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

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.