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Research to Address Community Priorities: Maternal-Child Health Crisis, Refugee Support

In a new initiative that illustrates the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and community-engaged research at Duquesne University, two projects have been selected to receive initial seed funding through the University's Community-Engaged Research Grant awards.

"In this inaugural year, we selected two teams to invest in and build academic research programs that are of importance to the local community," said Dr. Lina Dostilio, director of Duquesne's Center for Community-Engaged Teaching and Research.

Besides focusing on Duquesne's mission of building a more just and equitable world, an additional principle of this community-engaged research is social and environmental justice.

The two projects selected focus on educational and health issues. They are:

Wise Women: An Untapped Community Asset

This project is designed to improve the maternal-child health crisis affecting African-Americans in the United States by working with community partners to gain the wisdom and trust of female community elders who can informally share valuable information about diabetes. In the U.S., African-American women are less likely to receive prenatal care and nearly four times more likely to die from causes related to pregnancy as non-Hispanic, white women.

Health outcomes for babies are linked to those of their mothers-and infant mortality rates for African-Americans in 2010 were twice as high as those of non-Hispanic whites. According to information from the Allegheny County Department of Health, the maternal-child health gap may be even greater in Pittsburgh than it is nationwide.

Researchers Dr. Jessica Devido, assistant professor of nursing, and Dr. Cathleen J. Appelt, assistant professor of sociology, will work with community partners from the Hill House Association, the Ujamaa Collective and FOCUS Pittsburgh ministry.

Support for Refugee Families with School-Aged Children in the Pittsburgh Area through Ethically Based Community Centers: An Additive Model for Family Engagement, Student Linguistic and Academic Development, and Teacher Preparation

This project will identify and work with immigrant Ahiska families involved with the Turkish Cultural Center of Pittsburgh, helping to welcome and integrate the newcomers into the Pittsburgh community. After identifying needs such as emotional support, academic and language development, the team will design appropriate programs with cultural center volunteers and teachers. Researchers from the School of Education are Dr. Laura Mahalingappa, assistant professor of English as a Second Language (ESL); Dr. Anne Marie FitzGerald, assistant professor of educational leadership; and Dr. Nihat Polat, associate professor and director of the ESL Specialist Certificate and the master's program in the Department of Instruction and Leadership.


These grants will reach up to $10,000 for each of two years, with external funding expected to sustain the programs.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.