and post-migration stressors. The stigma surrounding mental health in the community is a likely key factor influencing low mental health care utilization. Western medicine is disconnected from Somali cultural beliefs. Language and cultural barriers further limit access to culturally appropriate mental health services. These barriers prevent Somali Americans from seeking mental health treatment and add complex layers to the already concerning health inequities. This project seeks to explore the dynamic relationship between mental health stigma and protective factors and the influence it has on health-seeking behavior among the Somali American community. The community advisory board, and an interviewer-administered survey, followed by a photovoice session using a community based participatory approach will assess mental health stigma and protective factors in the Somali American Community. The project aims to reduce mental health disparities and increase mental health service access for Somali American immigrants in Minnesota.

Identifying the Targets for Overcoming Minnesota’s Inequitable Covid-19 Deaths

Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, College of Liberal Arts 
Description: Why are Minnesotans of color still more likely to die of Covid-19 than white Minnesotans—even though they are also usually more likely to be vaccinated than same-age white Minnesotans? This puzzle was established, but not answered, in research I published early this year. Here, I propose two studies to solve it, each designed to produce actionable results to improve health equity in Minnesota. The first study examines whether differential uptake of Covid-19 boosters explains racial inequities in mortality—even among vaccinated populations. Although this question is focused on Minnesota, its implications are national insofar as nobody has yet been able to answer it anywhere in the United States, due to the relevant data not being made accessible; I will be able to because of a unique collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health. The second study examines whether a consequential shift in the neighborhood patterning of mortality that I documented early in the pandemic has persisted, has returned to the pre-pandemic pattern, or has become something new. Before 2020, most racial inequity in Minnesota mortality was statistically associated with neighborhood deprivation; in 2020, it was net of neighborhood. Updating to the current moment informs precise targets for community interventions.

2021 Awardees

Bridging Divides Between the Hmong Community and Mental Health Services in the Telehealth Age through Cultural Brokers

Jennifer Connor, Medical School 
Description: The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating social injustices, with communities of color having higher rates of infections, hospitalizations, and mortalities; higher financial impacts; and more impaired mental health. In addition, COVID-19 is generating social injustices in healthcare delivery of mental health services, since most mental health services are now telehealth visits. We do not understand how this impacts immigrant/refugee communities who may have language and technology access barriers, or how we can mitigate the adverse effects by improving telehealth services. Since cultural brokers aid patients who need assistance accessing and navigating healthcare services, they are key to understanding the challenges and benefits of telehealth. We will conduct key informant interviews with community leaders and focus groups with cultural brokers from Hmong communities, using a community-based participatory research approach. We will analyze the qualitative data with participatory analysis. We will communicate with the community through social media throughout the project, engaging them in the issues, recruitment, progress, dissemination of results, and recommendations / resources for navigating mental health telehealth services in Minnesota. Results will inform community members, providers and healthcare administrators about telehealth needs of these populations, support community-mental health partnerships, and provide information to improve telehealth mental health services.