Research Overview

The College of Health and Human Services faculty, staff, and students are involved in many interdisciplinary research initiatives asking tough questions and discovering innovative solutions to improve health throughout our local community and on a global scale. Our research faculty have received grants from federal, state, and local sponsors as well as industry partners. We welcome collaboration, diversity and innovation to improve lives through health and human services research.

The Research Administration Office (RAO), housed in the College of Health and Human Services, supports faculty, research staff, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The Office provides pre- and post-award support and works closely with several central administrative units housed in Research and Economic Development (RED).

Thinking of submitting a grant proposal?  Click here to fill out an Intent to Submit form. Please plan to submit your Intent to Submit form 4-6 weeks in advance of the sponsor deadline. This allows time for the RAO to set up a meeting with you to discuss the budget and all required documents.  

New Initiative

The Urban Health Equity, Education, and Research Collaborative (UHEERC), a college-wide initiative, is conducting research directed at understanding and addressing the primary underlying causes of health inequities - the social determinants of health. UHEERC supports teams of health scientists who use action research methods, community-based participatory research (CBPR), and clinical research methods to improve health outcomes in high-risk clinical populations, implement community-based chronic disease prevention and management programs, advance health policy reform, and promote racial equity. With a solid track record of sustained funding, local and national engagement, and a critical mass of experienced and emerging investigators, the Collaborative is uniquely positioned to investigate these complex, pressing, and nationally important research areas.

The College began building the UHEERC research infrastructure in 2014, by establishing the first of four research academies. The academies are dedicated to improving urban health and well-being, and three of the four are directed by established National Institutes of Health (NIH) investigators. The Academy for Research on Community Health, Engagement, and Services (ARCHES) promotes CBPR through place-based partnerships and transdisciplinary research teams. The Academy for Population Health Innovation (APHI) is a unique partnership between the University and the Mecklenburg County health department, concentrating on health equity, HIV/AIDS and chronic disease prevention, and behavioral health integration. The Academy for Clinical Research and Scholarship (ACRS) establishes partnerships with clinical agencies to synergize research affecting patient health outcomes. The Academy for Race and Social Equity (RASE) fosters the scholarship of practice and research focused on advancing racial and social parity. A suite of applied, clinical and basic research laboratories, support health assessment, physical activity, biodynamics, and systems physiology research. A Biostatistics Core, Data Core, and a partnership with SDS and CCI support statistics, analytics, data management and tech innovations.   

The UHEERC uses an NIH design - many faculty and students affiliate with one or more research academies (e.g. APHI, ARCHES, RASE, ACRS, or laboratory), but investigations transcend academy boundaries. Research generally aligns with the social determinants of health with distinct program lines in place-based social determinants of health (Social), clinical care (Clinical), lifestyle and behavior (Behavioral), health care policy (Policy), social justice (Justice), and data science (Action Data). The UHEERC is administered by an NIH-funded, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies (ADRGS)(Sell). With input from a 6-member Research Council and the four research academy directors, the ADRGS guides research and education support while facilitating synergies and relationship building. UHEERC members train doctoral scholars in six interdisciplinary doctoral programs, often involving co-supervision.

Research Spotlight

Study Assesses COVID-19 Impact on Vulnerable Populations in Charlotte

A new study released by UNC Charlotte researchers has found the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with concerning mental health effects among vulnerable community members in Charlotte.

The study assessed COVID-19-specific stress, rates of mental health symptoms, alcohol use, domestic violence, relationship quality and coping efforts, and interest in and barriers to low cost mental health services. It was funded by a grant from the Cardinal Innovations Healthcare COVID-19 Relief Fund awarded to the UNC Charlotte team and its nonprofit partnering organization Psychology for All.  It surveyed adults who live in Mecklenburg or one of several surrounding counties and have an annual household income of $60,000 or less. 

UNC Charlotte Department of Public Health Sciences professor Rob Cramer, who led the study, said, “We need to understand the unique challenges faced by the most vulnerable members of our community. Only by gaining a sense of COVID-19 stress, reactions, and mental health challenges can we devise strategies to help. This project will allow us to do follow-up work in the enhancing of therapy services and designing public health strategies aimed at limiting the negative effects of the pandemic.”

Scores by mental health screeners indicated elevated levels among the surveyed group. Responses showed raised rates of probable risk for posttraumatic stress (83.3%), problematic drinking (50%), depression (52%), generalized anxiety (43%) and suicide risk (31%). 

The most common self-reported coronavirus-related stressors were exposure at work, lost job or income and increased home responsibilities. While less than one-third reported direct exposure or illness, almost three-quarters reported knowing someone close who was affected by COVID-19.

Researchers offered a number recommendations for COVID-19 related prevention and intervention in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area, including more community-based and online mental health and suicide prevention programming, enhanced health service provider screening for domestic violence and greater emphasis on public health approaches to psychosocial impacts of the pandemic. 

Respondents to the survey did express high rates of willingness to use in-person and virtual individual therapy sessions. 

“Psychology for All and our UNC Charlotte team are disseminating this information across the region. We're working on writing up key findings for scientific publication and planning next stages to seek funding toward developing intervention work to help those in need in Charlotte,” Cramer said.

by: Katie Rayner, CHHS Communications Graduate Assistant