Shawn Kniepp has been involved in health disparities research for fifteen years and received numerous National Institutes of Health grants to support her work and that of doctoral students. She looks at two major areas of disparities. The first area involves factors that cause disparities in mechanistic, physiological ways. An example is how chronic stress causes poor health outcomes, like blood pressure changes, in low income women.
The second area centers around women in a Welfare Transition Program. Dr. Kniepp is examining how welfare policy affects stress levels, and how stress is being managed in the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to improve the health of women who are enrolled. She followed 432 women for nine months, testing a public health nursing intervention using Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approaches. The intervention group had a high likelihood of having problems reaching long-term employment goals. Many suffered from heart disease, back pain, allergies, and other ailments that kept them from seeking or securing steady employment.
Dr. Kniepp’s preliminary findings among the intervention group showed that depression decreased, employment increased by about 11 percent, and there was about a seven-fold increase in the number of women who sought and received primary care treatment for their ailments.
At UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing, Shawn Kniepp will continue her work to replicate the Florida study she started in North Carolina. Her hope is to do a cost-benefit analysis of the data in order to provide information about health care savings by using this nursing intervention. There are immense implications for health care policy, and how public health nursing can partner with social service agencies.
CBPR is a more complex research method to administer but it reaps many rewards. From the beginning, members of the target population are hired and become part of the group that designs, recruits and tells the researcher how to train study participants. For this study, the retention rate at nine months for the study participants was 75-80 percent. Among the three women on welfare who were hired to work on the study, all of them went on to either pursue a college education, or work on other university research grants.
We are excited to have Dr. Kniepp with us at the School of Nursing and look forward to hearing more about how she will apply her research to benefit the people of North Carolina.
Dr. Kneipp received her BSN in Nursing and her MS in Community Health/Adult Primary at the University of Michigan. She received her PhD in Nursing Science, specializing in Women’s Health and Public Policy at the University of Washington.