COVID-19 Pilot Funding: Social Sciences

Awarded Projects: 


1. Shoshana Bardach, PhD
    UK College of Public Health

Understanding and Improving Older Adults' Technology Use to Reduce Disparities and Promote Health(co-funded by Sanders Brown Center on Aging)

This study will use semi-structured interviews to lead to a better understanding of older adults’ telemedicine and social engagement technology use, including barriers, challenges, comfort, knowledge, preferences, and concerns. Questions will cover the role of technology during periods of social distancing and focus on social determinants of health in the context of COVID-19. Based on these initial findings, we will identify areas where enhanced technology use would provide meaningful benefit. We will then develop and evaluate a remote technology training program to support older adults’ access to medical care and social support during this period of social distancing, and beyond.

2. Makenzie Barr, PhD
    UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Evaluation of the Impact of COVID-19 and Community Response on Food Insecurity, Behaviors, Health, and Well-being

Closures in response to the coronavirus have amplified the limited availability of healthful foods, specifically among children who receive meals during school hours. Within Fayette County, Kentucky, to alleviate burden during the pandemic, FoodChain and Nourish Lexington Network began providing no-cost meal relief to community members and families in need of additional food assistance. For this study, we will evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on personal and financial well-being, overall food access, and diet quality. We'll additionally assess the impact of the FoodChain’s, community-based, free meal distribution program for providing emergency support during a pandemic.


3. Lance Bollinger, PhD
    UK College of Education

Effects of COVID-19-Induced Social Distancing on University Employees' Physical Activity

Social distancing policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as work-from-home recommendations and safer-at-home orders, removed many opportunities for workplace and leisure time physical activity.  This may be especially true for university employees and healthcare workers who typically enjoy workplaces that are conducive to physical activity.  Dr. Lance Bollinger and his research team are exploring how physical activity of academic and healthcare workers at UK responded to social distancing policies during the Spring 2020 semester.  This work will help inform policy makers of un-intended consequences of social distancing policies on health behaviors.

4. Julie Cerel, PhD

    UK College of Social Work

Mental Health & Suicide Attempt Survivors in the Time of COVID-19

COVID-19 has been associated with increased stress and anxiety, and there is concern suicide rates might increase. However, for some people, the experience of living through a suicide attempt, isolation and struggle might lead to more resilience in the face of COVID-19 than for people who have not had these experiences. This online study will survey 1650 people with a history of suicide attempt, depression or anxiety and compare them to 500 people without. Results will expand our understanding of resiliency for suicide attempt survivors and uncover strategies to decrease suicide risk for the population overall.


5. Joshua Douglas, JD
   UK Rosenberg College of Law
   Michael Zillis, PhD
   UK College of Arts and Sciences

The Impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 Elections in Kentucky and Beyond

The COVID-19 pandemic has created extreme challenges for the functioning of American elections. We study the effect of the pandemic on voter behavior and the implications for election procedures and the optimal administration of elections.  Fielding surveys nationwide and in Kentucky, we explore: Whether the coronavirus will impact the likelihood that someone will vote in November? What types of modifications to voting procedures, either in terms of alterations to polling places or a move to mail-in ballots, do voters prefer? And to what extent do changes, including Kentucky’s photo ID requirement, improve or harm the public’s perceptions of election legitimacy?

6. Diane Francis, PhD
    UK College of Communication and Information

Communication Inequalities and COVID-19 Outcomes Among African Americans

The overall goal of the project is to advance knowledge on improving health behaviors of African Americans by assessing their perspectives on communication and messaging about COVID-19 and knowledge and perceptions of COVID-19 vaccine.



7. Meghan Marsac, PhD
    UK College of Medicine

COVID-19 Unmasked: Prospective Longitudinal Study to Determine the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Infants and Preschool Aged Children and their Families

Researchers at the University of Kentucky are collaborating with colleagues across the US and Internationally (Australia, UK) to understand how families with young children (ages 1-5) are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This project aims to 1) identify the emotional impact of the pandemic on children, 2) determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on caregiver mental health, and 3) identify risks and protective factors for child mental health outcomes. This information will be used to guide future program development and resources for families. To access the survey, please visit this link:

8. Kirby Mayer, PhD
    UK College of Health Sciences

Optimizing Outcomes with Physical Therapy Interventions for IndividuALS Surviving an ICU admission for Covid-19 (OPTImAL)- a Single Center Prospective Physical Therapy Trial

Patients surviving an ICU stay for acute respiratory failure due to Covid-19 are at high risk of developing physical and emotional disability after hospital discharge. Disability developed after acute illnesses has a profound impact of individual’s ability to reintegrate into society and return to pre-hospital level of function. The purpose of this study is to determine if 8 weeks of physical therapy (PT) treatment combined with medical follow-up in the ICU Recovery Clinic is safe and effective for improving patient outcomes including physical and cognitive function, and emotional health. Patients surviving ICU admission due to Covid-19 will participate through in-person visits at University of Kentucky or at home via telehealth

9. Mairead Moloney, PhD

    UK College of Arts and Sciences

Alcohol Use, Sleep, and Stress in the Time of COVID-19

“Alcohol Use, Sleep, and Stress in the Time of COVID-19” will determine community-level changes in alcohol use, sleep, and stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine conditions. In addition to gaining new knowledge about the psychological and health impacts of COVID-19, we will identify sociodemographic groups that may be at higher risk for developing an alcohol use and/or sleep disorder. Our findings will inform behavioral treatments for alcohol use and/or sleep disorders adapted to target groups most impacted by COVID-19, and have potential for public health impact

10. Andrew Pilny, PhD

      UK College of Communication and Information

Testing Different Contact Tracing Procedures for Slowing the Spread of COVID-19 

Contact tracing, the process of identifying people and places an infected individual has interacted with, is an effective way to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The United States is expected to need between 100,000 to 300,000 contact tracers to do this work. However, the effectiveness of contact tracing is only as good as the data that can be extracted. The current research is an experimental test of different strategies to collect contact tracing data. The results of the study could help speed up and save thousands of dollars on wide-scale efforts to collect such data.


11. Caitlin Pope, PhD

      UK College of Public Health


Health Disparities, Self-efficacy, and COVID-19: Understanding the Associations Between Resiliency Resources and Self-Reported Health and Wellbeing in Disadvantaged Older Adults

In the absence of a vaccination, sheltering-in-place and social distancing are some of the most efficacious public health interventions available to stop COVID-19. Unknown, is how COVID-19 has affected individual’s psychosocial wellbeing, especially in high-risk populations such as community-dwelling older adults living with comorbidities and socioeconomic disadvantage. To understand the psychosocial influences of COVID-19, we are conducting a mixed-methods study on resiliency (i.e., factors that enable individuals to resist or recover from the effects of stressors) in this at-risk group. Pilot findings will directly facilitate a larger study to promote resiliency and psychosocial wellbeing in disadvantaged, community-dwelling older adults.

12. Beth Rous, PhD
      UK College of Education

Family and Provider Perceptions of Tele-Intervention Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Tele-Intervention Study will explore changes in services for infants and toddlers with disabilities served through the state early intervention services provided through the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Until COVID-19, early intervention services were delivered to families primarily in their homes or in other natural settings, such as child care. In March 2020 these services either ceased or shifted to remote service delivery and tele-intervention. We will examine family and service provider perceptions of how this transition has impacted early intervention services and the effect on children’s developmental progress.