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Monday, December 11, 2023

Academics & Research

Hartford scholar aims to improve senior-citizen care

A University of Houston researcher has been selected as an associate for the Hartford Scholars Program to conduct geriatric social work research that will further the understanding of studies relating to aging.

Assistant professor Dennis Kao is one of seven selected to be a Hartford fellow and contribute to the research on aging adults. This group is the last to be awarded under the program’s current grant.

“To be chosen as a fellow demonstrates excellence for the individual and contests to the capability to conduct important research,” said Ira Colby, dean of the Graduate College of Social Work.

The John A. Hartford Foundation funds the program, which will grant $100,000 toward Kao’s research topic, “Using Geo-Ethnography to Explore Spatial Accessibility of Health Services for Aging Minorities.” The program will also provide him with an experienced national research mentor that will help him develop a plan and review his research.

“This speaks well for the college and the University,” Colby said.

According to Colby, the research will add to the Tier One status of the University as groundbreaking on the importance of health care accessibility for aging adults.

The research that Kao will conduct will offer insight into barriers associated with senior citizens being able to have access to health care.

“Our population is aging quickly, as well as diversifying,” Kao said.

“Houston’s aging minority population is probably what the U.S. will look like in about 30 or 40 years. Houston already provides a laboratory to look at this issue on a local level.”

The study will be conducted over a two-year period. Kao will use qualitative interviews, geographic information systems and field observations to determine the accessibility of health care for aging minorities.

The work conducted will help determine where health care is needed and how best it can be provided to minority senior citizens.

“The research will help city planners, social service agencies and doctors figure out the best place to offer the services,” UH professor of social work and history Andrew Achenbaum said.

Additionally, by defining their “activity space,” Kao will determine how accessible health care is to senior citizens in certain neighborhoods.

Kao will be advised by Achenbaum, who will assist the first-time researcher in further developing the study.

“Professor Kao is an exceptional human being who has tied together his interest in geography with his interest in older people. It’s a tremendous project,” Achenbaum said.

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