Spectrum PHS Pilot Grants

A core function of PHS is to stimulate, facilitate, and conduct research on social determinants of health. Below you will find past and current research projects supported by PHS as well as a list of our collaborators. PHS also offers seed funding to Stanford researchers through the Spectrum PHS Pilot Grants Program. See below for past pilot projects and future funding opportunities. Contact us for more information about any of the projects or to be connected with the investigators.

2021 Spectrum PHS Pilot Grantees & Projects

Giacomo Benini

The Invisible Threat: The Health Risks of Natural Gas Flaring and Venting

Grantees: Giacomo Benini, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Energy Resources Engineering; and Adam Brandt, Associate Professor of Energy Resources Engineering and Senior Fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy

Cleaner than coal, more abundant than oil and less dangerous than nuclear, natural gas represents the promise for a transition to a cleaner energy mix. However, recent studies have drawn attention to the health risks associated with reservoir emissions caused by the combustion (flaring) and the leakages (venting) of unsold gas, and geographical proximity to gas and oil wells. Surpassing spatial contiguity, our project brings into the analysis the intensity of flaring and venting, as well as their interaction on a US national scale. To do that, we will layer Skytruth Global Flaring, the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument, two free access satellite datasets, the Rystat ShaleWell Cube, a commercial dataset providing self-reported flaring and venting, with the SMART Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) City and County Data and the Optum claims data.

Adam Brandt


Marshall Burke

Health impacts of pollution that infiltrates indoors

Grantees: Marshall Burke, Associate Professor of Earth System Science and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, at the Woods Institute for the Environment and at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research; and Lynn Hildemann, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

A vast literature studies the detrimental impact of outdoor air pollution on health, but Americans spend ~90% of their time indoors. Disparities in the home and work indoor environments could affect how ambient pollution infiltrates indoors for different groups, but such differences remain unquantified and, thus, total pollution exposure disparities remain poorly understood. Here, we combine four large-scale datasets on housing characteristics, air leakage rates, remote-sensing-based pollution exposures, and birth outcomes to estimate pollution infiltration for every household in the US. We then use these data to characterize local-level disparities in overall exposure to total PM2.5 and to wildfire-derived PM2.5, for both outdoor concentrations and the amount that infiltrates indoors, and study whether variation in infiltration rates moderates the relationship between wildfire smoke exposure and preterm birth in a large CA birth cohort.

Lynn Hildemann


Jonathan Yong Lee 

Trust Wars: Identifying Common Rhetorical Strategies and Evaluating their Causal Effect on Trustworthiness Perceptions of Public Health Institutions

Grantee: Jonathan Yong Lee, Clinical Instructor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Ph.D. Student in Health Policy, admitted Summer 2018

Public health institutions face a growing challenge of maintaining public trust in the face of constant attacks on their trustworthiness from a variety of sources and media channels. Yet, little is known about the effectiveness of specific rhetorical strategies aimed to promote distrust in public health institutions and the most effective ways in which they can respond. This project aims to fill this gap in knowledge in two ways: 1) First, I will use natural language processing techniques to systematically identify common rhetorical strategies used to attack or defend source trustworthiness in the public health information arena; 2) Drawing on insights from behavioral economics, I will conduct two online survey experiments evaluating the causal effects of the above identified rhetorical strategies, which will help identify institutional vulnerabilities and the most effective ways for institutions to respond. The findings of this project will help improve our understanding of the causes of, and potential solutions for, declining trust in public health institutions, which disproportionately affects the health outcomes of socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.


Stephanie Leonard

Identifying Opportunities to Improve Health Inequities for Pregnant People using National Claims Data

Grantees: Stephanie Leonard, Instructor, Obstetrics & Gynecology - Maternal Fetal Medicine; Member, Maternal & Child Health Research Institute (MCHRI); and Deirdre Lyell, Professor Obstetrics and Gynecology; Associate Director, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Obstetrics; Director, Program in Placental Disorders; Medical Director, Labor and Delivery; Director, Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship

Maternal health inequities are a top public health priority, but have remained pervasive and persistent in the U.S. An urgent need exists for research that advances our understanding of these disparities to inform effective approaches. This study aims to determine what racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities exist in severe maternal morbidity (SMM) in the U.S., independent of comorbidities, and what clinical practices contribute to disparities in SMM. This will be a cohort study using contemporary national pregnancy-related claims data collected by Medicaid and commercial insurance companies. This project will overcome previous major research limitations, facilitate new partnerships across disciplines, and generate evidence that will be highly informative for the growing number of initiatives aiming to advance maternal health equity.

Deirdre Lyell


Alice Milivinti

A Healthy Surrogate: Predicting Long-Run Effects from Short-Run Policies

Grantees: Alice Milivinti, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, General Internal Medicine, Primary Care and Population Health; and Susan Athey, Economics of  Technology Professor, Graduate School of Business; Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and Professor, by Courtesy, of Economics

The effects of social and health policies unfold over a recipient’s lifetime. However, their evaluation is often limited to short-run experimental data. A compelling solution for life-cycle evaluations are the so-called surrogate indices, which identify short-term health responses best linked to long-term outcomes, while overcoming the statistical limitations typical of a single surrogate. This project will develop a surrogate health index of short-term indicators to evaluate the impact of social policies on longer-term health outcomes. By exploiting random calendar variations on the provision of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits recorded in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, we will link short-term benefits with longer-term outcomes. This project is among the first contributions to a Library of Early Indicators for Social Science for the impact of socio-economic policies on health.

Susan Athey


Francis Pearman

Gentrification, Displacement, and Child Health: Evidence from National Data

Grantees: Francis Pearman, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education; and Lily Steyer, PhD Student in Education

Exposure to neighborhood disadvantage has long been known to adversely affect children’s physical and mental health. Far less is understood about what happens to children’s health when disadvantaged neighborhoods gentrify. Using national longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) and Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS) and rigorous quasi-experimental methods, this study will examine how neighborhood gentrification and residential displacement impact children and adolescents' physical and mental health. Specifically, we will assess whether gentrification drives changes in rates of asthma, lead exposure, high body mass index, or internalizing and externalizing behaviors among children and adolescents. We will further investigate the extent to which the effects of gentrification on children and adolescents' physical and mental health are explained by their families' residential displacement. At a time of rising gentrification across the United States, our project will produce generalizable knowledge about whether and how urban redevelopment matters for the health of children and adolescents residing in gentrifying neighborhoods.

Lily Steyer


Gabrielle Wong-Parodi

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Interventions on Reducing Wildfire Smoke Exposure and Health Risks in Low-Income Hard-to-Reach Communities in the San Francisco Bay Area

Grantee: Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, Assistant Professor, Department of Earth System Science; Center Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

In the American West, wildfire smoke exposure increasingly threatens the health of low-income hard-to-reach (i.e., non-English speaking) communities. Few studies have been done to assess the impact of technology and communications-based interventions on reductions in exposure to wildfire smoke and associated health risks, especially among low-income hard-to-reach populations in a behaviorally realistic context. This 2-phase pilot study will determine the effectiveness of affordable interventions (air sealing, portable air filters, native-language messaging) to reduce wildfire smoke exposure and health risks among low-income communities with a high proportion of non-English speaking households. The results of this study will identify affordable and actionable intervention steps for individuals and communities, and inform policies, programs, and risk communication strategies that are behaviorally realistic for the hard-to-reach communities local organizations, governments, and agencies serve.

Past Spectrum PHS Pilot Grantees & Projects

Past Funding Cycles