Health Sciences Research

Labs and Research Groups

Rui Li, Lead
Carmen Castaneda Sceppa, Affiliate

The laboratory is dedicated to applying the practical skills and cutting-edge research to evaluate the effects of exercise and physical activity on health, disease, and human performance.

Stephen Intille, Lead

The mHealth Research Group invents and validates systems, methodologies, and algorithms that use wearable and ubiquitous sensors, mobile phones, and advanced human-computer interfaces to support health and wellness research and practice. We aim to discover how to computationally measure, model, and detect health-related behavior to support just-in-time, persuasive health interventions.

Phil Brown, Lead

The PFAS Project Lab studies multiple aspects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including social discovery, scientific discovery, children’s immune responses to PFAS, state and federal government advisories and regulations, activism, manufacturer and retailer action to remove or reduce PFAS, and media coverage.  The Lab is currently funded by an NIEHS R01, two NSF grants, and an NIEHS conference grant. The Lab runs large international conferences every two years and maintains a detailed database and map of contamination sites.

Sharon Harlan and Laura Senier, Leads
Steven Scyphers, Affiliate

The Water Equity Team studies problems related to water resources, such as unaffordability, access to water recreation, and consequences of floods in environmental justice communities. We are dedicated to community engagement and developing visions for improving local water resources and health that are consistent with inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development.

Andrea Grimes Parker, Lead

The Wellness Technology Lab designs, builds, and studies technologies that support health and wellness in vulnerable populations.

Centers and Institutes

Elmer Freeman, Director

CCHERS is a community-based organization that is a community/academic partnership established in 1991. The Center’s mission is to promote the development of academic community health centers that integrate education, research, and service; to influence and change health professions education; improve health care delivery; and promote health systems change to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health.

Gary Young, Director

The Center’s mission is to foster and conduct interdisciplinary research addressing the cost, quality, and accessibility of healthcare services.  Key research areas include measuring and improving quality of care, population health, cost and use of prescription medications, workforce issues in healthcare, improving the efficiency of healthcare organizations’ internal operations.

Alisa Lincoln, Director

Disparities in health and mental health arise and persist as the result of complex individual, societal, and global factors. We bring together faculty and students from across Northeastern University, along with external research partners, to tackle these complex challenges. Our teams draw upon a wide range of research methods and interventions, but share a common commitment to promoting health equity and social justice through high-impact, community engaged research.

Phil Brown, Director

The mission SSEHRI is to conduct social science-oriented research, teaching, community engagement, and policy work in the area of environmental health. The Institute trains graduate students and postdocs for community based participatory research aimed at transforming and improving environmental health.

Research Projects

Public Health and Health Equity

Buyback Program to Reduce Use of Opioids

Gary Young, Principal Investigator
Funder: Abdul Latif Poverty Action Center Lab (J-PAL based at MIT)
Start-End Dates: 2018-2019

Description: In partnership with a community health center, a randomized control trial will be conducted to test the effectiveness of a buyback program for used opioids.

Comparative Assessment of Modifying Social Determinants to Reduce Cardiovascular Disease

Daniel Kim, Principal Investigator
Funder:
National Institutes of Health
Start-End Dates: 2017-2020

Description: The goal of this project is to investigate multiple population- and individual-level social and economic determinants as predictors of cardiovascular disease incidence, mortality, and risk factors and to compare and contract their population health and economic impacts.

Developing the Evidence Base for Overdose Policies

Danielle Haley, Co-Investigator
Funder:
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Start-End Dates: 2018-2023

Description: This study integrates existing individual-level data on ~38,800 people who inject drugs (PWID) living in 20+ US metropolitan statistical areas in 2009, 2012, 2015, and 2018 with existing data on the places where these PWID live. The study will reveal whether and how specific drug- and health-related laws and place characteristics (e.g., spatial access to substance use disorder treatment) relate to a variety of OD-related outcomes among PWID, overall and by race/ethnicity, gender, age, and HIV status.

GSA Mentoring and Career Development Technical Assistance Workshop

Carmen Castaneda Sceppa, Faculty Mentor
Funder:
National Institute on Aging
Start-End Dates: 2018-2021

Description: The overall goal is to provide unique career development and mentoring opportunities to trainees from diverse underrepresented groups interested in pursuing a career in aging research by participating in a pre-conference workshop at the GSA annual meetings.

Health Policy Impacts on Substance Use and Treatment among Women with and at Risk for HIV

Danielle Haley, Principal Investigator
Funder:
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Start-End Dates: 2018-2023

Description: This career development award leverages existing longitudinal data from the Women’s Interagency HIV Study to examine the impact of prescription drug monitoring programs, health parity laws, and medical marijuana laws on women’s substance use, drug and alcohol treatment, and HIV-related clinical outcomes.

