Supporting the health of families facing multiple, coexisting illnesses, with a specific focus on African Americans

Principal Investigator: Katrina Ellis, PhD

Dr. Katrina Ellis’ research centers around supporting the health of families facing multiple, coexisting illnesses, with a specific focus on African Americans. She has currently five ongoing projects that look at family management of chronic health conditions, racial and ethnic disparities in health, family health interventions, and cancer survivorship.

Co-principal investigators: M. Bruce & R. Thorpe. The first project is the Obesity Health Disparities Pride Program, which is funded by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to the University of Mississippi Medical Center (2R25HL126145, MPIs Beech and Norris). This research examines the relationships between obesity, a critical public health concern, and the mental, physical, and behavioral health outcomes of African American adult caregivers and non-caregivers. 

The second project is funded by the Rogel Cancer Center: Health Behavior and Outcomes (HBO) Quick-Start Fund. Using a national dataset, Dr. Ellis and her research team will investigate concurrent care provision among cancer caregivers in two different studies. One study will explore multicaregiving among cancer caregivers. Multicaregivers in this study provide care to a person with cancer while also providing care to someone with a chronic health condition. The other study will look at complex caregiving, or providing care to an individual with comorbid health conditions, and its effect on perceived social support of cancer caregivers.  

The third project, Re-imagining the Senior Center: Advancing Equity among Older Adults in Detroit, is a collaborative effort between community partner Norvena Wilson from the Methodist Children’s Home Society, Dr. Ellis from the School of Social Work, Dr. Mary Janevic from the School of Public Health and Dr. Robin Brewer from the School of Information.  With support from the Engagement Grant from the UM Ginsberg Center, this study will evaluate a new community social services initiative, the Silver Center, which is a virtual senior center that offers resources to older adults. Read more here about how this program is helping isolated older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The fourth project is about understanding and supporting health-promoting behaviors of African American cancer survivors and their family caregivers. This study is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, P30 AG015281, the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research, and the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research. Led by Dr. Ellis, this study examines associations between comorbidities, symptom distress and quality of life among African American cancer survivors and caregivers and reviews interventions that have addressed weight loss, physical activity and dietary quality in this population. 

Co-principal investigators: K. Resnicow, C. Veenstra, E. Sun, H. Thompson. Lastly, the fifth project is supported by a grant from the Rogel Cancer Center: Cancer Control and Population Sciences: Outreach & Health Disparities. This study will identify individual, social, and contextual barriers and facilitators to physical activity, healthy eating, and mutual support for healthy behavior engagement and strategies for a dyadic intervention targeted at African American early-stage cancer survivors and family/friend peer supporters.