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UMSON’s Ogbolu Receives Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant to Adapt Program Addressing Social Isolation in West Baltimore

February 4, 2019

Study seeks to apply global idea to address social determinants of health in local community.

Yolanda Ogbolu HeadshotBaltimore, Md. – Yolanda Ogbolu, PhD ’11, MS '05, BSN '04, CRNP-Neonatal, FAAN, assistant professor and director of the Office of Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), has been awarded a three-year, $683,000 Global Ideas for U.S. Solutions grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to study disadvantaged communities in West Baltimore to understand the impact of social isolation on health. Ogbolu’s study is one of six funded through RWJF’s fall 2017 call for ideas from around the world to address social isolation and promote positive, healthy social connections and well-being.

Social isolation is a growing, global epidemic affecting individuals in all phases of life and resulting in dire physical, behavioral, psychological, mental and emotional consequences.

“As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, global learning models offer opportunities to address America’s deepest challenges, including social isolation.  Adaptations of programs from abroad must be guided by community input to make sure they are culturally appropriate,” Ogbolu said. “We are grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, as this grant will allow us to learn about social isolation from the community, understand how the physical and social infrastructure in West Baltimore positively or negatively impacts residents’ ability to have meaningful social networks, and examine the impact of a social inclusion program on families of young children.”

Seeking to identify global programs that could be adapted locally, Ogbolu learned about Saude Criança (SC), a program aimed at addressing the social determinants of health and promoting social inclusion. In 2017, Ogbolu and UMSON Global Health Certificate students spent nearly two weeks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, visiting the Saude Criança Association, exploring the possibility of designing a cultural adaptation study for Baltimore.

Ogbolu seeks to implement SC in Baltimore’s most challenged communities, working with families who have poor social networks and may be cut off from opportunities that could positively impact their health and well-being. The program aims to connect them with resources and with each other. The study in West Baltimore builds on the work in Brazil and brings together several community and interprofessional partners, including the Black Mental Health Alliance; the University of Maryland School of Social Work’s Promise Heights and B’More for Healthy Babies programs; the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s PATIENTS Program; a social network expert from Johns Hopkins University; and the Saude Criança Association in Brazil.

Ogbolu will focus the first phase of her study on community learning through group discussions and interviews to better understand West Baltimore residents’ perspectives on individual, community, and family social connectedness or isolation. In Phase 2, Ogbolu will implement a culturally adapted SC program based on lessons learned from community members. She plans to recruit families with children ages 0-3 years old; the families will develop a family action plan addressing SC’s five categories (health, housing, income generation, education, and global citizenship), and Ogbolu will monitor the families over 24 months to empower them and support their efforts to address the social determinants of health, reduce stress, and build social networks.

RWJF specifically sought grant proposals for studies that include pilot or demonstration trials in the United States of interventions developed internationally to address social isolation, learning exchanges between U.S.-based and global investigators and/or communities to explore approaches to social isolation that may be implemented in the future, and evaluation of promising approaches to social isolation developed abroad to learn how it might be adapted and implemented in the United States.

“We are extremely grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its support of Dr. Ogbolu’s project in West Baltimore. Her work holds great promise for addressing social isolation in a way that is truly grounded in the wisdom and insight of the community,” said UMSON Dean Jane Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN. “RWJF, through its initiative on building a Culture of Health, is changing how we think about fostering health and well-being. I am confident that Dr. Ogbolu’s work will add to our understanding while contributing to our community.”

For more than 40 years, RWJF has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. The organization is striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come.

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The University of Maryland School of Nursing, founded in 1889, is one of the oldest and largest nursing schools in the United States and is in the top 10 nationally for all of its ranked master’s and DNP specialties. Enrolling nearly 1,900 students in its baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs, the School develops leaders who shape the profession of nursing and impact the health care environment.