Research Spotlights

The Center for Interdisciplinary Population & Health Research (CIPHR) seeks to understand and improve population health. The spotlights below feature a few selected research initiatives.  Learn about all our investigator’s and their research here.

Bright Bodies is a high-intensity, family-based intervention for childhood obesity where children and their families meet twice per week for 3-6 months and engage in nutrition, behavior modification, and exercise classes. The intervention was found to lead to the biggest reduction in body mass index among U.S.-based childhood obesity interventions evaluated in the 2017 U.S. Preventive Task Force Report. In this study, we use a mixed methods approach to evaluate historical dissemination sites of Bright Bodies, optimize the Bright Bodies package, and disseminate it at three heterogenous sites (Maine, Alabama, and California) serving populations with racial and ethnic, rural-urban, and geographic diversity. The site in Maine is located in the Oxford Hills community at Stephen’s Memorial Hospital. Patients can be referred by their primary care doctor.

While weight and diabetes stigma have been shown to be significantly associated with adverse physiological, psychological and behavioral consequences, reducing stigma is not currently part of the clinical treatment paradigm for type 2 diabetes. Mitigating stigma therefore represents a key barrier to engaging individuals with type 2 diabetes in health-promoting behaviors and condition management. This project aims to address this barrier by to testing the efficacy of a self-affirmation intervention for stigma in a sample of patients receiving care for type 2 diabetes. Self-affirmation, the process of explicitly of reinforcing sources of self-worth, is an evidence-based strategy for buffering one’s self-integrity from psychological threats, like stigma. Interventions using self-affirmation theory have been shown to effectively promote a wide range of health behavior changes. We hypothesize that self-affirmation will be effective in (1) reducing feelings of stigmatization, (2) increasing self-efficacy for and intentions to engage in condition management behaviors, and (3) improving blood glucose control. This work is supported by the COBRE in Mesenchymal & Neural Regulation of Metabolic Networks.

View her science talk on this project to learn more.

The REACH Project Team, led by Lisbeth Balligan, MPH, MHIR Research Program Director is working closely with an Advisory Panel, consisting of a cross-section of healthcare administrators and medical professionals throughout Maine to test strategies for distributing one-page summaries of scientific studies via an online portfolio, REACH: Research Evidence to Action for Community Health. Over the summer, the team is piloting three dissemination strategies to assess which activities help promote the distribution of these summaries to folks that can use them. Strategies include sharing materials via presentations at organizational webinars; partnering with principle investigators to design one-pagers for their research projects; and distributing materials via a Civic intelligence and engagement application.

The Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative was founded by The Jackson Laboratory to improve access to genomic tumor testing in Maine; provide genomics education to medical professionals; and support clinical decision making on cancer treatment. Embedded in the initiative is research that explores cancer patients’ and healthcare clinicians’ perceptions and understanding of genomic tumor testing. This work asks: “what are patients expectations for genomic tumor testing”? “How do patients and clinicians feel about discussing variants of uncertain significance”? “Are there health differences between rural and urban participants”? This research utilized longitudinal surveys and in-depth qualitative interviews with stakeholders. The MCGI has already become a widely statewide collaboration, and with renewed support from the Harold Alfond Foundation, hopes to serve as a model for community precision oncology in rural settings.

This project integrates three strategies to improve access to palliative care for rural patients: (1) develop primary palliative skills of rural complex care teams, (2) leverage technology to connect palliative care specialists in urban areas to support and coach front-line teams, and (3) use community based participatory research methods to adapt and implement innovative models of palliative care. Using community based participatory methods, I collaborated with the Western Maine community to determine how best to develop primary palliative care skills of front-line complex care teams. I have adapted a manual for our intervention and started to train the complex care team (composed of a nurse, health coach and social worker).  We will be connecting this team with an interprofessional specialty palliative care team to provide case specific guidance and coaching. When indicated, the specialty palliative care team can meet with the patient via tele-technology. We are in the process of piloting this intervention in the Stephens community.

View and learn about all our investigator’s and their research here.