Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Christina Studts is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health, Behavior & Society in the University of Kentucky College of Public Health. Prior to pursuing her doctoral training in social work, Dr. Studts practiced as a licensed clinical social worker in community settings.

Safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments for children can prevent a wide range of health and mental health problems. Evidence-based parenting interventions achieve these outcomes, but their public health impact is limited by inadequate reach. As a clinician, Dr. Studts delivered these programs to individual families; now, she conducts research to improve the reach, fit, and effectiveness of these preventive interventions in underserved communities and populations, ultimately increasing their public health impact.

In a recent NIMH-funded project, Dr. Studts and her team adapted the delivery model of an evidence-based parenting intervention to increase its acceptability and accessibility among parents in rural Appalachia, a region with elevated risk factors for child behavioral health problems. Informed by parents, local health departments, and other stakeholders in rural Appalachian Kentucky, the team trained five community health workers to deliver the intervention to four families each, assessing the feasibility of this novel service delivery method and examining provider-, agency-, and community-level facilitators and barriers to implementation.

While much of Dr. Studts’ work is centered in rural Appalachia, her team also focuses on another underserved population with behavioral health disparities: parents of young children who are deaf or hard of hearing and use hearing aids or cochlear implants. She and her team are currently launching a NIDCD-funded R01 hybrid effectiveness-implementation trial of a parenting intervention adapted to increase its relevance and accessibility to this new population. This study is guided by a group of community stakeholders (e.g., parents, hearing healthcare providers, speech and language pathologists) and conducted in partnership with the Kentucky Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs and the Kentucky chapter of the non-profit parent advocacy group, Hands & Voices. The team will test the effectiveness of the adapted intervention and simultaneously collect crucial implementation data to inform its scale up, aiming to reduce the large behavioral health disparities experienced by deaf and hard of hearing children.

In other ongoing studies, Dr. Studts contributes implementation science expertise to researchers addressing a variety of health inequities, including underutilization of lung cancer screening (PI: J. Studts), underutilization of precision medicine in cancer treatment (PI: Kolesar), and lack of access to sexual risk reduction interventions for female injection drug users in rural jails (PI: Staton).