: New funding increases access to critical reproductive health data

Ensuring reproductive health in the world’s poorest countries requires knowing which women lack access to health resources and why. To address these urgent questions, the Institute for Social Research and Data Innovation (ISRDI) at the University of Minnesota has created IPUMS PMA, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. IPUMS PMA provides reliable, high quality, and comprehensible data on family planning topics to researchers and policymakers. Now a new $2 million grant from the foundation not only extends IPUMS PMA to include longitudinal data, but also supports a new Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA) Data Analysis Hub, where ISRDI’s unique strengths in spatial and comparative expertise will be devoted to improving women’s health through the use of IPUMS PMA data.

The brand-new PMA Data Analysis Hub will make the data accessible to all, from resource-strapped students to the most sophisticated data scientists. Analysts at the Data Analysis Hub will provide models of research that take full advantage of the possibilities of the IPUMS PMA data. They will share their expertise through free instructional resources, information, and user support. For expert users, the project will provide new coding tools (API) and other resources for data applications. Another goal of the IPUMS PMA Data Analysis hub is to ensure the data are accessible and user friendly, particularly for researchers residing in the African and Asian countries participating in PMA, where policy makers have identified a pressing need to improve the state of reproductive health.

“IPUMS PMA and the new PMA Data Analysis Hub tools will unlock the potential for numerous new and independent research projects to improve women’s health,” says Professor Elizabeth Heger Boyle, the Principal Investigator on the project.

Associate Professor Kathryn Grace, who will oversee ISRDI research at the PMA Data Analysis Hub adds, “The PMA Data Analysis Hub is designed to support creative and rigorous research through diverse and interdisciplinary approaches to questions of reproductive health.  Building on, and expanding the existing strengths found in ISRDI, the Hub will generate insightful and accessible research and training materials employing leading edge data from IPUMS PMA.” 

All of this work is being done in conjunction with our collaborators at PMA, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and is made possible by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

IPUMS and ISRDI provide the world’s largest accessible database of census and survey data. By using machine learning and expert data scientists, we are making data accessible and usable for all.

: Later school start times may reduce sleep deficits for highschool students

NICHD Press Office - Full article

April 29, 2020

High school students who began classes roughly an hour later than students at neighboring schools slept an average of 43 minutes more per night, according to a study funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study authors wrote that the later morning start times accommodated the teens’ natural sleep period, which begins about two hours later than that of younger children. Teens at the late-starting schools also slept less on weekend nights than their counterparts at early schools, suggesting that they had less need to compensate for missed sleep on school nights.

The study was led by MPC Member Rachel Widome, associate professor of Epidemiology and Community Health, and is part of a collaboration with former MPC Student Member Aaron Berger. The article is now available online at JAMA Pediatrics.

: MPC Funding for COVID-19 Rapid Response Projects

As part of the University of Minnesota Rapid Response to COVID-19, MPC is matching funding for members who are taking on COVID-19 research. We wish we had the capacity to fund every request – but we are excited to announce the first grants approved.

MPC Member: Ryan Demmer

Asymptomatic COVID-19 surveillance and transmission among the healthcare workforce

The goal of this proposal is to set up a pilot and feasibility study necessary to establish surveillance of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) carriage among healthcare workers in Minnesota. Early evidence suggests that ~50% of transmission occurs from asymptomatic individuals.1-4 Understanding this dynamic among healthcare workers is extremely important for informing infection models to support decision making in response to the pandemic. However, to date, most states have limited testing capacity and are focusing only on high risk symptomatic individuals and therefore ignores asymptomatic carriers. Importantly, our healthcare workforce will become essential to an effective pandemic response but asymptomatic carriage among individuals who will be in contact with many uninfected patients and family members creates a significant vulnerability for propagation of COVID-19 even in the face of significant social distancing. To address this issue, in collaboration with the Knight Lab at the University of California San Diego, we propose to conduct sentinel surveillance to inform asymptomatic infection prevalence over time among healthcare workers and subsequent transmission dynamics. Specifically, we will establish an infrastructure to test 500 healthcare workers over the course of one month; scale up will follow pending additional funding.

MPC Member: Ruby Nguyen

Optimal Procedures for Providing Effective Domestic and Sexual Violence Services in Minnesota During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The overall aim of this study is to determine the optimal procedures for providing effective domestic violence services in Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic. This goal will be achieved with 3 sub-aims: 1) Conduct a needs assessment of the domestic violence service agencies to address issues identified in the previous Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) needs assessment of only agencies servicing sexual exploitation/trafficking (conducted among 27 grantees of the MDH Safe Harbor program); 2) Collect statewide data on the temporal changes in the number and types of requests for assistance, including the incidence of gender-violence; and 3) Develop recommendations on optimal procedures to provide effective services for the remainder of the pandemic, and immediately afterward with the depletion of current resources. This study will inform agencies throughout the state, and provide legislators data and recommendations for future funding of these essential services.

MPC Member: Susan Marshall Mason

Rapid Deployment of School-based Mental Health Providers During the COVID-19 Crisis

School-based mental health providers (SBMHPs), including social workers, psychologists, and counselors, are an untapped resource for supporting families during this time of school closures and distance learning.

Led by Susan M. Mason, PhD, MPH, assistant professor, Department of Epidemiology and Community Health, this study aims to establish the acceptability and preliminary efficacy of two brief SBMHP-provided interventions that could be widely disseminated and quickly deployed by schools to improve family wellbeing.

: MPC Diversity Fellowship: Call for Research Project Proposals

We are seeking faculty and research staff to lead projects as part of the MPC Summer Diversity Fellowship Program. You provide the research direction and mentorship, we provide the RAs and logistical support. The program runs for 10 weeks, from June 8-August 14, 2020. Proposals are due by 8:00 a.m. on January 27, 2020. For more information, visit, or contact Gina Rumore or Mia Riza

: Josie R. Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award

MPC Member Rachel Hardeman was honored with the Josie R. Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award at the University of Minnesota's twelfth annual Equity and Diversity Breakfast, which took place on Monday, November 4. The Josie R. Johnson Award was established to recognize Dr. Josie R. Johnson’s lifelong contributions to human rights and social justice both within and beyond her tenure at the University of Minnesota. The purpose of this award is to honor University of Minnesota faculty, staff, and students who exemplify Dr. Johnson’s commitment to creating respectful and inclusive living, learning, and working environments. 

Dr. Hardeman earned this award thanks in part to her inspiring commitment to social justice and the fight for making health a human right. Her overarching goal is to contribute to a body of knowledge that links structural racism to health, identifies opportunities for intervention, and dismantles the systems that allow inequalities to persist. Congratulations to Dr. Hardeman on receiving this fantastic honor. 

Read coverage of Dr. Hardeman’s work in the U.S. News and World Report and this UMN Research Brief.