A Message from the Health and Development Research Laboratory:
The Health and Development Lab stands with the Black community and acknowledges their pain, outrage, and sadness in response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. These senseless deaths are tragic reminders that racism, hatred, and intolerance remain prevalent in our society, contributing to an epidemic of violence and generations of racial trauma for minority communities.
Traumatic experiences tied to bigotry, as well as the pervasiveness of everyday stressors tied to racism and discrimination, have been shown by our lab and others to be linked to widespread health disparities for minorities. As research scientists, we believe it is critical to shine a bright light on these health disparities in an effort to expose the insidious effects of racism.
We thank the Black families who have partnered with our lab to generously share both their time and personal stories, and in so doing, allowed us to conduct our work. A common trait among these families is their resilience in the face of adversity. We are routinely humbled by their perseverance and determination despite systemic barriers, overt and covert racism, and a society that is willing to turn a blind eye.
We are encouraged by the groundswell in support shown nationwide in recent weeks, and we share in these calls for action. Members of the Health and Development Lab commit to doing more to bring about much needed change. We pledge to engage in efforts that advance our scientific mission and our vision of a more just and equitable society. Specifically, we will:
- Continue to conduct high-quality research that examines the toll of social stressors (including discrimination and trauma) on children’s and adults’ mental and physical health;
- Work with partners at the Center for Family Research to test prevention programs designed to build on the strengths of Black families;
- Actively communicate our findings with the public through publications and presentations; and
- Expand our team’s training and professional development in the areas of diversity and cultural awareness.
We look forward to the opportunity to grow and become not just better scientists, but also better citizens.
The Health and Development lab is based within the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia. Under the direction of Dr. Katherine Ehrlich, members of the laboratory are engaged in several studies focused on how the social world shapes health across the lifespan.
Across our studies, we use a variety of research methods to evaluate social and emotional functioning, including structured behavioral observations, clinical interviews, self-reports, and performance-based tasks. In addition, we incorporate a number of health assessments, including clinical health measures (e.g., blood pressure) and indices of cellular function.
The Health and Development Lab facility is equipped with structured space for in-office interviews, observations, group meetings, and screenings for a variety of health measures. There is also an in-house biological wet-lab where samples and data can be processed and analyzed. The lab is BSL-2 certified and is equipped to perform stimulated cell culture, which allows us to examine proinflammatory processes.
The lab is involved in collaborative research, and we partner with several centers on the UGA campus and at Northwestern University. At UGA, we work with investigators at the Center for Family Research and the Center for Vaccines and Immunology. At Northwestern, we partner with the Foundations of Health Research Center.
We are grateful for the funding and support we have received from NICHD, NIDA, the NIH Common Fund, the Jacobs Foundation, and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.