News Bulletin

MARCH 2021

Research Highlights

Helping behavior may mitigate academic risk for children from low-income neighborhoods

Children raised in neighborhoods with low socio-economic status are at risk for low academic achievement. A new longitudinal study conducted by Stanford's Emma Armstrong-Carter, PHS Faculty Fellow Benjamin Domingue, and partners at the University of Leeds and the Bradford Institute for Health Research followed young children from such neighborhoods from birth until age seven to explore whether children’s capacity to act kindly or generously towards others (prosocial behavior) is linked to their ability to perform well in school. The study showed that prosocial behavior may mitigate academic risk across early childhood. Read more about their findings here.

An algorithmic approach to reducing unexplained pain disparities in underserved populations

Underserved populations experience higher levels of pain. These disparities persist even after controlling for the objective severity of diseases like osteoarthritis, raising the possibility that underserved patients' pain stems from factors external to the knee, such as stress. A team of researchers, including PHS Faculty Fellow Jure Leskovec, has used AI to more accurately and fairly measure severe knee pain. Using a deep learning approach to measure the severity of osteoarthritis, Stanford researchers demonstrate that this approach dramatically reduces unexplained racial disparities in pain. Read more about their findings here.

Stanford-Aarhus partnership extends Danish National Registry to COVID-19 response

Alpha 1–adrenergic receptor blocking agents (α1-blockers) have been reported to have protective benefits against conditions that are associated with mortality in COVID-19 patients and other severe respiratory tract infections. Stemming from the Stanford PHS-Aarhus University partnership, this population-based cohort study used data from Danish national registries to identify individuals 40 years and older who were hospitalized with influenza or pneumonia. This study’s findings suggest that the receipt of α1-blockers may have a clinically relevant association with protective benefits against adverse outcomes among patients with severe respiratory tract infections. Read more about their findings here.

Mobility network models of COVID-19 explain inequities and inform reopening

The COVID-19 pandemic markedly changed human mobility patterns, necessitating epidemiological models that can capture the effects of these changes in mobility on the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Using data models based on mobility networks, researchers including PHS Faculty Fellow Jure Leskovec were able to predict that disadvantaged groups have not been able to reduce their mobility as sharply, and that the points of interest that they visit are more crowded and are therefore associated with higher risk. Read more here and here.  

Reading skills among young students stalled during the pandemic

Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Education provide new evidence about the pandemic’s impact on learning among students in the earliest grades, showing distinct changes in the growth of basic reading skills during different time periods over the past year. “It seems that these students, in general, didn’t develop any reading skills during the spring – growth stalled when schooling was interrupted and remained stagnant through the summer,” said PHS Faculty Fellow and study collaborator Benjamin Domingue. Read more here.

News & Announcements

Stanford Impact Labs invest $3 million in New Impact Labs driving social change

Stanford Impact Labs has invested a second round of start-up funding in six new teams of scholars and practitioners working to improve the health, education, economic opportunity, and well-being of families in the Bay Area and across the globe. PHS Associate Director for Community Engagement Lisa Goldman Rosas will serve as the Food for Health Equity Lab Principal Investigator. Read more here

Could rising temperatures send more people with MS to the hospital?

As average temperatures around the globe climb, a preliminary study has found people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may expect worsening symptoms, enough to send them to the hospital more often. The preliminary study released March 2, 2021 will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 73rd Annual Meeting being held virtually April 17 to 22, 2021. Read more here.

Digital health tracking tools help individuals lose weight, study finds

A new study led by PHS Postdoctoral Research Fellow and 2020 PHS Specrtum Pilot Program grantee Michele Patel makes at least one thing clear: No matter which weight loss tactic you choose, you're typically more successful if you track your progress with digital health tools. Read more here.

Funding Opportunities

Apply now for the 2021 Spectrum PHS Pilot Grants Program!

Proposals due March 31, 2021 at 11:59 pm PDT

PHS is excited to announce its 2021 Spectrum PHS Pilot Grant funding cycle. The Pilot Grants Program is intended to stimulate novel research that can advance our understanding of how environments, policies, and programs impact population health and social inequalities in health. See here for more information on the 2021 program and to submit an application.

Upcoming Events

Virtual Fireside Chat on health equity and precision & population health with Dean Minor and Melissa Bondy

March 22, 2021 | 1:00-1:45pm PDT | Register here

Join Professor Melissa Bondy, PHS Co-Director and Chair of Stanford's Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, for a fireside chat with Stanford School of Medicine Dean Lloyd Minor as they discuss new directions in health equity. They will explore the potential of precision and population health to reduce racial health inequalities, address COVID-19 disparities, and improve health outcomes in developing economies.  To submit your questions for Dean Minor and Professor Bondy by Wednesday, March 17th, and to register for the event, click here.

PHS Research Seminar Series with Michael Snyder: Cutting edge research and biobanking with the Lakota

March 25, 2021 | 10:00-11:00am PDT | Register here

The rich diversity of American Indian peoples in the US are severely under-represented despite the rapid expansion of biological sample collection and precision health sciences. To better address this, and respect and harmonize cultural, data sovereignty and scientific practices, Professor Michael Snyder will share the research he has conducted alongside a Northern Plains Tribe on the first Indigenous-led Bio-Data Repository that is fully within tribal jurisdiction. 
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