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Holloway Wins Grant to Merge Technology, LGBTQ Health

Ian Holloway, associate professor of social welfare, has received an Avenir Award of more than $2 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to advance his research into health interventions for LGBTQ communities. Holloway leads a UCLA team that is developing a social media tool designed to offer highly personalized health information to prevent substance abuse and HIV infection among gay men. Under a previous grant, the researchers built a library of nearly 12,000 data points made up of text phrases and emojis that correlate with offline health behaviors. Holloway’s Avenir Award will be used to create a machine-learning system that will monitor social media interactions with participants’ consent, then send customized health reminders and other alerts via an app. The team’s goal is to develop a wide-reaching and cost-effective tool to promote public health, said Holloway, director of the Hub for Health Intervention, Policy and Practice at UCLA Luskin. The Avenir Awards, named for the French word for “future,” provide grants to early-stage researchers who propose highly innovative studies, particularly in the field of HIV and addiction.


 

Minority Health Improves in Positive School Environment, Study Finds

Low-income minority boys’ health improves when they are in high-performing school environments, according to a recent study by UCLA Luskin Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber and co-authors from the David Geffen School of Medicine. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, used admission lotteries for high-performing public charter schools in Los Angeles and surveyed 1,270 students who applied. Over a four-year period, their behavior was tracked. Among boys, the study found less marijuana use, less truancy, more time spent studying, greater teacher support for college and less school mobility. The study did not find any significant health improvements among girls. “Future studies targeting school-based social networks and school culture … can begin to identify the pathways through which to build healthier schools,” the researchers said. They concluded that investing in higher-quality public education will reflect positively on the students’ health. The study, titled “Assessment of Exposure to High-Performing Schools and Risk of Adolescent Substance Use: A Natural Experiment,” was co-authored by the School of Medicine’s Rebecca Dudovitz and Paul Chung. News coverage of the report appeared in U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider and other publications.