Inappropriate Diagnostic Imaging

Gary Young, Principal Investigator
Funder:
National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation
Start-End Dates: 2016-2018

Description: Secondary data analysis of insurance claims to assess magnitude and related costs of inappropriate diagnostic imaging, and to identify physician-level characteristics associated with inappropriate diagnostic imaging.

Prescribing Patterns for Treating Opioid Dependence

Gary Young, Principal Investigator
Funder: Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Start-End Dates: 2019-2019

Description: A statewide database of insurance claims will be used to identify physician- and patient-level characteristics associated with prescriptions for medications to treat opioid use disorder. Interviews will also be conducted with clinicians to assess their attitudes towards prescribing of such medications in terms of clinical benefit and drawbacks.

Public Health and the Right to Affordable Water

Sharon Harlan, Laura Senier & Martha Davis, Co-Principal Investigators
Funder:
Northeastern University Tier 1 Program
Start-End Dates: 2018-2019

Description: This study addresses the adverse effects of rising water bills and water shutoffs in low-income US households. Goals of this pilot project are to 1) evaluate the effectiveness of payment assistant plans in helping poor households to afford their water bills; 2) identify the pathways through which unaffordable water bills and water shutoffs can affect human health in Massachusetts communities.

An Emergency Department-based RCT of Lethal Means Counseling for Parents of At-Risk Youth

Carmel Salhi, Co-Investigator
Funder:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Start-End Dates: 2016-2019

Description: This is a mixed methods study to examine the effectiveness of a clinical intervention which trains providers in emergency departments in Colorado to speak to parents of children in psychiatric emergencies about storing firearms and medications more safely. The study uses a controlled trial alongside qualitative interviews with parents and providers to examine the implementation and effectiveness of the lethal means counseling intervention.

Exploring Pathways of Discrimination and Health Among Somali Young Adults

Carmel Salhi, Co-Investigator
Funder: National Institutes of Health
Start-End Dates: 2017-2019

Description: The major goals of this projects are to expand the inquiry of the ongoing Somali Youth Risk and Resilience Study (SYRSS) to examine experiences of violence, discrimination, risk and resilience factors, and their relationship to mental health outcomes. Results of this study will inform a line of research aimed at preventing negative health consequences with violence and discrimination, reducing disparities in health and mental health outcomes experienced by Somali young adults.

Environmental Health

Children’s Immunotoxicity to PFAS Chemicals, Public and Professional Education, and Community Capacity-Building

Phil Brown, Principal Investigator
Funder:
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Start-End Dates: 2017-2022

Description: This project evaluates immune responses among children exposed to PFASs via AFFF-contaminated drinking water, develops an online portal as a community-building and educational resource, studies experiences of people in communities impacted by PFAS-contaminated drinking water, and develops educational outreach materials.

Community Activism on PFAS Chemicals

Phil Brown, Principal Investigator
Funder: National Science Foundation
Start-End Dates: 2018-2021

Description: This project examines the national network of community groups dealing with PFAS contamination, using our national database for quantitative analysis, as well as interviews and observations for a subsample. It also includes water testing in a New Hampshire community that is highly impacted.

Family Gym

Carmen Castaneda Sceppa, Co-Principal Investigator
Funder:
Boston Children’s Community Physical Activity, Recreation, and Food Fund
Start-End Dates: 2018-2021

Description: The goal is to expand Family Gym –a free, weekly play program that promotes physical activity for children ages 3-8 and their families, living in neighborhoods with high rates of obesity and low-access to safe, accessible play areas – to nine communities served by the Boston Center’s for Youth and Families.

The Health Effects of Access to Green and Blue Spaces among Urban Teens

Laura Senier, Principal Investigator
Funder:
Northeastern University Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice
Start-End Dates: 2018-2019

Description: This pilot project will assess exposure to green and blue spaces and explore how these recreational amenities are associated with mental or emotional health and well-being among teens in two Boston-area neighborhoods. The terms green and blue spaces are drawn from the literature on therapeutic landscapes; the former is generally taken to mean parks, playgrounds, and open space, while the latter is taken to mean rivers, streams, and beaches. This CPBR (Community-Based Participatory Research) project explicitly gives teens a voice in identifying benefits and barriers in using green and blue spaces and how they affect their health and well-being.

Social and Scientific Discovery of PFAS Chemicals

Phil Brown, Principal Investigator
Funder:
National Science Foundation
Start-End Dates: 2015-2019

Description: This project investigates the social discovery of perfluorinated chemicals (PFAS), hazardous fluorine-based chemicals widely used in industrial production, and examines scientific, regulatory and advocacy action to restrict their use. This project supports undergraduates to study PFAS-contaminated sites via interviews, observations, and analysis of scientific and government documents from those sites.

