History and Overview

Lehigh University Community Health Research Group  South Bethlehem
Lehigh University is situated on the south side of Bethlehem, PA, a small city of approximately 75,000 people in eastern Pennsylvania and a former center of the steel industry, which attracted a diverse workforce to the Lehigh Valley region. Like many other towns and cities across the country, Bethlehem has been hit hard over the past several decades by the decline of its predominant industry. Today, the region is working to reinvent itself, but some segments of the population are faring better than others. There remain significant disparities in health and other outcomes that many organizations, including Lehigh University, are committed to reducing.
The Community Health Research Group capitalizes on a number of Lehigh’s key strengths – a recognized leadership role in a stable regional population of significant ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, existing ties to the health and healthcare communities, both locally and globally, and strong faculty in areas of environmental health, global health, emotional and behavioral health, and school-based intervention. Two existing centers at Lehigh support our research in community health. First, Lehigh’s Social Science Research Center (SSRC) supports both qualitative and quantitative research. The SSRC has been collaborating with local community health stakeholders for several years now, including St. Luke’s University Health Network, the Weller Center for Health Education, and Diakon Lutheran Services. Second, Lehigh’s Center for Developing Urban Educational Leaders (CDUEL), whose goal is to close the achievement gap between low income urban schools and their suburban counterparts, has strong relationships with schools that will support research related to health disparity. Furthermore, Lehigh’s existing partnerships with local health organizations such as hospitals, several mental health agencies, and the two health bureaus, as well as collaborations with organizations such as the Hispanic Center, and the School Districts, offer fertile ground for research in community health and the role of education, both for adults and children, as a means of promoting a healthy community. The Lehigh Valley is just large enough to be studied as a system, and just small enough for research to be comprehensive. Lehigh University’s growing international footprint, including our status as an NGO at the UN, provides opportunities for community health research in similarly sized communities in different cultural, political, and geographical settings. 
Beyond its research focus, the Community Health Research Group is committed to advancing Lehigh's educational mission. The new faculty will have joint appointments in the Health, Medicine, and Society Program, and in the relevant department. Together the new faculty will help Lehigh to meet widespread student interest in public health and to respond to the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ (AACU) goal to promote health literacy in higher education. The national shift in health policy from disease to prevention will create jobs for students with training in public health methodology. Our community health focus will open those opportunities for Lehigh students. Specifically, the hires will allow us to offer courses such as Introduction to Public Health, Epidemiology, Quantitative Health Analysis Methods, Community Based Participatory Research, Environmental Health, Community Health and Public Policy, and School-Based Health Strategies. Students in undergraduate programs such as Health, Medicine, and Society and Global Studies, as well as those in various graduate programs, such as the Community Fellows program, the Environmental Policy Design Masters program, Psychology, Sociology/Anthropology, Counseling Psychology, and School Psychology, will all benefit.

Community Health Research Group  |  Maginnes Hall, Room 490  |  9 West Packer Avenue  |  Bethlehem, PA 18015  |  phone 610-758-3996  |  fax 610-758-6232