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Community Psychology and Healthcare

PhD student Taylor Swenski conducts research at the intersection of community psychology and healthcare.

​Taylor Swenski, doctoral student in Community Psychology, is interested in the connection between mental and physical health and the community structures that can help support both people of color and those in disadvantaged groups. Her research focus ranges from health equity and environmental justice to food sovereignty and youth development.

Swenski recently defended her master's thesis on the effects of physical activity coping on academic stress in adolescents. She was interested in knowing whether physical activity is effective as a coping mechanism in reducing stress and concomitant depression and anxiety. After accounting for factors like environmental risk and fitness resources in adolescents' homes, schools, and neighborhoods, Swenski discovered that physical activity coping did mitigate the effects of academic stress on depression - but only in the context of high levels of risk in school settings. The findings reveal the interaction of individual and structural variables in predicting mental illness. Swenski's full thesis can be found here.

Swenski has also looked at other risk factors for stress, including disease. In a recent article in European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, Swenski collaborated with health practitioners and colleagues from Ohio State University and Kent State University to look at the progression of disease-related stress in congenital heart disease survivors over a 6-year period. The study found that advanced age, lower income, and functional limitations predicted higher increases in disease-related stress among adolescents.

Another study looked at community efforts to reduce food insecurity in vulnerable Chicago neighborhoods in the wake of COVID-19, through the Grow Your Groceries (GYG) Home Gardening program at Chicago Grows Food, a local grassroots food justice organization. GYG home gardening kits were distributed on the South, Southwest, and West Sides of Chicago to Black and Latinx communities with the greatest risk of food insecurity. Focus groups and surveys revealed improvements in healthy food consumption, access, and community connection. The study was published in Journal of Community Health.