This article originally appeared in UTSA Today.
MARCH 17, 2021 — When new faculty members arrive at UTSA, they are granted research accounts with startup money to help fund their research programs. Sociology professor Terrence Hill arrived in the fall of 2019 with an idea—why not have faculty pool their startup money together to create a bigger research project?
After approaching the Dean of the College for Health, Community and Policy (HCaP), Lynne Cossman, the question grew. What started with an idea for new sociology faculty blossomed into a research project spanning five departments, one research center, and new and tenured faculty alike. Together, the researchers pooled more than $100,000 to fund a national survey on health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: The Crime, Health, and Politics Survey (CHAPS).
“The CHAPS survey is an excellent opportunity for HCaP faculty to rally around a single collaborative research project,” Cossman said. “The survey results will drive many research articles, but also may lead to preliminary results that can be used to apply for research grants for further exploration. I appreciate professor Hill’s coordination and leadership on this project and I’m excited to see it come to fruition.”
HCaP departments represented in the CHAPS project include Criminology and Criminal Justice, Demography, Public Health, Social Work, Sociology, and the Institute for Health Disparities Research. Faculty from Baylor University and Florida State University are also participating.
“As the new chair of Sociology, I am very enthusiastic about the CHAPS study that Professor Hill organized with other faculty,” said UTSA professor Ray Swisher. “This will be a wonderful source of novel data and will foster many collaborations in HCaP. I am particularly interested in working with colleagues on research into how COVID-related attitudes and behavior varied by socioeconomic status, neighborhood poverty, race and ethnicity, and inequalities in life expectancy.”
The overall aim of CHAPS is to conduct cutting-edge research on the health and well-being of the U.S. population during the coronavirus. The survey will be conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. Data collection will begin later this month.
The survey will employ the most advanced techniques in survey research. Because of NORC’s prestige and history in data collection, not only will cutting-edge methodology be used to present the survey, but it will also ensure that the data are high-quality and truly representative of the U.S. adult population.
Given the interdisciplinary nature of the project, the survey will cover several themes related to health and well-being. Topics include loneliness and social isolation, police interactions, religion, political attitudes, pandemic behaviors, sexual behaviors, intimate partner violence, food insecurity, and more.
“The survey covers a wide range of important social problems to better understand the U.S. population during a pandemic,” Hill said.
Data collected from this survey can help inform policy. Questions about access to diabetes care, or any condition in which one needs to regularly see a doctor, are included in the survey. Questions about the vaccinations are also included to identify which subgroups might be more or less resistant to getting the vaccine.
The questions about suicidal ideation can also inform policy—because this is a nationally representative study of the U.S. population, the data collected from the survey is critically important to handling the downswing of the pandemic and reducing suffering of the population.
“There is so much suffering, so much misery that we can hardly comprehend what’s going on,” Hill said. “All the loss that people are experiencing—the loss of jobs or loss of loved ones, the loss of their futures, their plans. A lot of that could be reflected in this survey.”
In addition to learning more about the far-reaching effects of the pandemic, the data from the survey can be pulled in specific directions to help UTSA faculty further their own research. With the amount of data collected, there is a potential for faculty to publish research for years.
“We expect a lot of impact across all the researchers, and there are so many possibilities for collaboration across the disciplines and the College,” Hill said. “It’s an innovative way to capitalize on the resources provided by UTSA.”