Whole Communities Whole Health

Bridget Glaser
Nov. 1, 2019

We’re meeting families in their homes and neighborhoods. We’re welcoming them as engaged, contributing community scientists—finding answers to their questions and sharing results with them in real-time.

In Texas, many children live in poverty, suffer from chronic illness, or endure abuse and neglect. Despite years of targeted intervention, these issues persist. Now a team of researchers from across campus is working alongside community partners to change the way science helps society thrive.

Whole Communities—Whole Health is one of three UT grand challenge initiatives rethinking “research as usual.”

“There’s always been a dilemma in research: we collect a great deal of data about study participants, but often the data isn’t shared with them so that they can use it or learn from it,” says Sarah Kate Bearman, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology. “Now, with incredible advances in technology, there is the possibility of getting information back to study participants quickly.”

Faculty from across campus are contributing to Whole Communties—Whole Health, which kicked off in fall 2018. Bearman is one of two faculty members from the College of Education taking part. The other is Darla Castelli, professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education.

Traditional research studies take snapshots of peoples’ lives at different points. Advances in measurement and technology allow for a better understanding of the complex and dynamic ways in which people live their lives. Whole Communities—Whole Health hopes to use that technology to build a more complete view—a movie, compared to a snapshot—of the many factors that affect a child’s wellbeing.

One of the unique features of this initiative is the emphasis on returning this information back to the people who can best put it to use. Study results and insights will be returned to participants and community organizations quickly—and in some cases in real-time—so that information can be a catalyst for change.