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. Contact us for more information about any of the projects or to be connected with the investigators.

Stanford Precision Health for Ethnic and Racial Equity (SPHERE)

Stanford Precision Health for Ethnic and Racial Equity (SPHERE) was launched in April 2016 to build upon Stanford School of Medicine’s leadership around precision health and is one of five inaugural NIH precision health centers dedicated to the eradication of health disparities in the US. The 5-year $11.6 million-dollar award brings together diverse community stakeholders with a variety of scientific and medical disciplines to advance precision health research for the promotion of health equity. SPHERE is made up of five cores (Analytics and Modeling, Laboratory, Consortium, Implementation and Administration) and three research projects:

Project 1: BRAICELET – Bio-Repository for American Indian Capacity, Education, Law, Economics and Technology - This study aims to reduce the myriad of health disparities in American Indian populations by forming a Lakota Health Community Advisory Board, establishing a Lakota Biobank infrastructure, and promoting health science literacy and education on genetics and precision medicine.

Project 2: Integrated Personalized Omics Profiling in High Risk Latino Children - This study aims to reduce health disparities by developing and applying ‘omics technologies to more effectively prevent and treat excess weight gain and diabetes risk among Latino children.

Project 3: Communicating Cancer Genetics Information - Differential Response of Latino and Chinese Families to Information on Cancer Genetics. This study aims to fill an important and growing knowledge gap about how ethnic minorities utilize and if they benefit from cancer genetic risk information and related recommendations.

For more information, please visit the SPHERE Website.


Stanford Aging and Ethnogeriatrics Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center (SAGE)

The NIH has long recognized the necessity to aggressively leverage emerging methodologies like precision medicine, digital health, biomedical data science and virtual reality & simulation based interventions approaches to ameliorate health disparities in racial and ethnic minorities. However, relatively fewer efforts have attempted to conduct trans- disciplinary aging research integrating biological, social and behavioral sciences utilizing emerging methodologies. The overarching goal of the proposed Stanford Aging and Ethnogeriatrics Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center (SAGE) is to increase the diversity of the aging research workforce by mentoring new leaders in aging research and promoting advances in behavioral and social sciences aging research using emerging methodologies including precision medicine, digital health, biomedical big data science and virtual reality and simulation based interventions. By identifying, mentoring and supporting (through dedicated pilot funds and methodological and recruitment support) junior investigators from underrepresented groups (SAGE Scientists) we propose to create a culturally sensitive and culturally competent research workforce focused on promoting equity in healthcare and mitigating disparities in diverse older populations using emerging methodologies. To learn more about this initiative, contact VJ Periyakoil.


Precision Aging and Dementia for all Races and Ethnicities (PADRE)

PHS Faculty Fellow VJ Periyakoil was awarded supplemental funding from the National Institute on Aging to support a one-year exploratory study investigating potential metabolic and bio-molecular factors associated with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. The PADRE project will examine differences among Hispanics and Caucasians living with dementia and utilize the findings to inform precision aging interventions. PADRE is an expansion of the SPHERE initiative. For more information on the SPHERE Program, please visit the SPHERE website.

Tuskegee and the Health of Black Men

For forty years, the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male passively monitored hundreds of adult black males with syphilis despite the availability of effective treatment. The study’s methods have become synonymous with exploitation and mistreatment by the medical profession. To identify the study’s effects on the behavior and health of older black men, we use an interacted difference-in-difference-in-differences model, comparing older black men to other demographic groups, before and after the Tuskegee revelation, in varying proximity to the study’s victims. We find that the disclosure of the study in 1972 is correlated with increases in medical mistrust and mortality and decreases in both outpatient and inpatient physician interactions for older black men. Our estimates imply life expectancy at age 45 for black men fell by up to 1.5 years in response to the disclosure, accounting for approximately 35% of the 1980 life expectancy gap between black and white men and 25% of the gap between black men and women.


This study by Dr Marcella Alsan highlights the fruitful partnership between Stanford researchers and The Stanford Federal Statistical Research Data Center (FSRDC).  By using geographic indicators in the NHIS, the research team is examining the timing of African American men’s visits to physicians before and after the disclosure of the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in 1972.  


The Stanford Federal Statistical Research Data Center (FSRDC) allows qualified researchers to securely use restricted-access data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  For example, researchers can access detailed geographic indicators that are not publicly available in data such as the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

If you wish to use FSRDC data for a health related project, please contact the PHS Data Core.