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WSU Research Healthy Communities

Connecting communities for health

Join us April 18 at WSU Innovators in Seattle to learn more about how WSU’s work in Africa affects health in North America

Attend WSU Innovators to hear from two researchers working with Dr. Call, as well as Dr. Guy Palmer, the Allen School’s co-founder and senior director for global health at WSU. Tina Vlasaty of the Washington Global Health Alliance will moderate the panel.

The panelists will discuss the global-to-local approach needed to curb the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, and WSU’s role in developing solutions.

Learn more and register for this free event at

Stopping the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Young lady being treated in hospital bed

Advancing the health of communities worldwide

For decades, doctors have trusted antibiotic medicines to fight Infectious bacteria, saving lives and restoring health. Lately, though, the drugs often fail. To blame are newly emerging antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Drug-resistant bacterial infections cause nearly 23,000 deaths annually in the United States. Globally the annual death toll could be as high as 700,000.

WSU is part of global effort

Stopping antimicrobial resistance (AMR) requires a global effort. Washington State University is helping to lead the charge.

In the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, where experts study the emergence and spread of disease, researchers are examining the role the environment plays in proliferation of AMR.

Understanding how AMR spreads

AMR spreads quickly in developing countries where antibiotic use is unregulated and widespread. It thrives in low sanitation settings. Global travel and the international food trade aid dissemination of resistant bacteria worldwide.

WSU scientists are conducting research in east Africa to better understand the emergence and spread of AMR. They are working in partnership with Tanzania’s Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

Professor Doug Call of the Allen School is training scientists from Africa to better understand complex issues associated with AMR persistence. He teaches local scientists to recognize genetic mechanisms that can give resistant microbes an upper hand. Learn more about Allen School programs addressing AMR here.

Convening a Washington Coalition

In 2016 Washington State University joined with other organizations addressing global health issues to form the Washington State Antimicrobial Resistance Coalition. The group explores how drug resistance emerges in settings worldwide, then spreads into U.S. communities and hospitals.

The coalition fosters collaboration among federal agencies, Congress, international global health organizations, U.S. hospitals, research universities, and others to deploy resources strategically in the fight against AMR. It plans to monitor high-risk locations and test new approaches to keep superbugs in check.

Recent lecture in Seattle


The 2017 WSU Innovators event in Seattle featured researchers working with Dr. Call, as well as Dr. Guy Palmer, the Allen School’s co-founder and senior director for global health at WSU. Tina Vlasaty of the Washington Global Health Alliance moderated the panel.

The panelists discussed the global-to-local approach needed to curb the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, and WSU’s role in developing solutions.

Watch a video of the engaging conversation. 

Collaborative to study health reform impact on disabled

Inquiry to see if reforms address cost and access disparities faced by people with disabilities

Professor of Health Policy and Administration Jae Kennedy is heading up a new initiative to establish the Collaborative on Health Reform and Independent Living, a multi-institutional effort to evaluate the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the well-being of working-age adults with disabilities. Funded through a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, the collaborative brings together disability advocates and researchers from WSU, the University of Kansas, George Mason University, and the Independent Living Research Utilization program at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Jae KennedyUntil recently, many adults with disabilities did not have access to private health insurance coverage and had to rely on public programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. With the implementation of the ACA, that has changed.

“The ACA has endured many legal and legislative challenges, and many of its reforms are now a feature of the U.S. health care system,” said Kennedy. “We need to know the magnitude of these changes, and whether they are addressing the pervasive disparities in access and cost that people with disabilities face.”

In partnership with several national disability advocacy organizations, the collaborative’s researchers will conduct five research projects to study health insurance costs, coverage, and outcomes; determine information and training needs among staff in Centers of Independent Living; and identify changes in disability program application and enrollment rates. Kennedy said the collaborative’s findings may be used to advocate for policy changes to address any remaining health disparities in this vulnerable population.

Measuring community well‑being

WSU Vancouver’s Probst looking at mix of stressors, employment, resources

Does where you live affect your ability to cope with financial and employment stress? That question is on the minds of policymakers with limited dollars to spend on social services. The answer could help them determine how best to support struggling individuals.

The question was also on the mind of Washington State University psychology professor Tahira Probst. It seems logical that people with access to more services would fare better. But Probst wondered whether, instead, people might compare their situations’ with their neighbors’ in a “keeping up with the Joneses” fashion. If so, those struggling economically in communities with fewer resources might actually feel better than those in similar straits living in a supposedly “healthier” community.

