A UT Undergrad Helped Build the App that Will Assist Students Coming Back to School This Fall. Here’s What It Can Do.
The app, called Protect Texas Together, will allow people to track their symptoms, record COVID-19 test results, get connected to medical resources and — potentially, in the future — even assist in contact tracing.
We All Live Here
Our communities are becoming increasingly diverse just as we have developed the unprecedented technological ability to study health and human behavior. The things we can learn and the ways we can use that knowledge to help people thrive are revolutionary.
Despite these advances, many children in Central Texas aren’t thriving.
Children enter the world with tremendous potential, but early adversity can derail it. Although everyone experiences hardships, extreme or prolonged exposure to stress can lead to lifelong challenges. Those stressors can include poverty, family separation, exposure to toxins and pollution, violence, or experiencing discrimination.
For many children, these adverse childhood experiences take a serious toll on their biological systems, increasing
the chance of physical and mental health problems as well as school difficulties, unemployment, and even a shorter life expectancy.
However, despite the experience of adversity, some children will thrive — what we call resilience. We don’t know all the reasons why some children are more resilient than others, but access to supportive relationships can play a protective role.
What else may shield children from risk so they all can thrive?
To find out, we’re doing things differently. We’re meeting families in their homes and neighborhoods. We’re welcoming them as engaged, contributing community scientists — finding answers to their questions and sharing results with them in real time.
Our Goal: Community-Engaged Research
When scientists want to learn about a group of people, they design a study so they can observe those people over time. But the tried-and-true way of designing these studies has some pretty big limitations.
Here’s why: Scientists recruit people to participate in a study. They may ask questions or collect biological samples. Then, they seem to disappear. There’s a gap between when scientists have results from a study and when participants find out about those results, if ever.
Additionally, many groups, especially the most vulnerable among us, are underrepresented in traditional research, which means we often lack data that accurately reflect our varied communities. Whole Communities–Whole Health wants to change this.
Our goal: Make sure that the most cutting-edge advances in behavioral and health science reach the children and families who need them the most.
Our Plan: Bringing Science Home
Traditional research studies take “snapshots” of people’s lives at different points in time. Those snapshots give us information, but it’s incomplete. That means we might make incorrect assumptions or develop policies and programs that are not helpful. By sitting down together with our community members, we hope — over time — to learn what questions and concerns they have about their children’s health and how we can partner with them get answers so they can make meaningful changes in their children’s lives within days or weeks, not years.
We will share access to technology, experts, and community resources that, when combined, help us build a more complete view — a movie, compared to a snapshot — of the factors that affect a child’s wellbeing. Using science to transform lives is the beacon that will guide the work of Whole Communities–Whole Health.
Working closely with community members makes research more effective.
Custom apps and home devices can help families identify issues quickly.
Local groups will help families turn information into action.
We’re designing a five-year cohort study with communities in eastern Travis County to understand more about the physical, environmental, and emotional health of families facing systemic injustices. These smaller projects and initiatives are moving us toward our mission to rethink the way science and society work together to understand and address health inequities.
Project SMART: The Gamification of Physical Activity in Schools
Project summary: Participation in physical activity is associated with better performance in school, but most children do not meet the recommendations of the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans for … Keep reading
Understanding How Discrimination During Adolescence Affects Health
Project summary: Incidents of discrimination are a part of everyday life for young people of color, and although many studies document the negative effects of discrimination, we know almost nothing … Keep reading
Sensing Daily Activities in Development
Project summary: Externalizing disorders, including behaviors such as tantrums, defiance, and aggression, are among the most common and costly disorders of childhood. Behavioral indicators of these disorders often emerge by … Keep reading
UT 1000: Exploring New Methods for Understanding College Life
Project summary: In order to gain a greater understanding of how several factors that can affect health interact with each other, researchers must use a combination of measurement methods in … Keep reading
Project summary: How does indoor air quality affect childhood asthma? This project, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is testing a new approach that attempts to … Keep reading
Project summary: Traditional long-term research projects share results with participants at the end of a study, but oftentimes the information they receive is too little, too late. To address that, … Keep reading
Environmental Home Beacon Testing and Development
Graduate research assistant Sepehr Bastami builds the second iteration of a smart home beacon, which will be used as part of Whole Communities–Whole Health to study participants’ indoor air quality. … Keep reading
Meet the Team
Whole Community–Whole Health brings researchers and advisors together from wide-ranging backgrounds across UT and Central Texas.
Sarah Kate Bearman
I’m a child clinical psychologist, and my research focuses on the implementation and dissemination of effective mental health interventions for traditionally underserved children and families.
I’m a clinical child psychologist focusing on the unique ways in which cultural context shapes family processes and parenting to influence early childhood mental health development.
My background is in exercise physiology and pedagogy, and my research focuses on how physiology and metabolism affect cognitive health in children and emerging adults.
My research explores how life experiences lead to behavioral and neurobiological variation through epigenetic factors, particularly early exposure to stress, toxins, nutrition and social environment.
As a public health nurse, my research experience includes tracking and addressing health and social disparities among adolescents from historically marginalized groups.
I’m trained as an environmental engineer focusing on human exposure to contaminants in the built environment (homes and schools) and health outcomes such as childhood asthma.
I am an epidemiologist and clinical scientist with research exploring the prevention and clinical decision-making of child maltreatment, injury surveillance, and best clinical practices.
My research focuses on using traditional and new digital media to provide effective health communication in areas such as tobacco cessation and opioid overdose prevention.
As a roboticist and building scientist, I focus on smart buildings and cities, renewable energy systems, and the influence of occupants on energy performance.
My background is in clinical neuropsychology, and I specialize in applying multimodal neuroimaging techniques to study normal and impaired cognition, including aging, neurotrauma, and mental illness.