Cindy Cain




Assistant Professor in Residence
University of California, Los Angeles

Professional Bio

Dr. Cindy Cain is a sociologist, specializing in health, medicine, organizations, and aging. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Residence of Health Policy and Management at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. She is also affiliated with the California Center for Population Research, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity, and the Center for Health Policy Research, all at UCLA. Before coming to UCLA in 2015, she completed postdoctoral training in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota. She collaborates with scholars in public health, sociology, anthropology, medicine, nursing, bioethics, and management to produce research that enriches social theory and helps to solve real-world problems in the delivery of care for vulnerable adults.

Project Description

Health and well-being are affected by a range of social factors, including the extent to which individuals feel supported, safe, and welcome in their neighborhoods. Interpersonal relationships and opportunities for social cohesion are forms of neighborhood social capital that benefit residents. But, not all neighborhoods have the same quantity or quality of neighborhood social capital available. Additionally, not all neighborhoods are structured in a way that allows all residents to access benefits from social capital. These features of the neighborhood may exacerbate existing social inequalities and inequity in health.

This project combines the California Health Interview Survey, a representative survey of Californians, with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Smart Location Database to analyze social cohesion and health within and across varying neighborhood contexts. The project answers three distinct research questions: 1) How is neighborhood social capital associated with health for adults in California? 2) Which individual, household, and community-level factors are associated with social capital? 3) Does social capital mediate the associations of individual, household, and community-level factors on health and well-being of residents?

Why did you apply to New Connections

I applied to New Connections for three reasons. First, I had heard from other New Connections Grantees that the program had been helpful for building out collaborative networks and sharing resources. Second, I was impressed with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health approach. I believe this approach calls for engagement from a range of social science and health services researchers, which offers novel opportunities for developing knowledge. Third, as a first generation college graduate from a rural area, I am grateful that New Connections has an expansive definition of increasing diversity.

Research Interests

Dr. Cain’s research examines health and medicine from two different perspectives. In the first thread, she studies the experiences of older adults as they navigate serious illnesses, decreases in mobility, and eventual transition from curative to comfort care. She is especially interested in how older adults make decisions about care needs and which resources to activate to meet those needs. Her research on neighborhood social capital fits within this agenda. In the second thread of her research, she examines medical institutions from the perspective of health care workers. Health care workers are increasingly asked to work within interdisciplinary teams, which change both the structure and the content of health care work. Her research seeks to understand the implications of team-based care, especially in terms of worker burnout and organizational functioning.


Cain, Cindy L., Steven P. Wallace, and Ninez A. Ponce. (2017). Trust, helpfulness, and safety of neighborhoods: Community-level social capital and health of older adults. The Gerontologist, Forthcoming.

Cain, Cindy L., Caitlin Taborda-Whitt, Monica S. Frazer, Sandra Schellinger, Katie M. White, Jason Kaasovic, Brenda Nelson, and Allison Chant. (2017). A mixed methods study of emotional exhaustion within an innovative health care team. Journal of Interprofessional Care, Forthcoming.

Schellinger, Sandra, Eric W. Anderson, Monica S. Frazer, Cindy L. Cain. (2017). What matters at end of life: Early results related to goals for patients with complex chronic illness. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Forthcoming.

Cain, Cindy L. (2017). Boundaried caring and gendered emotion management in hospice work. Gender, Work and Organization 24(4), 345-359.

Cain, Cindy L., Dimpho Orionzi, Mollie O’Brien, and Lovel Trahan. (2017). The power of community voices for enhancing CHNAs. Health Promotion Practice 18(3), 437-443.

Zhu, Xi, Douglas Wholey, Cindy L. Cain, and Nabil Natafgi. (2017). Staff turnover in assertive community treatment (ACT) teams: The role of team climate. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research 44(2), 258-268.

The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
  • Award Year: 2018
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Making Health a Shared Value
  • Project Name: Building Neighborhood Social Capital: Trust, Safety, and Helpfulness

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