Research

Tobacco Treatment and Policy Research

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The Center for Tobacco Treatment Research and Training (CTTRT) conducts cutting-edge tobacco treatment and control research in the context of health care and community settings, medical education and public health.  We design, evaluate and disseminate tobacco dependence treatment that is practical to integrate within the medical and public health delivery system to reduce the burden of tobacco use.  We also conduct population-based studies to evaluate the impact of public policies on tobacco use.  Our treatment-related research has included the design and evaluation of innovative behavioral interventions for nicotine dependence prevention and treatment in adolescents, adults, non-daily smokers, and pregnant women and the testing of novel methods for incorporating tobacco dependence treatment teaching into medical school curriculum. 

On the policy level our research has included the evaluation of statewide policies influencing community-based tobacco treatment programs; and the evaluation of smoke free policies in public housing units and cigar packaging/pricing regulations on youth smoking.  A hallmark of the clinical and translational research we do is the use of a community-based approach, establishing and nurturing participatory collaborations and defining joint research directions with our community partners including the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), public schools and school health, medical schools, Community Healthcare Centers (CHCs), and community-based organizations. We also have developed and validated measures to assess clinician implementation of evidence-based tobacco treatment guidelines, including the Patient Exit Interview and assessment of the delivery of tobacco treatment assistance for the HEDIS (Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set) measure.  We are currently collaborating with the Center for Mindfulness in exploring the use of mindfulness training for smoking cessation in youth.  The Center's founder and director, Dr. Lori Pbert, and Center faculty and staff serve as consultants to local, national and international researchers and organizations. 

RESEARCH PROGRAM DIRECTORS:

  • Susan Druker, MA
  • Denise Jolicoeur, MA, MPH
  • Linda Churchill, MS
  • Kevin Kane, MS

Health Statistics and Geography Lab Research

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The Health Statistics and Geography Lab is specialized in analyzing neighborhood environment and public policy impact on health behaviors and outcomes, such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity, fruit and vegetable consumption, accidental falls and traumatic injuries. His lab has developed instruments for objectively assessing community walking and nutrition environment, including the Older Pedestrian Environment Survey (OPES), Community Nutrition Environment Evaluation Data Systems (C-NEEDS), Food Purchasing Surveys and Activity Space and Time Use Surveys.

The lab currently provides methodological support to the CDC-funded Prevention Research Center at UMMS, AHRQ-funded FORCE-TJR National Registry of Total Joint Replacement Surgeries, NIH-Funded National Consortium for HIV Vaccine Development, and the International Registry of Mindfulness Practitioners, Practices and Patients. The lab also provides methodological support to the development and conduct of two other national consortium projects on infectious diseases and diabetes. The lab is contracted with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to assist the design, implementation and evaluation of two large public health intervention projects: the state-funded Mass in Motion and CDC-funded Community Transformation Grants; and conduct statistical evaluation of Massachusetts Tobacco Control and Cessation Programs. Dr. Wenjun Li founded and currently directs the lab.

RESEARCH PROGRAM DIRECTORS:

  • Kevin Kane, MS (Lab Manager)
  • Linda Churchill, MS (PD)

Obesity Research

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Our research in the area of obesity is guided by our goal of being a national leader in clinical and community approaches to targeting the obesity epidemic. Our obesity-related research aims to understand determinants of weight gain and weight loss to and develop and evaluate best practices for addressing the obesity epidemic. This includes observational research, efficacy intervention research, effectiveness and implementation research and policy research, spanning the behavioral translational research spectrum. Collectively, this work targets a range of populations and settings. Areas of excellence in obesity research include health disparities, comorbid physical and mental health, child and adolescent health, worksite health promotion, built environment and policy research and technology-based interventions. Reflecting our desire to make real world impact, much of this research is conducted in partnership with organizations such as state and local departments of public health, community health centers and other clinical settings, schools, worksites and a range of community-based organizations. This work is funded by several institutes within the National Institutes for Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, institutional grants and foundations. The CDC-funded UMass Worcester Prevention Research Center (PRC), directed by Stephenie Lemon, Ph.D., serves as an umbrella for much of the intervention and policy obesity research conducted by our team. The PRC’s mission is to establish community, public health, health care and academic capacity to engage in equitable research partnerships for conducting applied public health research targeting physical activity, healthy eating, obesity and associated chronic conditions among Worcester area residents. Our obesity faculty include epidemiologists, biostatisticians, nutritionists and clinical psychologists who are locally, nationally and internationally recognized experts who are shaping the national agenda aimed at reducing the obesity epidemic.

RESEARCH PROGRAM DIRECTORS:

  • Amy Borg, MPH, MEd 
  • Barbara Estabrook, MSPH, CHES
  • Linda Churchill, MS
  • Susan Druker, MA
  • Jessica Oleski, MA

Mindfulness Research

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The UMMS Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society (CFM), is a global leader in mind-body medicine. Inspired by the vision of a more awakened and compassionate world and fully engaged in the epistemological conversation now taking place between science and contemplative practice, for thirty-five years, we have pioneered the integration of mindfulness meditation and other mindfulness-based approaches in mainstream medicine and healthcare through patient care, research, and academic medical and professional education. The Center is the place of origin of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). More then 20,000 patients, referred by more than 5,000 physicians and hundreds of other healthcare practitioners, have completed MBSR training in our Stress Reduction Clinic. There are now more then 740 MBSR programs worldwide, serving tens of thousands of people.

