Dr. Chieh Cheng to address youth mental health with Tacoma Public Schools, MultiCare
March 31, 2022
The UW Population Health Initiative has awarded a Tier 1 pilot research grant to Cheng to develop and test behavioral health promotion approaches in schools.
Dr. Chieh (Sunny) Cheng, assistant professor in UW Tacoma’s School of Nursing & Healthcare Leadership, has been awarded a grant through the University of Washington Population Health Initiative (PHI). Cheng, along with Lucas McIntyre, MD, and Susan Ramos, MN, RN, from MultiCare, is developing a community coalition with Tacoma Public Schools that aims to improve behavioral health disparities for K-12 students.
The grant is in tier one of PHI’s pilot research grants program, intended to “support researchers laying the foundation for a future project” that encourages “the development of new interdisciplinary collaborations among investigators – and with community-based partners,” according to PHI’s website.
In October of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics along with other medical organizations declared a national emergency in children’s mental health. “This was an issue before the pandemic but the last few years has just worsened the crisis,” said Cheng.
With support from the MultiCare Behavioral Health Foundation, Cheng started collaborating with MultiCare in the spring of 2021, when there was a surge in youth mental health-related emergency department visits. “We met with Tacoma Public Schools and the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to discuss how we could form an alliance to address the mental health crisis. Much of the preliminary work involved community-based participatory research to define needs and scope of work and to brainstorm solutions,” said Cheng.
Data collected from this preliminary work gave Cheng the information she needed to apply for the Population Health Initiative grant. “The next step is to solidify the community engagement work across the educational and medical systems to develop and test behavioral health promotion approaches in schools where our youth learn and thrive,” she said.
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