Social Equity and Environmental Justice in Urban Water Systems

Sharon Harlan, NU Site Principal Investigator
Funder:
National Science Foundation
Start-End Dates: 2016-2020

Description: This project is a network of academic institutions and key partners across the U.S. that collaborate on research, engagement, and educational programs to address water challenges such as climate change, urbanization, pollution, and aging water infrastructure.  At Northeastern, we examine the unequal distribution of water burdens and benefits in low-income and minority communities, the origins of water inequities, and community-based efforts to improve science and management of water resources.

Health Across the Lifespan

Boston Roybal Center for Active Lifestyle Interventions (RALI)

Carmen Castaneda Sceppa, NU Site Principal Investigator
Funder:
National Institute on Aging, Roybal Centers for Translational Research on Aging
Starting-Ending Dates: 2014-2019

Brief Description: The overall goal of the Boston Roybal Center (BRC) is to develop and test behavior change strategies to promote healthy aging, especially for adults at high risk for poor health outcomes.

Comparative Assessment of Modifying Social Determinants to Reduce Cardiovascular Disease

Daniel Kim, Principal Investigator
Funder:
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Start-End Dates: 2017-2020

Description: The goal of this project is to investigate multiple population- and individual-level social and economic determinants as predictors of cardiovascular disease incidence, mortality, and risk factors and to compare and contrast their population health and economic impacts.

Exercise, cfDNA and Health

Rui Li, Principal Investigator
Funder:
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital
Start-End Dates: 2018-2019

Description: The purpose of this research is to investigate a new biomarker in response to exercise: cell-free DNA. Measurement of cfDNA may potentially be a less invasive way to monitor changes due to exercise and see if we can use it as a tool to determine why exercise increases the health of individuals.

Family Gym

Carmen Castaneda Sceppa, Co-Principal Investigator
Funder:
Boston Children’s Community Physical Activity, Recreation, and Food Fund
Start-End Dates: 2018-2021

Description: The goal is to expand Family Gym –a free, weekly play program that promotes physical activity for children ages 3-8 and their families, living in neighborhoods with high rates of obesity and low-access to safe, accessible play areas – to nine communities served by the Boston Center’s for Youth and Families.

Dietary Quality, Congitive Decline and Brain Health in Puerto Rican Adults

John Griffith, Biostatistician
Funder:
National Institutes of Health
Start-End Dates: 2017–2022

Description: Cognitive decline is an increasing health concern among U.S. Latino adults, particularly those of Puerto Rican heritage. This project aims to quantify the importance of highly processed foods consumption and phosphorus and vitamin B6 status in relation to cognitive decline (psychometric testing) and brain health (MRI) among older U.S. mainland Puerto Rican adults. With the growing and aging Latino population in the U.S likely to contribute to major increases in the burden of cognitive decline, these data will provide critical information to improve our understanding of preventive risk factors that may inform interventions.

Bone microarchitecture, diabetes and change in bone mineral density in Purto Rican Adults

John Griffith, Biostatistician
Funder: National Institutes of Health
Start-End Dates: 2018–2022

Description: Osteoporosis and low bone mass currently affect more than 54 million older adults in the U.S., and osteoporotic fractures result in significant disability and decreased quality of life. Preliminary data suggest that Caribbean Hispanic adults are at increased risk for osteoporosis compared to non-Hispanic adults. This study will help guide urgently needed public health strategies that address risk factors for, and early detection of, osteoporosis in this population.

Technology and Health

Experimental Learning Games for Wellness Promotion in Low-Income Families

Andrea Parker, Principal Investigator; Carmen Castaneda Sceppa, Co-Investigator and Mentor
Funder:
National Science Foundation
Start-End Dates: 2016-2019

Description: The major goals of this project are to explore how digital technologies can help parents and young children (ages 3-8) learn from sensor-collected data about their health-related behaviors.

NUCare: Northeastern Center for Technology in Support of Self-Management and Health

Carmen Castaneda Sceppa, Leader Pilot Projects Core
Funder:
National Institute of Nursing Research
Start-End Dates: 2014-2019

Description: The overall goal of our proposed Northeastern Center for Technology in Support of Self-Management and Health (NCTecH) is to develop nursing research expertise and effective interventions in the area of self-management for older adults at risk for poor health outcomes.

Predicting Situational Onset of Aggression in Minimally Verbal Youth with Autism Using Biosensor Data & Machine Learning Algorithms

Kristin Madison, Principal Investigator
Funder:
Department of Defense
Start-End Dates: 2018-2021

Description: The goal of this project is to observe and record aggression to others in 40 MV-ASD inpatient youth during repeated naturalistic observations in an inpatient psychiatric hospital until while they wear wireless biosensors and evaluation the positive predictive value and reliability of imminent aggression prediction.