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SBPS Research and Centers

Research Areas

Faculty in SBPS focus on behavioral and social science research. Behavior and context are central to all of public health. Many of the major diseases causing death and disability stem from behavior – such as smoking, alcohol consumption, unhealthy eating, inactivity, sexual risk-taking, and violence – so public health practitioners need to understand the reasons people engage in these behaviors and how we can work with people and communities to have healthier lives.

Factors that influence health behavior range from individual to interpersonal, community to structural levels, including knowledge, attitude, family structure, economic status, social norms, and the built environment.

In Social, Behavioral, and Population Sciences our research is geared towards serving the communities we work with. We study the individual, social, and environmental determinants of unhealthy behaviors, effective interventions leading to positive behavior change, and the translation of evidence-based research to public health practice.

Faculty research in SBPS explores how behavior and context are implicated in the major public health problems of our day, including drug abuse, risky sexual behavior, under– and over–nutrition, maternal and child mortality, and violence. Our research also focuses on promoting healthier behavior, healthier environments, and universal coverage of essential services, and how to plan, monitor, and evaluate programs that pursue these goals.

Research Centers

Mary Amelia Center for Women’s Health Equity Research (MAC)

The Mary Amelia Center seeks to reduce inequities in women’s health and to enhance health and well-being through community building, interdisciplinary research on health promotion and determinants, advocacy, and leadership development.  This center is endowed by the Frost Foundation with projects funded through the NIH and other agencies.  Projects include:

  • Neighborhood Stress and Physiology among children study (NIH)
  • Cardiovascular Responses to Stress in Pregnancy Study
  • Maternal Transmission of Stress Study
  • Tulane Stress and Environment Research Collaborative on Health Disparities (SERCH)
  • Fussy Baby Network – a partnership program
  • Gulf Resilience on Women's Health (GROWH) – a partnership program
Tulane Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Education, Science, and Practice (CEMCH)

Tulane Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Education, Science, and Practice (CEMCH) is a training program working to expand and strengthen the MCH workforce for the purpose of improving the health status of women, infants, children, youth and families in Louisiana and beyond. It is supported by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The CEMCH offers seminars and workshops, student mentoring, and professional development resources. In addition to the CEMCH Scholars program, which provides additional training to select MCH students, the CEMCH also supports the MCH-focused academic program, ensuring alignment with MCH national and program competencies; offers opportunities for MCH student exposure to research projects and translation of research to practice; and works closely with MCH-related community organizations and MCH governmental agencies to provide technical assistance and opportunities for student involvement.

Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC)

Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC)is one of 26 prevention research centers and has been funded by the CDC for community-based participatory research since 1998. The PRC mission is to reduce and prevent obesity in the Greater New Orleans area by addressing the physical and social environmental factors that influence diet and physical activity. The work of the PRC is community initiated and guided, and its community reach is through grassroots efforts as well as through stakeholder and policy levels. The Tulane PRC facilitates changes in the social and physical environment to promote health and healthy behaviors by designing and implementing strategies for prevention.

  • Partnership for an Active Community Environment (PACE): The PRC core research project identifies barriers to physical activity and assesses the impact of environmental change in the Upper Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans. Neighborhood organizations participate on the project steering committee.  The project-funded supervisors from the local school serve as playground monitors to keep a playground open after school hours.
  • The Food Policy Advisory Committee (FPAC) is a broad-based committee of area business and policy leaders working to improve access to fresh healthy food. The FPAC was authorized by a resolution New Orleans City Council in May 2007.  The committee consists of local stakeholders.
  • The Food Ubiquity Study examines the prevalence of snack foods available at non-food retailers. This Tulane PRC project utilizes local observers in 20 cities to assess the availability of high-calorie snack foods in retail outlets. 
  • The Impact of Improved Play Equipment for Physical Activity in school children project assesses the effect of playground equipment without organized activity on the physical activity of children. After Hurricane Katrina, play structures were built on a number of schoolyards in New Orleans.  Staff assessed physical activity levels of children in several schools before and after the play structures were installed.
Violence Prevention Institute

Violence Prevention Institute (VPI) at Tulane functions as a hub for supporting and expanding multidisciplinary violence prevention-related research, teaching, community programs, and advocacy efforts across Tulane University, New Orleans, and beyond. The VPI aims to build a collaborative network of faculty, staff, students, alums, community partners and other stakeholders interested in violence prevention. The VPI is designed to strengthen the work of its members by creating new connections, circulating violence-related funding opportunities, and disseminating violence prevention information and resources. The VPI website and social media highlights the violence prevention-related work of over 50 participating faculty and doctoral students across 7 Tulane University schools and 12 departments ranging from social work to public health to neuroscience, and more. The VPI website also houses digital reservoirs of publications, new faculty-led research projects. Tulane courses, media appearances, and community resources related to violence prevention. Examples of VPI research focus areas include:

  • Prevention of child physical punishment
  • Trauma-informed learning environments
  • Infant mental health and psychopathology
  • The epigenetic impact of violence (how they get "under the skin" biologically)
  • The impact of oppression / systemic violence on caregiver and child health over time
  • Neighborhood and social network influences on susbstance abuse, mental health, and health outcomes

The VPI is directed by Dr. Catherine Taylor and managed by Kate Schulze (kschulze@tulane.edu)