October 20, 2017

Add Health Deputy Director, Dr. Carolyn Halpern, to co-lead new NIH study


A new award co-funded by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities will explore how sexual orientation/gender identity and socioeconomic status intersect and contribute to health and disease across the life course.

Carolyn T. Halpern, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Maternal and Child Health in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is co-principal investigator of the 5-year award. Titled, “Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity, Socioeconomic Status, and Health across the Life Course,” the award is in the amount of more than $3 million. Halpern is the Deputy Director of Add Health.

The grant will be administered through the Carolina Population Center and co-led by Kerith Jane Conron, ScD, MPH, Blachford-Cooper Research Director and Distinguished Scholar at the University of California—Los Angeles School of Law.

As the co-principal investigators described in their award abstract, inequalities in health that disfavor sexual and gender minorities have been documented widely in both adolescence and adulthood. Despite the importance of socioeconomic status to health, however, researchers have limited knowledge about factors that affect these resources and strains in relationship to sexual orientation and gender.

The research conducted under this grant will help fill the knowledge gap by collecting high-quality data that will build on existing data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). Add Health has followed a national sample of almost 20,000 individuals who were in grades 7-12 in 1994-1995. Four waves of data collection have been completed to date.  Wave V data collection currently is ongoing; participants are now in their 30s and early 40s. The new project will collect, clean, disseminate and analyze new data from a subset of the Add Health cohort comprised of 2,200 sexual and gender minorities and a comparison sample of 1,500 cisgender heterosexuals.

Researchers will survey this subset of Add Health respondents to gather information about formative experiences specific to sexual orientation and gender identity development, and to further enhance existing prospective information about determinants of socioeconomic status.

“We’re very proud of the new contribution we’ll make to Add Health,” Halpern said. “These unique data will provide an unprecedented opportunity for Add Health users to study the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic factors and health in a population-based sample across the life course.”

Findings made possible through these new data, in combination with existing longitudinal information about Add Health sample members, have the potential for critical impact on public health policy and intervention strategies to reduce disparities in disease burden and to improve population health.

From Chair of maternal and child health to co-lead grant investigating sexual/gender identity, socioeconomic status and health, posted by The Gillings School of Global Public Health.