By Carol Lea Spence, UK Now
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has named Alison Davis, director of the University of Kentucky’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky, a fellow of the 2019 Cohort of Interdisciplinary Research Leaders, a three-year leadership program.
Cohort fellows live and work across the United States and its territories. The 15 teams comprise a mix of researchers and community members whose focus will be on one of two themes: Aligning Clinical Practice, Social Services and Health; and Community Development and Health. The goal for the work’s outcome is to empower everyone to live longer, healthier lives, no matter where they live.
Davis, an agricultural economics professor in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, will be part of the three-person Community Development and Health team studying the economics of investing in water and waste-water systems to reduce health inequalities in the rural South. The team will explore the relationship between investments in infrastructure and economic vibrancy in communities across the region. Joining her on the team are community partner Ines Polonius from Communities Unlimited, a Community Development Financial Institution in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and research partner Corianne Scally from the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.
The relationship between community development and health remains largely unexplored or rigorously evaluated, according to information provided on the Interdisciplinary Research Leaders website. With each team member contributing their own unique focus, experiences and leadership style, the team will apply research in real time to create community policy that is healthier and more equitable.
As CEDIK director, Davis has extensive experience in working with health care professionals and advocates in rural Kentucky communities. She said the leadership experience she expects to obtain as a fellow will inform CEDIK’s work in the future.
“I am looking forward to this rare opportunity to learn from world-renowned experts in health equity and policy and to conduct community-engaged research around the importance of access to quality water, particularly in communities of color. This is an area on which CEDIK has not focused in the past, but what we learn will certainly help frame what and how we do our work in the future in Kentucky communities,” Davis said.
Researchers will receive a yearly stipend to support their time in the program, and up to $125,000 in funding to support a team research project. Over the three years of the project, fellows will develop high-level leadership skills through professional coaching, networking and an advanced leadership curriculum. They will also receive mentoring from national experts in research, community action, health equity, public policy and advocacy. Upon completion of the program, fellows will be able to engage with communities to influence systems and institutions, and to apply relevant research to increase the impact of their community work.
The Interdisciplinary Research Leaders is a program that continues the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s legacy of supporting the development and diversity of leaders. For more than 40 years, the foundation has worked to improve health and health care.