The Health Equity Across the Lifespan (HEAL) Lab is the research hub for Dr. Leigh Ann Simmons, Professor and Chair in the Department of Human Ecology at UC Davis. The goal of the HEAL Lab is to promote population health equity by reducing disparities in chronic diseases (e.g., obesity, depression, cardiometabolic diseases, and cancer) among vulnerable and medically underserved populations. A core value in the lab is to ensure that we are leveraging the strengths and meeting the needs of the communities with which we work. Thus, we actively engage community stakeholders to inform our research questions, methods, and dissemination of findings.
The HEAL Lab focuses on three main areas of research: (1) characterizing risk phenotypes for specific health disparities populations (e.g., rural, racial/ethnic minorities, low socioeconomic status); (2) understanding the impact of early life exposures (e.g., prenatal, family, and community environments) on later life chronic disease risk; and (3) developing and testing health behavior change interventions to disseminate into clinical practice. To address these research areas, the lab performs prospective and retrospective epidemiologic studies, conducts behavioral clinical trials, and collaborates with basic scientists to identify the mechanisms through which health disparities emerge. These interrelated approaches allow us to translate mechanistic and phenotypic findings into targeted behavioral interventions, which have the capacity to maximize health outcomes.