Carrie Leach, Ph.D., M.P.A., is an Assistant Professor (Research) at the Institute of Gerontology and a Leader of Community Engagement at the Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors (CURES) at Wayne State University. Dr. Leach has considerable experience in inter-disciplinary research in a variety of settings with expertise in health communication, environmental health literacy, and community-based and aging services delivery and communication. Her scholarly activity has focused on partnering with organizational leaders and community residents to evaluate and examine the needs of more than 5,500 older adults across Michigan to translate findings into actionable improvements in aging and community-based services practice and policy.
Over the past decade, Dr. Leach has been a leader in community engagement, currently with the Community Engagement Core (CEC) in the NIEHS P30 Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors (CURES) at Wayne State University. She helped develop and maintain a Community Advisory Board (CAB) for the CEC and helps plan and carry out the community engagement strategy focused on education and advocacy. She led a systematic program assessment of CURES’ CEC activities.
Through her work with the CEC she developed a participatory process for the CAB and CURES researchers to co-construct community-engaged programs and multi-media informational materials that are matched to the needs and circumstances of Detroit residents. Over the past six years, those efforts resulted in disseminating health-protecting information to more than 5,000 Detroit residents through face-to-face interactions and thousands more through print and electronic communications.
Dr. Leach’s work in community engagement and environmental health communication strongly influenced expanding her research from interpersonal dynamics to embracing an ecological view. Her dissertation utilized a community-based, participatory research (CBPR) approach to understand and characterize the dynamics of a “communication ecology” in late old age and how those dynamics impede and enable the flow of information about aging services. Dr. Leach’s research resulted in a multi-level community action plan to help bridge the senior-service provider communication gap. She found that the participatory process was key for reaching vulnerable and hard-to-reach older adults who would most benefit from the needed community resources.
Carrie is driven by her commitment to reduce health and communication disparities by developing community-driven solutions that are co-developed with communities for their betterment. She has shown that active participation increases the public’s interest and capacity to engage with science, fosters connections and co-learning among researchers and Detroiters impacted by environmental health issues, and helps research inform multi-level decision making.
- Ph.D., Health Communication, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 2019
- M.P.A., Master of Public Administration, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 2009
- B.A., Communication, Madonna University, Livonia, MI, 2004
- A.A., Liberal Arts, Schoolcraft College, Livonia, MI, 1997
Awards and grants
Support in Past Five Years
Title: Enhancing Digital Literacy and Access in Detroit, 2021
Source: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, State of Michigan, $210,931
Role: Principal Investigator
Title: Maternal inflammation and Environmental Toxicants: Investigating the Associations and Needs of Detroit Women, 2020-2022
Source: NIEHS P30ES020957 CURES Pilot Project Program, $65,000
Title: Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors, Community Engagement Core, 2017-2022
Source: NIEHS P30ES020957, $163,807 (current year)
Role: Community Engagement Program Manager
Title: Advancing Health Equity: The Impact of Coronavirus Now and In the Future, Community Engaged Research Symposium, 2020
Source: Office of the Vice President for Research, Wayne State University, $25,067
Role: Co-Principal Investigator
Title: Enhancing Digital Literacy and Access in Detroit, 2020
Source: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, State of Michigan, $303,798
Role: Principal Investigator
Title: Supporting Multidirectional Dialogue Between Environmental Health Science Scientists and Decision Makers, 2017-2018
Source: NIEHS PA-17-317, $46,706
Role: Project Lead
Communicating and Disseminating Environmental Health Science
Environmental Health in Detroit
PH4400: Methodological Approaches to Public Health
Dr. Leach not only values community engagement with research, but also sees a place for it in the classroom. Through collaboration with community contacts at the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine (BCHS), she arranged for undergraduate students in her fall 2019 PH4400 Methodological Approaches to Public Health course, to develop and pilot mock study instruments used to survey and in the conduct of 10 individual focus groups with nearly 80 high school juniors. The study reported the findings of the knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of E-cigarette study and harms to BCHS students who were provided with criteria that they used to evaluate and score the results presented in poster form when the WSU methods students returned a few weeks later.