UK Center for Health Equity Transformation Awards 3 Pilot Research Grants

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 1, 2020) — The University of Kentucky Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) has awarded three grants for faculty research pilot projects addressing health disparities in vulnerable populations.

“The significance of addressing health and other inequities has never been greater,” said Nancy Schoenberg, CHET director. “While we received numerous rigorous proposals, these projects stood out for their capacity to employ stellar research approaches to make impactful change."

With support from the Office of the Vice President for Research, the College of Medicine and the College of Arts and Sciences, CHET’s mission is “to synergize innovative, transdisciplinary and impactful research and training to improve the health of the most vulnerable residents of Kentucky and beyond."

Each award grants up to $25,000 for a 12- to 18-month pilot project.

The three projects awarded include:

“RED ALERT! COVID-19's Impact on Delivering Care for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Violence and Child Abuse. Learning Lessons Now and Preparing for the Future”

Led by Camille Burnett and Ann Coker

Burnett and Coker seek to understand how Kentucky’s “Healthy at Home” COVID-19 prevention program may have affected families experiencing various forms of violence within the home. The study focuses on the overall system response of health care providers, police and community-based service professionals providing care for those experiencing intimate partner violence, sexual violence or child abuse. By identifying key informants from these professions and agencies and conducting surveys and in-depth interviews, the team hopes to learn how these “first responders” may have changed the ways they provide care by comparing their experiences before, during and after COVID-19 prevention measures. The team will also review violence/abuse rates based on police, hospital and service provider data.

“Globally we want our findings to lead to action that informs and shapes the current and future system of response during crises,” Burnett said. “These are uniquely challenging times that require balancing health with societal risk and benefits. With this CHET pilot funding, we aim to identify what has or may have worked to reduce violence among those most vulnerable to family violence. Research that responds in real time to real issues is needed now more than ever. We have a responsibility to address social issues with urgency and with action, and it is our intention that this study will do just that.”

Burnett is an associate professor in the College of Nursing and is the Cralle-Day Endowed Professor in the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women. She has an appointment as a strategic advisor for Community Engagement and Academic Partnerships with the UK Office of the Provost. She is also a faculty affiliate at CHET and the Center for Clinical and Translational Science.

Coker is a professor of epidemiology in the UK Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is the Verizon Wireless Endowed Chair in the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women and a CHET faculty affiliate.

“SPEAK (Support Peers for Breastfeeding Expansion among African American Kentuckians)” 

Led by Danelle Stevens-Watkins

This project will interview African American women in Kentucky about breastfeeding messages and myths they have been exposed to and will train breastfeeding peer support counselors known as “Community Transformers.”

“Friends and family often influence breastfeeding decisions in the African American community,” Stevens-Watkins said. “It’s not uncommon for new mothers to hear discouraging messages and myths. By recruiting women in various age groups to talk with our project team, we hope to gain an understanding of the generational and cultural messages that women are sharing, and how those messages influence women’s choices to initiate and continue breastfeeding.”

Stevens-Watkins is an associate professor in the College of Education’s Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology. She is a licensed psychologist and part of the core faculty at CHET. She is also a faculty affiliate of the UK Center for Drug and Alcohol Research and one of only six African American women who have become certified lactation counselors in Kentucky during the past seven years.

“Get Fit and Quit: Tobacco Treatment for Women Living in Residential Substance Use Disorder Treatment” 

Led by Amanda Fallin-Bennett

The research team has developed an eight-week tobacco treatment intervention that incorporates smoking cessation education, group social support and group physical activity, tailored for women in residential substance use disorder (SUD) treatment.

Tobacco cessation has been a low priority issue for behavioral health providers, due to persistent myths that smoking cessation in early recovery may lead to a return to use of alcohol or other drugs. However, in addition to dramatically improving maternal and child health outcomes, smoking cessation has the potential to improve recovery outcomes including long-term abstinence from alcohol and other drugs.

“Our program has shown consistently positive outcomes, including reductions in cigarettes smoked per day, reductions in expired carbon monoxide levels and lower nicotine dependence, as well as an increase in self-reported regular physical activity,” Fallin-Bennett said. “The CHET grant will allow us to expand this program from the Chrysalis House to also include the Women's Hope Center. It will allow us to test the impact of the intervention compared to usual care and will be the next step toward developing an R01 grant proposal to test a tailored smoking cessation program for pregnant women and women of childbearing age in residential treatment for SUD.”

Fallin-Bennett is an assistant professor in the UK College of Nursing, co-director of the Perinatal Research and Wellness Center and program director for Voices of Hope, a Lexington nonprofit that promotes long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. She is a CHET faculty affiliate.

For more information about CHET and the pilot programs, visit or contact

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