Carrie Leach, Ph.D. is a Research Assistant Professor at the Institute of Gerontology, Co-Director of Community Engagement at the Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors (CURES), and Associate Center Director for Community Inclusion at the Center for Health Equity and Community Knowledge in Urban Populations (CHECK-UP) at Wayne State University. Dr. Leach has expertise in health communication, participatory and action research, digital and 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. 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 process for community stakeholders and CURES researchers to co-construct "Environmental Health Chats" multi-media informational materials aimed at improving environmental health literacy of Detroit residents. Over the past six years, those efforts resulted in disseminating health-protecting information to more than 5,000 Detroiters through face-to-face interactions and thousands more through print and digital media.
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 to communication inequities that play a role in health disparities. 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, Non-Profit Policy and Leadership concentration, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, 2009
B.A., Communication, Madonna University, Livonia, MI, 2004
Research Project TitleBridging the Divide: Fostering Partnerships for Urban African-American Aging Research
Research Project Linkhttps://www.pcori.org/research-results/2022/bridging-divide-fostering-partnerships-urban-african-american-aging-research
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 separate focus groups with nearly 80 high school juniors. The study reported the findings of the knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of E-cigarette 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.
Bridging the Divide: Fostering Partnerships for Urban African American Aging Research
Funding Source: Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Community Engagement Capacity Building Award, $250,000
Goals: To build the capacity of older adults to participate and partner in research by delivering digital and research literacy materials and training co-developed in partnership with WSU researchers and aging and community health advocates; develop an older adult driven research agenda based on the communities’ most pressing research questions.
Role: Principal Investigator
More Than a Divide?: Exploring the Challenges Older Adults Experience Engaging with Health Services and Information in a Digitally Disconnected Urban Environment
Funding Source: Michigan Center for Urban African-American Aging Research (MCUAAAR) via National Institutes of Health (NIH) & National Institute of Aging (NIA), $40,000 (DC)
Goals: Examine how older adults perceive and experience digital exclusion and the multiple levels of influence in connecting with health services and information in the digital environment; assess older adults needs and challenges related to using devices, and barriers and facilitating forces that influence use
Role: Principal Investigator
Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors (CURES) Community Engagement Core (CEC)
Funding Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), P30ES020957 (PI: Runge-Morris, Cole-Johnson)
Role: Co-Investigator, Community Engagement Co-Director
Center for Health Equity and Community Knowledge in Urban Populations (CHECK-UP)
Funding Source: CVS Health (PI: Thompson), $300,000 (TC)
Goals: Accelerate community-academic research partnerships by facilitating collaboration to improve health outcomes and reduce barriers to achieving health equity in Detroit.
NCIRD COVID-19 Vaccination Supplement 4: Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute (MI-DDI)
Funding Source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) COVID-19 Vaccination Supplement, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Immunizations Division (PI: Milberger)
Goals: Increase the number of vaccinated people with disabilities, along with their family members and caregivers; people who are homebound or isolated; people with transportation limitations; and people living in communities with high social vulnerability index.
Infrastructure to Establish the Center for Health Equity and Community Knowledge in Urban Populations (CHECK-UP)
Goals: To lay an infrastructure that will help to address barriers to health equity and build the capacity of researchers and community stakeholders to engage in collaborative investigations driven by community concerns and questions
Funding Source: WSU (PI: Thompson), $150,000 (Annual DC)
Role: Associate Center Director for Community Inclusion
Gerontological Society of America
National Communication Association
American Public Health Association
American Society on Aging
Michigan Public Health Association
Indicates community expert co-author
Leach, C., Schulz, A., Schroeck, N., Lawrence, S., Williams, G., Sand, S., Bewaji, O., & Fuchs-Young, R. (2023). Multi-directional communication between decision makers and environmental health researchers: A qualitative inquiry. Environmental Hazards: Human & Policy Dimensions, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2023.2256727
Leach, C., Novak, J., Jankowski, T., Pierce, S. & Lapan, P. (2023). An exploration of the communication dynamics of the hard-to-reach: Considering disintegration of a communication infrastructure in old age. International Journal of Communication, 17, 5781–5801. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/21006/4323
Schroeck, N. & Leach, C. (2023). The exacerbating role of technical and connectivity challenges on older Detroiters’ health in a pandemic. Seattle Journal of Technology, Environmental & Innovation Law, Vol. 13: Iss.12, Article 1. https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/sjteil/vol13/iss2/1 PMCID: PMC10287550
Leach, C. & Geary, C. (2022). Opportunities and outcomes of centering older adults in patient-oriented and community-engaged research. Innovation in Aging, 20;6(Suppl 1):367. [Abstract] https://doi.org/10.1093/geroni/igac059.1449
Leach, C. & Jankowski, T. (2022). Exploring communication disparities in late old age through the lens of communication infrastructure theory, Innovation in Aging, 20;6(Suppl 1):585. [Abstract] https://doi.org/10.1093/geroni/igac059.2195
Leach, C., Schroeck, N., Blessman, J., Rorai, V., Cooper-Sargent, M., Lichtenberg, P. & Trentacosta, C. (2022). Engaged communication of environmental health science: Processes and outcomes of urban academic-community partnerships. Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 21, 7-22. doi: 10.1080/1533015X.2021.1930609 PMCID: PMC9037758
Lichtenberg, P., Leach, C., Smith, B., Schroeck, N. & Blessman, J. (2017). Co-constructing environmental stewardship: A Detroit-driven participatory approach. Public Policy & Aging Report, 27(1), 37-39. doi:10.1093/ppar/prw026 PMCID: PMC8865391