Monday, December 12, 2022

University of Iowa professors Nicole Novak and Julianna Pacheco have been selected to participate in a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation leadership program that connects community researchers from across the country.

Novak, an assistant professor in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health in the College of Public Health, and Pacheco, an associate professor of Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, were selected to a team of Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL) that supports and expands action-oriented and community-engaged research to create healthier communities.

Nicole Novak Headshot
Nicole Novak

The goal of the IRL is to train leaders who conduct and apply high-quality, community-engaged, action-oriented, and equity-focused research that drives improvements in community health.

Novak and Pacheco’s three-person team also includes Nicholas Salazar, president of the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

“We have the opportunity to partner with community members to help build a culture of health,” says Pacheco. “Academics, like myself, often conduct research in solitude and without practical application to the broader community. This fellowship is community focused and action oriented.” 

Julianna Pacheco headshot
Julianna Pacheco

The trio will work with community members to explore how voter suppression bills affect voting, civic engagement, and health equity for Latino communities in Iowa. Research results will inform local efforts to promote inclusive communities with equitable political power and voice.

“We know that civic engagement and political incorporation are critical foundations to healthy, inclusive communities,” says Novak. “We want our research to make a real difference for Iowa communities, and there is no better way to have an impact than to work with people who are already fighting for change. LULAC has worked for decades to promote voter rights and inclusive communities, and together we will conduct rigorous research to bolster their efforts.”

Novak has a Master of Science in medical anthropology, a PhD in epidemiology, and postdoctoral training in community-based participatory research. She uses epidemiological and community-engaged methods to study upstream determinants of health for Iowa's Latino and migrant communities, including the health impacts of immigration enforcement and community-driven efforts to promote inclusion such as immigrant-inclusive local ID cards.

Pacheco has a PhD in political science and postdoctoral training as a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar. She was among the first to examine how health shapes political participation, most notably finding that poor health reduces voter turnout. She was also one of the first scholars studying public health to subsequently document the consequences of health-based inequalities in political voice, finding that the preferences of those in good health dominate the policymaking.