Current Research Projects

Research support for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America view website 

2006 - Present 
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)                                                                        
Project Director: Paula Braveman


CSDH staff provide scientific leadership for the RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America, which was initially launched in March 2008 and re-convened in June 2013 to raise awareness about the social determinants of health. Activities have included conducting data analyses, reviews, and syntheses to build a knowledge base on socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in health and promising approaches to reducing them. We have collaborated with partners to develop briefing documents and reports used by the Commission to inform,and stimulate public and policymaker dialogue about the causes of and solutions to wide and persistent social disparities in health in the United States. The ultimate goal of this effort is to promote national, state, and local policies and private-sector initiatives that will reduce disparities in health among Americans in different socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups by focusing on the social factors that so powerfully shape health.


Maternal and Infant Health Assessment (MIHA) view website | view infographic 

1998 - Present 
California Department of Public Health (CDPH)           
Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health Division (MCAH)                  
Project Director: Kristen Marchi


CSDH staff work in collaboration with MCAH to support MIHA, an annual mail/telephone survey of 3,500 – 7,000 postpartum women in California, with methods modeled on CDC’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS). MIHA and PRAMS questionnaires have many shared elements. MIHA collects population-based data to monitor key maternal and infant health outcomes and access to maternal and infant health services, and serves as information resources for the development, targeting, implementation, and monitoring of intervention programs funded by MCAH. MIHA is designed to permit examination of social disparities in maternal and infant health, as well as population health overall.


Black Infant Health (BIH) Assessment and Evaluation view website       

2006 - Present        
California Department of Public Health (CDPH)           
Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health Division (MCAH)
Project Director: Susan Egerter        

BIH is a statewide program that aims to improve maternal and infant health among African American mothers and babies and reduce Black-White health disparities by empowering pregnant and mothering African American women to make healthy choices for themselves, their families, and their communities. The program uses a group-based approach and complementary client-centered case management to help women develop life skills, learn strategies for reducing stress, and build social support. The BIH Program is located in 15 local health jurisdictions where more than three quarters of African-American live births occur in California.

After conducting an assessment of the program in 2006 and recommending revisions, CSDH researchers have collaborated closely with MCAH and local BIH leaders to develop concrete plans for the redesigned BIH program model, provide guidance for the statewide implementation of the updated program model, and to plan and conduct a comprehensive program evaluation. 


Social Determinants of Infant Mortality in California                          

2011 - Present 
W. K. Kellogg Foundation  
PI: Paula Braveman          

This 5-year project aims to develop and test an innovative approach targeting social determinants of infant and maternal health through financial empowerment. It takes advantage of a unique opportunity in California to build on BIH, the nation’s largest statewide community-based program addressing infant mortality disparities, through a collaborative effort of CSDH, MCAH, and local and state-level stakeholders. The project aims to build women’s skills in managing money and recognizing the adverse effects of economic instability on the health of the women themselves and their children. The effort also will also focus on leadership development. 


Environmental Effects on Disparities in Smoking and Obesity Among Women

2011 – Present
American Cancer Society
PI: Catherine Cubbin, PhD, U. Texas, Austin                                          


This project features the first follow-up survey of Maternal and Infant Health Assessment (MIHA) respondents who were interviewed during 2003-2007 (5,800 mother/child dyads) in six California counties. Follow-up MIHA data have been geocoded and linked with measures of neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) - based on poverty, educational quality, and employment opportunities data collected over time beginning in 1990 - and with characteristics of the built environment - based on tobacco outlets, food sources; physical activity resources; transportation characteristics; and retail opportunities. It is examining how a dynamic measure of neighborhood SES and characteristics of the built environment jointly operate to predict tobacco exposure and obesity among nonelderly adult women and their children aged 3-8 years.


Racial Disparities in Cesarean Delivery in California                    

2011 – 2013
AETNA Foundation  
PI: Paula Braveman


CSDH researchers have collaborated with researchers at the California Perinatal Quality Care Collaborative to analyze two California population-based secondary data sets to study racial/ethnic disparities in cesarean rates, taking into account an array of clinical indications, maternal characteristics including pre-pregnancy BMI, and hospital-level factors. Interviews with key informants at selected hospitals statewide will be conducted to guide interpretation of the quantitative results.