The IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program was founded and is directed by Dr. Brian Mustanski. Our mission is to conduct translational research that improves the health of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and to increase understanding of the development of sexual orientation and gender identity. We seek to achieve this mission by developing innovative, evidence-based interventions; collaborating with the LGBT community; training the next generation of LGBT scholars; and disseminating research findings to scientific and general audiences. We feel privileged to have been awarded over $20 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health and major foundations such as the William T. Grant Foundation and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The IMPACT Program is based in the Department of Medical Social Sciences (MSS) in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. The Department of Medical Social Sciences (MSS) provides a unique scientific home for applied researchers who integrate biomedical and social science approaches to improvement of health and health care delivery in diverse populations across the lifespan. Established in March, 2009, under the direction of Dr. David Cella, the department’s core scientific themes include measurement science, health information technology, applied qualitative and quantitative methods, mechanisms of health and disease, application of clinical interventions, and research with underserved and diverse populations.
Developing innovative, evidence-based interventions
The IMPACT Program studies resiliency, sexual health, mental health, and substance use, with a primary focus on adolescents and young adults. Developing innovative research studies and interventions, in particular by harnessing the power of technology and the internet, is at the core of our program. Examples of IMPACT’s research projects include:
- Project Q2 – Studying individual and sociocultural predictors of mental health, substance use, HIV risk, and resilience. Q2 is the longest longitudinal study of LGBT youth ever conducted.
- Crew 450 – Analyzing the prevalence, course, and predictors of a syndemic of psychosocial health issues linked to HIV among young men who have sex with men (YMSM).
- KIU! 2.0 – Researching the efficacy of an online HIV prevention intervention for YMSM by addressing peer norms, personal vulnerability, behavioral intentions, and condom use.
Collaborating with the LGBT community
Extensive community ties have been a hallmark of the IMPACT Program since its inception, and we collaborate with several community-based organizations throughout Chicago, including as a resident partner with the Center on Halsted. The Center on Halsted is the most comprehensive LGBT resource center in the Midwest and includes a large HIV testing program, a state-wide HIV/STD hotline, mental health serves, and a large and active youth program. The integration of the IMPACT Research Program within the Center facilitates the translation of research into practice, state-of-the art evaluation of practice, training of clinical-researchers in LGBT health, engagement of the LGBT community with research, and provides “on the ground” expertise to inform our research agenda and methods.
Training the next generation of LGBT scholars
Each year, the IMPACT Program trains and mentors graduate and medical students, postdoctoral scholars, and early stage investigators via a number of structured programs, and hosts undergraduate and graduate interns for research, film, web, and health journalism projects. In 2013, IMPACT began hosting the nation’s first clinical psychology internship track focused on LGBT health, to lead the way in training future leaders in culturally competent health research, education, and clinical care.
Disseminating research findings to scientific and general audiences
In addition to traditional scientific channels, IMPACT disseminates information on the IMPACT Program website, which houses interactive quizzes on sexual health for targeted populations, sex-positive and community-focused videos, weekly youth and research blogs, resources for LGBT youth, and program announcements, as well as serves as a library of our research publications. With a global reach, the IMPACT website receives over 10,000 unique visits each month. In addition, we actively promote our research, findings, and translational activities through social media.