Western Oregon University
Doris Cancel-Tirado, PhD, MPH, MA, is an associate professor of Community Health in the Division of Health and Exercise Science at Western Oregon University. Cancel-Tirado was born and raised in Puerto Rico. In 2002, after completing her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, she moved to the US with plans of completing a doctoral degree. She completed a doctorate in Human Development and Family Science as well as a Master in Public Health at Oregon State University in 2011. She has more than 15 years of experience working with health and human services agencies and deeply values engaging in multidisciplinary efforts to improve family well-being in diverse and multicultural contexts.
While working with immigrant families in Florida, Washington, and Oregon, she realized that there were many systemic issues affecting the well-being of the families she served. As a bilingual/bicultural professional and mother, she knows first hand the challenges faced by parents raising kids in a bicultural environment and by mothers juggling work and family. These experiences have driven her research agenda. Her current research areas of interest include: Latino families’ well-being and health disparities, rural health, maternal and child health, fatherhood, poverty, and diversity in higher education. Besides her scholarly work, Doris was appointed by Oregon’s former governor John Kitzhaber to a position in the Oregon Commission for Women where she has been engaged in policy work related to women, children, family, and health.
Families’ interactions with social and economic structures in their communities vary depending on individual factors (e.g. race and language). Family level factors (e.g. financial stress) and community characteristics (e.g. social support) also influence these interactions resulting in different health outcomes and disparities for different populations. During the last decades the number of Latinos living in rural communities has increased substantially (Housing Assistance Council, 2012). Rural communities, that often lack resources to support their residents, may face additional challenges to addressing the needs of this population, particularly children. Despite these challenges, multilevel level studies addressing the needs of rural Latino children are scarce and limited in scope.
By combining the richness of the RWJF’s County Health Ranking data with the strengths of the Rural Family Speaks Health Project (RFSH) (a multistate, multilevel dataset of low-income rural families) the proposed mixed-methods project aims include: 1) Using multilevel regressions, investigate the association between individual factors (e.g. race/ethnicity, language), family factors (e.g. family support, financial stress) and community factors (health care access, educational systems) with the mental and physical well-being of rural Latino children; and 2) Among a sample of rural Latina mothers, explore perceived barriers and opportunities to providing their children the best foundation for healthy development and productive lives using qualitative data. The results of this project will inform comprehensive initiatives to support low-income Latino children that could potentially decrease health disparities, an important building block in the foundation for a culture of health in rural communities across the U.S.
My New Connections Experience
I have always admired the work that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has done through the years because I also share their passion to improve the well-being of all Americans and to create a culture of health. I became aware of this opportunity through a colleague and after learning all the nuances of the program I realized that this was a unique opportunity to move my research agenda on Latino health disparities forward with the support that researchers of color often need. Given my personal and professional background, my desire for ongoing professional development, and my motivation to eliminate health disparities, this grant was a great fit and I am very glad that I made the decision to pursue this opportunity.
This opportunity will allow me to have the time, resources, and professional networks needed to conduct high quality multilevel research to better understand health disparities among low-income rural Latino children. This will make a tremendous impact on my career by expanding my methodological skills and professional connections. My hopes are that with the coaching help of my mentor and the RWJF team I can obtain further funding to establish a solid research program that will better inform policies affecting these families and their children.
I have focused my research efforts on issues affecting low-income, Latino, and immigrant families’ well-being using qualitative methodologies and community-based participatory research. I completed my doctoral studies in Human Development and Family Science while also earning a Master in Public Health in Health Promotion. My expertise in these two fields has allowed me to integrate family related variables into my research on health behaviors and outcomes. My areas of focus include: sexual and reproductive health issues among Latinos, health disparities, rural health, fatherhood, maternal and child health, poverty, and diversity in higher education. I am also interested in multilevel data analysis and qualitative research.
- New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
- Award Year: 2015
- RWJF Team/Portfolio: Child and Family Well-Being
Project Name: Examining the Well-being of Rural Latino Children: A Multilevel Approach.