From the June 2014 Desktop News | A University of Alabama researcher is seeking to identify the factors creating growing disparities in mental health care across the country.
Dr. Giyeon Kim, assistant professor in the Center for Mental Health and Aging and the Department of Psychology, has received a $573,000 career development grant from the National Institute on Aging/the National Institutes of Health to pinpoint the geographic factors contributing to racial and ethnic disparities in mental health care. The grant period runs through May 2018.
“I’m hoping to understand how race/ethnicity and geographic factors interact to produce disparities in access to mental health care,” Kim said. “I expect to find certain minority groups to be more vulnerable depending on where they live. Location itself could impact their access to mental health care, but certain state mental health policies could also be a factor.”
Kim will use national data sets from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys and merge that information with U.S. census data to study disparities at local and national levels. Kim hopes to find ways of reducing or eliminating existing disparities among older adults as a result of her research.
“There are a lot of factors for the disparities, especially when studying it at a national level – the percent of minority populations in a county, the percent below the poverty line in a county, the number of mental health specialists in a county, the mortality rate at the state level, high school graduation rates at the state level, and others,” Kim said. “The goal is to have cutting-edge research in the intersection of aging, mental health and geography to find ways to eliminate or reduce the disparities.
Kim is a gerontologist and earned her doctorate in aging studies from the University of South Florida. Her research focuses on racial and ethnic disparities in mental health and mental health service use among older adults. She has received multiple research awards for her work on aging and health disparities.
Her internal mentoring team includes Dr. Patricia Parmelee, professor of psychology and director of UA’s Center for Mental Health and Aging, as primary mentor; Dr. Martha Crowther, associate professor of psychology, as co-mentor; Dr. J. Michael Hardin, dean of The Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration; Dr. Joe Weber, associate professor of geography; and Dr. Jason Parton, assistant research professor of statistics.