CHS Professor Awarded Markey Cancer Center Community Partnership Research Grant

Faiola will help investigate the mental health disparities of families of cancer patients from rural Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Anthony Faiola, PhD, MFA and College of Health Sciences professor, has been awarded a $10,000 Markey Cancer Center CIO Partnership Planning grant.

The study will address the mental health disparities of families of cancer patients from rural Kentucky by investigating the efficacy of a newly developed mobile health platform to reduce mental trauma by connecting families at home with clinicians at the bedside. Joining Faiola will be Zhonglin Hao, MD, from the Markey Cancer Center, who will advise on all clinical studies and interact with clinicians at two Kentucky Markey Cancer Center Research Network (MCCRN) locations.

The two-fold aim of the research is to form a planning committee of community stakeholders, referred to as MERCCI (mHealth Equity Research for Community Connected-Health Impact), to collaborate on identifying a strategy to study the efficacy of the mobile health (FamCare+) on cancer patient family mental health throughout rural Kentucky, particularly those with socioeconomic disparities.

Research demonstrates that families with family members in a critical-care facility (e.g., chemotherapy, bone marrow treatment, reconstructive surgery, hospice, etc.), are at higher risk for developing PTSD, anxiety and depression. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic caused hospital visitation privileges to be limited or suspended, resulting in a severity of mental health conditions, even three months after patient discharge.

Isolation due to the pandemic has especially exacerbated the mental health of rural cancer patient families as visiting restrictions increased. Although a majority of rural communities use smartphones, racial and socioeconomic disparities still exist — primarily due to their geographic location and their limited ability to travel long distances.

Consequently, to stay connected to the bedside, FamCare+ is intended to provide comfort in knowing what is happening with their loved ones at the bedside. Apart from its direct impact on reducing psychological trauma, maintaining communication, and the flow of bedside information, FamCare+ could prove invaluable for creating informed families, while building trust and satisfaction with healthcare services.

The study will generate preliminary data leading to extramural funding.

Faiola is a full professor in the Department of Health and Clinical Sciences in the College of Health Sciences, with an affiliate appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, in the College of Engineering.

While Faiola’s research resides at the intersection of human-centered computing and health informatics, the focus is on the translational application of how mobile health (mHealth) serves as a medical intervention to foster healthy lifestyle behavior and rehabilitation, including mental health. He considers himself a social scientist who studies the effects of mHealth/telehealth in the context of patient and family-centered care and self-care monitoring. He also has extensive knowledge of several subdomains, such as human-computer interaction design and usability science, as applied to digital health information technologies.