With a grant of $50,000 from the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps program, Probst and her collaborators are examining nationwide data compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation along with interviews conducted by Gallup Polling.

Preliminary results are intriguing. They suggest that while a more prosperous, healthier community can help mitigate certain types of stress related to income (such as inability to pay bills on time), employment-related stress is a different matter. If your neighbors are happily employed while you have lost your job or are worried about layoffs, you may have more trouble coping.

“Community well-being definitely matters, but in surprising ways,” Probst said. “It can help people to cope better with private sources of stress such as financial struggles, while resulting in worse outcomes for those facing more public stressors such as unemployment.”

Marshaling communities to stop substance abuse

Program engages community members in research, training, and outreach

Substance abuse exacts a heavy toll on American Indians and Alaska Natives. John Roll, professor and senior vice chancellor for WSU Spokane, aims to stem that population’s tide of addiction by launching a community-based research, training, and outreach center.

The Behavioral Health Collaborative for Rural American Indian Communities will examine multiple influences on behavioral health throughout patients’ lifespans. It is funded by a $5.5 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (part of the National Institutes of Health).

Working with co-investigator Sterling McPherson and other investigators at the University of Washington and WSU, the team will build partnerships with members of the American Indian community throughout the Inland Northwest and engage them in key roles in the Center. Scientific research will be combined with a community-based participatory approach. The Center will reach out to people of all ages—children, college students, and adults. Dr. Roll and Dr. McPherson hope to build deep ties to American Indian communities, bringing people together to achieve common goals: improving health and quality of life.

One health, one medicine

Partnership unites veterinarians and human health professionals

The Universidade Federal de Viçosa, in Brazil, has a well-recognized veterinary school and a brand-new medical school. WSU’s own well-recognized schools of veterinary medicine and global animal health have longstanding research collaborations with UFV and a global health partnership with the University of Washington.

It makes perfect sense, then, that WSU would be the conduit for a new partnership between the 3 universities. Together they’re developing One Health, an innovative collaboration between veterinary medicine and human health professionals to improve the intertwined lives and well-being of animals and people alike.

Making packaged food safer, more nutritious, and delicious

Microwave-assisted thermal processing technologies transform “ready-to-eat meals”

Foodborne illnesses sicken more than 8.9 million Americans each year and claim more than 2,300 lives. In addition to human suffering, the illnesses exact a staggering economic toll—more than $15.6 billion in medical expenses, lost income, and more according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates.1

Dr. Juming Tang is finding new ways to make our food safer. The Regents Professor and Distinguished Chair of Food Engineering has developed new methods of controlling bacteria and viruses in “ready-to-eat meals”— frozen, refrigerated, or shelf-stable entrees sold at retail markets and used in institutions, as well as shelf-stable rations fed to military personnel in the field. His microwave-assisted thermal processing technologies could revolutionize food preservation and packaging.

Dr. Tang preserves foods faster and at lower temperatures than traditional canning methods using 915 MHz Single-mode Microwave Assisted Sterilization (MATS) and Pasteurization (MAP) processes. Food retains more nutritional value, flavor, and texture—naturally. There’s no need for the extra salt, additives, and flavor enhancers currently used to make ready-to-eat meals palatable. What’s more, dangerous pathogens don’t stand a chance.

The technologies not only have advantages for consumers, but for food processing companies as well. Industrial systems based on the technologies will be fully automated. They will reduce energy and water use. Because they are less noisy than existing food processing systems and do not emit steam into the work space, they will create a more hospitable work environment.

The benefits of MATS and MAP food preservation methods are clear to world-leading food processing and packaging companies, who are partnering with Dr. Tang to bring the technologies to market. Dr. Tang also works jointly with research institutions affiliated with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Australian Government Department of Defence, as well as the NASA Johnson Space Center Food Laboratory.

His patents have led to the formation of 915 Labs, a company that works to spread adoption of the new food-preservation technologies worldwide.

Dr. Tang’s research has received support of private companies and numerous federal agencies, among them the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


1. “USDA: U.S. Foodborne Illnesses Cost More Than $15.6 Billion Annually,” Dan Flynn, Food Safety News, October 9, 2014

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