Our research began in the early 1980’s with groundbreaking research conducted by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues on the effects of mindfulness and MBSR in individuals with chronic pain and a host of other medical and psychological conditions. It has continued to expand to include a wide range of health conditions from anxiety to immune system function. Our research spans basic, translational, clinical and population-based areas, with the aim to provide evidence-based mindfulness treatments that are grounded in biological mechanisms and optimized for personalized benefit. We are currently performing and collaborating on a wide range of research projects across the world. On a basic science level, we are working to elucidate neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness through the study of brain activity and connectivity using fMRI. We are also conducting neurophenomenological studies to link the subjective experience of mindfulness with specific brain activity using real-time fMRI and EEG neurofeedback. In collaboration with Drs. Carl Fulwiler and Jean King (Department of Psychiatry) and Sarah Cavanagh (Assumption College), we are investigating the degree to which high cognitive resources can predict a successful response to MBSR using performance-based cognitive tasks, physiological and fMRI measurements.From a translational perspective, we are studying the efficacy and utility of real-time neurofeedback for the augmentation of MBSR training. In collaboration with Cardiologist Dr. Joshua Greenberg (Department of Medicine), we are exploring the physiologic benefits of MBSR in people who have had significant impairment in cardiac function following a heart attack.

Clinical research remains the heartbeat of our work. We continue to investigate the efficacy of MBSR with larger numbers of patients through the Center’s Stress Reduction Clinic and we are in the early stages of partnering with a large regional health insurer to investigate the potential cost-effectiveness of MBSR among their subscribers. We are evaluating the efficacy of mobile mindfulness training for smoking cessation in randomized clinical trials. In collaboration with Drs. Lori Pbert and Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, we are investigating whether mindfulness training can promote healthy diet and physical activity in teenagers. We have collaborated with Drs. Jim Carmody, Lori Pbert and Mark Madison on investigating the clinical benefits of MBSR in asthma patients and are exploring the efficacy of MBSR for weight maintenance after weight loss with Drs. Emily Levoy, Asimina Lazaridou, and Carl Fulwiler. Looking through the lens of population health, in collaboration with Dr. Wenjun Li (director of the Health Statistics and Geography Lab at UMass), we have established the first of its kind international registry that will collect pool large amounts of data from our MBSR affiliates worldwide in order to magnify our understanding about MBSR. The data collected by the registry will support comparative effectiveness research, care quality improvement, return on investment analysis, evaluation of patient short term as well as long term outcomes in relation to system, practitioner and patient characteristics.

Center for Mindfulness Research Faculty:

Division Research Faculty:


Community Health and Health Disparities Research

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The Research Center for Behavior and Community Health Solutions conducts cutting-age intervention and epidemiological research to improve health equity and eliminate health disparities in the areas of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. We develop, evaluate and disseminate innovative interventions among vulnerable communities, such as underserved, mentally impaired, elderly, and racial/ethnic and other minorities. Our interventions target healthy eating, physical activity, sedentariness, smoking, cancer screening and health care utilization, among others. We collaborate with community partners and organizations throughout Massachusetts in all aspects of our research. Our faculty includes health psychologists, epidemiologists, biostatisticians and physicians. The center is directed by Dr. Milagros C. Rosal.

 

 

 RESEARCH PROGRAM DIRECTORS:

  • Amy Borg, MPH, MEd
  • Barbara Estabrook, MSPH, CHES

Women’s Health Research

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A number of faculty in Preventive and Behavioral Medicine are engaged in wide-ranging research in women's health, from pregnancy through the menopausal transition and beyond.  We collaborate with investigators from the departments of obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, and cardiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, as well as from numerous outside institutions.  Our pregnancy-related research includes studies of diet, gestational weight gain, and infant and maternal health in the postpartum period, as well as assessment of biomarkers for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, including preeclampsia.  Our work in menopause and women's health began in 1994 with participation as a site in the national Women's Health Initiative (WHI) that includes both observational and randomized clinical trials investigating use of hormone therapy, calcium/vitamin D, and a low fat diet for postmenopausal women.  Thirteen WHI ancillary studies were conducted between 1998-2013, with a focus on memory, cognition, nutritional and physical activity assessment, breast cancer prevention through nutrition, cancer survivorship, and macular degeneration. 

We also conduct research on gestational weight gain and post-partum weight loss, with particular emphasis on interventions that optimize weight gain during pregnancy and maximize return to a healthy weight after childbirth. We also conduct research on the transition from pre- to post-menopause as part of the longitudinal Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN), with a focus on racial/ethnic differences in health and health care patterns across the transition.  Affiliated studies include the SWAN Repository and ancillary studies on identification of bleeding markers for defining menopausal stages and on the association of phytoestrogens and health in mid-aged women.  In two randomized clinical trials, we assessed the effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction and soy phytoestrogens for relief of vasomotor symptoms.  We are conducting a case-control study to assess risk factors for the development of stress cardiomyopathy, a syndrome that typically affects older women.  Our faculty has expertise in biostatistics, epidemiology, health education, cardiology and behavioral psychology. 

RESEARCH PROGRAM DIRECTORS:

  • Linda Churchill, MS
  • Nancy Mecone, BS, RN