Quality of life is impacted through our unique histories and the environments in which we live. Our lab explores the role that the environment plays in shaping our quality of life. Our research includes the study of how social and built environments impact:

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences

  • Multiple Chronic Conditions

  • Prevention and Interventions to address Homelessness

  • Community Support Services

The Ecological Determinants Lab implements smaller, locally-based research programs and evaluations as well as large-scale disparities studies aimed at better understanding social determinants of health-related quality of life. We maintain ongoing research partnerships with local agencies and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control, National Cancer Institute, and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. We have listed some of the projects we are currently working on below.

Social Determinants of Physical Health

Mechanisms of Disparities for HIV-related Hypertension

Beginning September 2018, this 5-year study examines the impact of social determinants of health on biomedical markers associated with hypertension in Native Hawaiian and Asian Pacific Islander (Honolulu) and Black (Philadelphia) men that have sex with men (MSM) and living with HIV. The goal of this project is to construct and analyze a comprehensive longitudinal model aimed at understanding the socio-ecological risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease among ethnic and racial minority MSM living with HIV . For more information, see our recruitment website.

Partners: Dominic Chow (John A. Burns School of Medicine) Frankie Wong (Florida State University) & Dr. Grace Ma (Temple University)

Hawaiʻi Statewide HIV Needs Assessment

The Hawai‘i HIV Needs Assessment was conducted in 2018 in a joint effort between the Hawai‘i Health & Harm Reduction Center (HHHRC; formerly CHOW and Life Foundation), the Hawai‘i Department of Health, and the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. The purpose of the needs assessment is to shape and inform services for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) in Hawai‘i from a social determinants of health perspective. We identify strengths as well as barriers to accessing a variety of social and health services with the goal of improving quality of life for PLWH. For more information, see our website.

Partners: Misty Pacheco, Hawaiʻi Health & Harm Reduction Center, Hawaiʻi Department of Health Harm Reduction Branch

Hawaiʻi Department of Health Intensive Coordinated Care Program

In partnership with the Hawaiʻi Department of Healthʻs Harm Reduction Branch, the lab has worked to devleop and evaluate a re-engagement in care program for individuals living with HIV/AIDS on Oʻahu, Maui, Hawaiʻi Island, and Kauaʻi.

Partners: Hawaiʻi Department of Health Harm Reduction Branch

Med-Quest Evaluation Projects

This comprehensive 5-year project evaluates Med-Quest - Hawaiʻiʻs medicaid program. The project specifically examines the impacts of social determinants of health, home and community-based services, primary care, and community integration services.

Partners: State of Hawaiʻi Department of Human Services Med-Quest Division

Community Mental Health Projects

Hawaii Clubhouse Program and Reciprocal Social Support

Beginning January 2016, the goal of this project is to conduct an evaluation of clubhouses in Hawai‘i, with a specific focus on Honolulu clubhouses, and research into the role of reciprocal support in clubhouse members' lives. Clubhouses are psychosocial rehabilitation programs for people with severe and chronic mental illness. These program participants are members who run the Clubhouses. Therefore, members are responsible for creating and contributing to this community, which gives them a supportive environment in which to socialize and work. The evaluation is also participatory, &, long-term, the evaluation will be sustained by members.

Partners: Hawaiʻi Department of Health Adult Mental Health Division, Clubhouse Coalition

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program

Since Spring 2018, we have collaborated with Hawai'i Health & Harm Reduction Center and local law enforcement to develop a pre-booking diversion program for low-level offenders. The LEAD program works to divert individuals who commit low-level offenses (e.g., violating sit-lie laws, drug possession) from the criminal justice system into case management services. The program aims to reduce recidivism and increase access to services.

Partners: Hawaiʻi Health & Harm Reduction Center

Community-based Participatory Research

The EcoLab conducts several participatory research projects, particularly using Photovoice methodology. By including members from marginalized groups as co-reasearchers, we hope to produce research that is useful to community members and inclusive of previously marginalized perspectives. Our current projects include a multi-site photovoice project with Hawai‘i Clubhouses and the Housing First Photovoice Projects.

Housing & Homelessness Projects

Housing First Program Evaluation

Since December 2014, the lab has been conducting an evaluation of the Institute for Human Services’ Housing First program. Based on national Housing First models, the program provides quick, low-barriers housing to homeless individuals and families in Honolulu and on the Wai‘anae Coast. Once housed, clients are provided access to services and continued case management. The evaluation project is a mixed-methods study, and data includes monthly client surveys and semi-structured interviews with clients, case managers, and service providers.

Partners: Institute for Human Services, Inc.

Partners in Care Research Partnership

Beginning June 2019, the Ecolab entered a partnership with O‘ahu's local continuum of care, Partners in Care, to examine local pathways into and out of homelessness. In particular, this research will prioritize investigating disparities in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander rates of homelessness.

Partners: Partners in Care, Oʻahuʻs Continuum of Care

Hale Mauliola Evaluation

We began evaluating the Hale Mauliola shelter in June 2019. Hale Mauliola is a "low barriers" shelter that caters to individuals experiencing homelessness who are unable to participate in traditional shelter programs. These individuals need accommodations for pets, parking, storage, and/or flexible hours due to employment.

Partners: Institute for Human Services, Inc.

Residential Youth Services & Empowerment (RYSE) Evaluation

Staying consistent with the Positive Youth Development philosophy, RYSE developed a tiered model that aims to service homeless youth at various states of readiness to move off the streets. We work with RYSE to evaluate several programs.

Partners: RYSE