From left, Center for Public Health faculty include Mance Buttram, Page Dobbs and Alex Russell.
Three faculty members in the Center for Public Health and Technology have received nearly $2 million in prestigious National Institutes of Health grants that will help people with addiction issues.
The center, part of the College of Education and Health Professions, is a new hub for interdisciplinary research focusing on public health, communication, health literacy, and emerging media and digital technologies. Faculty are leaders and experienced collaborators who bring the power of health, big data, community partnerships and operational resources to center-affiliated research.
Reform of the Tobacco Access Act
Page Dobbs, interim director of the center, received an $800,126 Tobacco Regulatory Science K01 grant from the National Cancer Institute to investigate social media discussions about policy loopholes, enforcement challenges and industry interference with tobacco control policies.
“The tobacco industry has a long history of misleading policymakers by supporting tobacco control policies that are difficult to enforce or include loopholes,” Dobbs said. “Whereas information about these tactics was harder to come by in the past, social media platforms like Twitter, Reddit and Tiktok now provide transparent data about tobacco policy-related discussions for anyone to find.”
Dobbs will examine social media discussions about tobacco control policies to understand how people avoid enforcement through policy loopholes, the challenges people face when trying to enforce these laws, and how tobacco industries try to interfere with the enactment and enforcement of nascent tobacco laws. “I believe this information is significant for policymakers and for the FDA, the agency that oversees the enforcement of all tobacco products,” she said.
Dobbs said that while smoking rates have fallen over the past half century, the tobacco industry has recently recycled many misleading tactics to promote new tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, to youth and young adults. As a result, the use of e-cigarettes among this young audience has increased over the past decade.
“In light of health consequences, such as the E-cigarette and Vaping-related lung injury (EVALI) first seen in 2019, the US Congress and FDA acted quickly to enact legislation that would set the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products increased and limited the sale of flavored pod-based e-cigarettes, respectively,” she said. “Furthermore, the FDA continues to call for research to help inform the future of tobacco control policies that will reduce tobacco initiation and use , especially among young, vulnerable populations.
Dobbs said the K01 grant, titled “Loopgates, Enforcement Challenges, and Tobacco Industry Interference with Tobacco Control Policies,” will allow her to examine conversations about emerging tobacco control policies on social media. Examining the social networks that connect conversations between e-cigarette users, local vape shops, and corporate tobacco companies will help her identify policy loopholes, enforcement challenges, and industry interference via time-stamped data. “This research may provide timely findings that will help inform FDA regulatory responses to emerging tobacco control policies,” she said.
Dobbs’ research will provide the FDA with rapid, action-oriented recommendations on these policies.
Alcohol use disorder intervention
Alex Russell, associate director of technology for the center, received a $735,000 grant to conduct a study that seeks to characterize alcohol use disorder and recovery-related exposures on Twitter to define prominent barriers to and facilitators of recovery, as well as to identify targets for later intervention.
The K01, a prized research career development grant, is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health.
“It is an honor to receive this grant and in large part a credit to the wonderful mentors that have been placed in my life,” said Russell. “This is a great opportunity to receive additional hands-on training and to begin conducting research consistent with NIAAA’s emphasis on identifying and developing strategies to reduce personal and organizational barriers that prevent people with alcohol use disorders from seeking appropriate care and to receive, as well as the development of innovative behavioral strategies to promote drinking-related behavior change.”
Funded in September 2022, the study, titled “Characterizing Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery-Related Exposures on Social Media: Content, Clustering, and Network Analysis,” will continue through 2027.
More than 3 million American young adults (ages 18-25) met the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder last year. “Although there are effective treatment options for the disease, there remains a large treatment gap because many young adults are reluctant to seek formal treatment,” Russell said. “It is imperative to explore new and innovative ways to engage young adults with recovery support resources. One such way to improve AUD treatment and recovery outcomes among young adults is by using social media platforms to remove practical and attitudinal barriers to engagement understand and address. with services.”
Russell said that previous research has determined that social media use and engagement influence health behaviors, including alcohol use. However, social media platforms can also encourage healthy behaviors, such as abstinence from or reduction in one’s drinking, he said. “My research seeks to understand how we can use social media platforms to encourage individuals with alcohol use disorder to engage in evidence-based alcohol treatment services and in turn achieve successful recovery from their alcohol-related problems,” said Russell.
Nonmedical use of gabapentin and opioids
Mance Buttram, associate director of research for the center, received a $436,653 R21 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to be the first to investigate non-medical uses of gabapentin, an anticonvulsant medication are used in combination with prescription and illegal opioids.
“Limited data shows that gabapentin is used by individuals with opioid use disorder to enhance the euphoric effects of opioids, but at the same time, data also shows that gabapentin is used to treat symptoms of opioid use disorder itself and physical pain experienced by people who use drugs. ,” he said. “This study will use new qualitative methods, including ethnographic decision modeling, and survey people who use drugs in collaboration with substance use disorder treatment centers in seven states.”
Findings from this study, titled “An Investigation of Concomitant Nonmedical Use of Gabapentin and Opioids,” will help prescribers and substance use disorder treatment providers understand how gabapentin is used in “real-world” settings.
“By examining the phenomenon, data from this study will contribute to public health knowledge of an understudied aspect of the opioid crisis, inform treatment practices for opioid use disorder, assist in the development of prevention and intervention strategies, as well as inform public policy initiatives,” Buttram said. .
About the Center for Public Health and Technology: As a multidisciplinary research center, the Center for Public Health and Technology invites collaboration with faculty across departments and colleges. Faculty focus on cutting-edge research, training and mentoring at all levels, and strong community partnerships. Center research incorporates a wide range of health and social issues and cultivates mixed methods, including descriptive, experimental and interventional approaches. Broadly, the centre’s work aims to contribute to the understanding of how technology (online, digital, social, wearable, among others) promotes positive health behaviors and reduces disease burden, as well as to address the challenges associated with technology. investigation, including the spread of misinformation. and promoting harmful health behaviors.