Cindy A. Crusto

In Funded Scholars
Cindy A. Crusto
Cindy A. Crusto

Cindy A.

Crusto

PhD

Assistant Professor
Yale School of Medicine

Professional Bio

Cindy A. Crusto, Ph.D. is an associate professor of psychology in psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine. She is a faculty member in the Predoctoral Internship Program in Clinical and Community Psychology within the Psychology Section of the Department of Psychiatry where she serves as an advisor, supervisor, and lecturer on topics related to program and service system evaluation, cultural competence, and community-engaged work. Dr. Crusto also is an advisor and scientific mentor in the National Institute on Drug Abuse post-doctoral fellowship training program in substance abuse prevention (NIDA T32) in The Division of Prevention and Community Research, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine.

Dr. Crusto is the Director of Program and Service System Evaluation at The Consultation Center where she manages evaluations and oversees consultation, traiHeading 3ning, and technical assistance to federal, state, and local sponsors, developers, and implementers of programs and initiatives. To understand the impact of programs and initiatives on children/youth and their families, Dr. Crusto collaborates with stakeholders to collect quantitative and qualitative data at multiple levels of children’s ecology to continuously inform interventions and policies.

Dr. Crusto isdevoted to advancing theory, research, and social action. She is committed to promoting health and empowerment and to preventing problemsin communities, groups, and individuals.She emphasizes research training and the integration of that with applied training which is the foundation from which she conceptualizes her research in communities and how academic institutions can effectively outreach to and engage with communities.

Dr. Crusto earned a B.A. in psychology from Vassar College, a M.A. in clinical-community psychology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a Ph.D. in clinical-community psychology from the University of South Carolina.  She completed pre-doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships in clinical-community psychology at Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry.

Project Description

This project supports a public health approach to children’s health, which seeks to (a) reduce health problems among children for whom problems have been identified and (b) assist all children to optimize their health. We seek to better understand risk (i.e., trauma) and resiliency factors for children of color and/or from low resource backgrounds and for children experiencing mental health challenges. We will evaluate the relationship between young children’s (birth through 11 years) exposure to trauma and their health and development. We will assess the impact of: 1) typical forms of trauma (e.g., family violence; natural disaster) on young children’s health and 2) maternal experiences of racial/ethnic discrimination (race-related stress), a newly conceptualized form of trauma, on their young children’s health and development. Two datasets from recently completed studies will be used. The first dataset draws from longitudinal outcome evaluations of three SAMHSA-funded mental health systems of care. Sites collected child outcome, trauma, and risk and resiliency data. The second NIH study examined the influence of child factors and social processes, including parent reported racial/ethnic discrimination, on children’s health. New Connections allows us to build on preliminary analyses and findings and broadly disseminate trauma-related findings. We conceptualize trauma as a social determinant of health–a factor in children’s homes, schools, and/or communities that can negatively impact their health. We apply a trauma-informed risk and resilience model across child-serving systems. We also apply a family process model to reveal the mechanisms by which parent race-related stress could function as a contributor to young children’s health. Uncovering the mechanisms through which race-related stress affects children is consistent with calls to attend to diverse ecological influences and to account for children’s contexts in applied research with children at risk for poor health outcomes. Doing so can inform optimally targeted and ecologically valid interventions.

My New Connections Experience

Dr. Adachi-Mejia examined the following: school beverage vending machines (content and advertising); local wellness policies (school beverage vending); adolescent beverage consumption and BMI.

Specific findings will be listed here after the related publications are released.

Why I Applied to New Connections

I applied for New Connections: Increasing Diversity of RWJF Programming for Mid-Career Consultants because of the very well-coordinated and very relevant array of technical assistance, direction, and mentoring provided to grantees. I really wanted to be a part of New Connections’ purpose to develop and to retain a diverse, well-trained leadership and workforce in health and healthcare to meet the needs of all Americans. I believe that RWJ supports cutting edge research, programming, and evaluation that advance our thinking about health and health care. I felt as though my thinking about my research and community-engaged work would be enhanced and furthered by exposure to the Foundation and its programming, research, and other grantees. I felt that my research and evaluation work aligned really well with the mission and goals of the RWJ, with New Connections, and with the Vulnerable Populations portfolio. As a Mid-career professional, I knew that I could benefit from career mentoring and support as I continue to develop in my tenure-track faculty position. I believe it is critically important to learn from others. Finally, I knew that New Connections could give me the opportunity to critically reflect on an area of research (children’s exposure to psychological trauma) in which I have been immersed in for some time. New Connections will give me the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on what I have learned from my own work and from others in the field and to disseminate that information to stakeholders serving young children and to the public using a variety of dissemination strategies (data brief, white papers, opposite the editorial pages [op-eds], manuscripts).

Research Interests

 

My research interests are focused in three interrelated areas: (1) evaluation research and practice; (2) risk and resiliency factors for children, youth, and their families, particularly related to psychological trauma exposure, and (3) social determinants of children’s health, including neighborhood/community and school factors. With respect to evaluation research and practice, I work with community-based agencies and with educational settings to develop, to implement, and to evaluate behavioral health services and educational interventions. I also provide training and technical assistance to all types of organizations and systems on the evaluation of programs and initiatives. Related to this work are my interests in culturally relevant and responsive interventions and in essential practices for cultural competence in evaluation. With respect to risk and resilience, I am interested in the impact of trauma experiences on young children’s social emotional functioning, physical health, and development. Of particular interest is the unique contribution of family-related trauma experiences (e.g., intimate partner violence, child abuse and neglect) on children’s well-being and the factors that protect them from trauma’s negative effects. More recently, I am interested in social determinants of young children’s health, such as exposure to crime, residential segregation, and perceived and self-reported experiences of discrimination. This work also has evaluated the indirect impact of parentally perceived racial/ethnic discrimination on young children’s health and development. While I am concerned with the health and well-being of all children and youth, I am keenly interested in children and youth from racial/ethnic minority and/or low-resource backgrounds.

The Details
  • New Connections Status: Mid-Career Consultant
  • Award Year: 2013
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Vulnerable Populations
  • Project Name: Examining the impact on children’s health and developme
    nt of their exposure to trauma and to maternal experiences of racial/ethnic discrimination.

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