Social Health and Participation Laboratory

General Laboratory Description

Dr. Jessica Kersey directs the Social Health and Participation Laboratory, conducting community-engaged research to enhance social and community participation and social health outcomes among people with acquired brain injury. Dr. Kersey’s research focuses on understanding the broad environmental and social factors that influence participation outcomes, including social support, social determinants of health, and policy. She also aims to examine the effect of participation on health. In particular, her research focuses on addressing the participation and health needs of those with few resources and from underserved groups. The perspectives and priorities of consumers are at the forefront of the research being conducted in the Social Health and Participation Laboratory. Research is grounded in consumer-driven conceptualizations of participation and the environmental factors that influence it; consumer-driven measurement approaches; and co-designed community-based intervention.

General Description of Student Activities

Students in the Social Health and Participation Laboratory will have the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the research process, including literature reviews, recruitment, screening, assessments, qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis, and scientific writing and presentations. Students will also be involved in developing and growing community collaborations. We encourage students from all backgrounds to join the Social Health and Participation Laboratory, including students with disabilities and from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and gender identities. Flexible hours are available for most research activities.

Examples of Projects

  • ENGAGE-TBI is a community-based intervention that relies on social learning, guided discovery and skilled practice to improve community participation outcomes after brain injury. This intervention program is in the early stages of adaptation and testing using a community-engaged co-design approach with ongoing stakeholder engagement.
  • Social Support and Social Networks is a mixed-methods examination of social support and social networks of people with brain injury, and how they affect social participation outcomes. We aim to understand the characteristics of a strong social support network and how this can be leveraged (or built) to improve social participation.
  • Social Participation During the COVID-19 Pandemic is a qualitative analysis of the effect of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its associated challenges on social participation among people with brain injury. We aim to understand the long-term changes in social participation and social behaviors people with brain injury have experienced because of the pandemic and how community-based rehabilitation can address ongoing needs.
  • COVID-19 Social and Health Disparities is an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data collected since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are examining disparities among people with disabilities, and further, among those from racial and ethnic minority groups, in community participation, health and social determinants of health throughout the pandemic. We aim to determine what rehabilitation or health services, community services or policy needs can enhance outcomes and reduce disparities long-term.

PhD Mentor Information

Dr. Kersey’s research focuses on enhancing community and social participation and social health outcomes among people with acquired brain injury. She examines a broad range of social and environmental factors that influence outcomes, including the social, financial/economic, systems/policy and physical environments. Her research focuses on the development and testing of community-based interventions that leverage social learning and skill practice to improve participation outcomes. Dr. Kersey’s research is heavily informed by stakeholder perspectives, driving her use of community-engaged research methods.

Research Foci

  • Community-based participatory research methods
  • Community-based intervention design and testing
  • Disparities analysis
  • Examination of a broad range of environmental factors and their influence on participation
  • Examination of the effect of participation on health
  • Acquired brain injury

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