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UArizona Researchers to Study Wellbeing of Older UArizona Employees During Reentry


Dr. Zhao Chen will lead an internal study, “Addressing the Needs of Older Adults Using a Mixed Methods Approach,” to assess risk perception, risk mitigation strategies, and overall wellness for UArizona employees age 50 and older during the reopening process.

Zhao Chen, PhD, MPH

Zhao Chen, PhD, MPH

COVID-19 presents great challenges for institutions of higher education as they balance risks and benefits of reopening against the health and well-being of older faculty and staff in both short-term and long-term planning. The risk of severe outcomes with COVID-19 increases for older adults and people with chronic health problems.

Zhao Chen, PhD, MPH, a Distinguished Professor and Department Chair Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health (MEZCOPH), received funding from the UArizona Office of Research Innovation & Impact (RII) to conduct a mixed methods study to assess and address the needs and concerns of university employees age 50 and older related to the UArizona Reentry Plan. The research team includes other MEZCOPH faculty members, Drs. Amanda Sokan, Marc Verhougstraete, and Nicole Yuan, and collaborators from the College of Nursing, Arizona Center on Aging, and College of Medicine. The research team will apply community-based participatory research principles with an emphasis on engaging key stakeholders at the university. The researchers will use findings from a needs assessment to develop and evaluate the impact of mitigation strategies to reduce risk of exposure and promote the health and wellbeing of employees 50 and older.

Dr. Zhao Chen says, “Over 23% of UArizona employees are 50 or older, and they play such important roles in our institution. Developing effective strategies to address their concerns, to mitigate their risk of exposure to SARs-Cov2, and to help them maintain health and wellbeing has significant public health implications and lasting impacts on the success of UArizona’s reentry plan”.

Research Team

Zhao Chen, PhD, MPH, PI of the project, is Distinguished Professor and Department Chair of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at MEZCOPH, and affiliated faculty member of School of Anthropology, Arizona Center on Aging, Arizona Arthritis Center, and Bio5 institute.

Amanda Sokan, PhD, MHA is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health Practice & Translational Science, MEZCOPH. Her expertise includes gerontology and health administration, program evaluation, and consultancy work on aging issues.

Nicole Yuan, PhD, MPH is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Promotion Sciences, MEZCOPH. She is the Lead of the Community Engagement Core of the NIH-and EPA-funded Center for Indigenous Environmental Health Research.

Marc Verhougstraete, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community, Environment and Policy, MEZCOPH. He is the Co-Director of the Environment, Exposure Science, and Risk Assessment Center (ESRAC).

Mindy Fain, MD, is a Professor of Medicine, Division Chief of Geriatrics, General Internal Medicine, and Palliative Medicine, and Co-Director of the University of Arizona Center on Aging.

Kathleen Insel, PhD, RN, is Professor and Chair of the Biobehavioral Health Science Division in the College of Nursing.

Lisa O’Neill, DBH, MPH, is Associate Director of Research and Education at the University of Arizona Center on Aging.

Linda Phillips, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Nursing, UCLA and University of Arizona, and founding Director of the Arizona Geriatric Education Center (funded by HRSA), Co-Director of the Arizona Center on Aging, and founding Director of the Center for the Advancement of Gerontological Nursing Science, UCLA School of Nursing.

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