Public and Community Health

VTIPG has several projects underway aimed at evaluating the efficacy of existing community health and mental health policy strategies. In addition, Institute and affiliated faculty and graduate students along with their partners are developing transdisciplinary collaborations that seek to create more effective interventions to avert and mitigate the ravages of a number of diseases common in many developing nations.  A good share of this research is concerned with contextualizing the use of known technologies and technical tools so as to ensure that their use achieves the maximum benefits feasible given the constraints imposed by social, political, cultural and economic conditions.

Research & Outreach

VTIPG-VBI Health and Infectious Disease Research in Africa: Phase I

VTIPG and the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) are jointly exploring the possibility of initiating a partnership-based project focused on health and infectious disease research in sub Saharan Africa. The goal is to build an effective and sustainable international research and outreach partnership between stakeholder organizations that share a commitment to mitigating the devastating effects of infectious disease in Africa.  The partnership brings together unique capacities of each participating organization to collaborate in the production of impact oriented trans-disciplinary research. Research efforts will be joined with complementary outreach and education activities designed to maximize the relevance and benefits of the research for those populations most in need.

Currently, the partnership is in the exploratory/project design phase spanning through January 2009. The team will embark on visits to Mali and Mozambique October 2008.

Assistance to Virginia’s Lead-Safe Program

In 2008, VTIPG will continue its work with the Virginia Department of Health’s Lead-Safe Virginia Program.  The goal of the Lead-Safe Virginia Program is to eliminate childhood lead poisoning.  This work is part of a national goal to eliminate childhood lead poisoning by 2010.  Under the principal investigation of Dr. Renee Loeffler, VTIPG provides a variety of program evaluation and consultation services to VDH in response to specific needs identified by the Lead-Safe Virginia Program.

A Proposal to Assess Human Resource Efficacy and Per Diem Rate Sensitivity for the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services

Led by Mary Beth Dunkenberger, VTIPG is  assessing the current environment of human resource capacities and per diem rates of state facilities to guide the efficient and effective distribution of resources among the 15 state mental health facilities. Informed by the current context and national best practices, the Department wishes to evaluate staffing levels, patient acuity and external workforce dynamics and other factors impacting per diem rates at state facilities, to determine a range of staffing ratios and other cost assumptions for serving the Department’s constituency populations.  While administrative data is available on state facilities, the accuracy of this information will be verified, with each facility’s context and needs taken into account.  To assist DMHMRSAS as it addresses policy implementation and management decisions, VTIPG’s role is to identify national best practices and perform comparative research to identify key quality indicators used by other states that relate to efficient and effective staffing levels; to conduct analysis and verification of existing administrative data based on clinical level of care and the population being served; and identify factors that affect per diem rate sensitivity.  Finally, VTIPG will develop recommendations for next steps to model and establish efficient and effective staffing levels for the Department’s facilities.

New River Valley Regional Water Plan

VTIPG partnered with the New River Valley Planning District Commission was awarded a grant that reflects a collaborative project between the PDC and VTIPG to begin the preliminary feasibility analysis for development of a regional water plan in the New River Valley. The $102,000 initial grant should lead to subsequent monies being provided by other granting institutions and local governments. This grant has been extended for an additional year for $140,000 to further develop the governance structure and administrative arrangements to create the regional water authority. VTIPG is currently preparing a grant proposal that will fund this project for an additional year and fund the preparation of a Preliminary Engineering Report for construction of the project. Faculty and students from Virginia Tech’s Center for Geospatial Information Technology have been and will continue to be engaged in this important project.

Local DSS Agency Medicaid Provider Feasibility Study

VTIPG was recently notified that a $375,000 Medicaid feasibility study will be funded by VDSS beginning in January 2005. This study will evaluate the potential for licensing local DSS agencies as Medicaid providers to increase access to Medicaid benefits and to reduce local costs of providing health care to disadvantaged citizens.

Southwest Virginia Regional Wastewater Study

VTIPG has been selected by Lamar Dunn & Associates, Inc. to participate in a regional wastewater study within the LENOWISCO, Mount Rogers and Cumberland Gap Planning District Commissions. This study will evaluate the potential for regionalization and expansion of existing wastewater collection and treatment systems and the creation of a regional authority to manage these systems. Significant cost savings are expected and much improved surface and ground water quality as a result of these findings. Total initial project cost is $192,000.

Conferences, Symposia and Workshops

2008 SECOPA Conference, Orlando, Florida

Researchers Mary Beth Dunkenberger, Bryce Hoflund, Sujit Subramani, and Nancy White from VTIPG will present their paper at the SECOPA Conference held September 2008 in Orlando, Florida. Entitled: “The Changing Role of State Mental Health and Mental Retardation Facilities in Virginia: Policy and Management Impacts and Challenges,” the paper reports the changing role of state facilities in the continuum of care as the Commonwealth continues to devolve the responsibility for the provision and delivery of services to the community, identifies some of the challenges confronting Virginia’s mental health system, and examines how the facilities’ changing role might impact future policy decisions for state and local governments.

Hosted by the Central Florida Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and the Department of Public Administration at University of Central Florida, the 2008 conference will focus on “Surviving Change, Fostering Excellence, and Enhancing Innovation in Public Administration.”

For more information on the 2008 SECOPA conference visit

2008 Transdisciplinarity Conference, Zurich, Switzerland

The Transdisciplinarity Conference held November 2008 in Zurich, Switzerland will focus on problem framing, a key component in inter- and transdisciplinary research. Despite increases in transdisciplinary research, methods of interrelating a diversity of perspectives through a collective process, a crucial role in problem framing, is not well understood. The conference will host individuals and teams to share their experiences in the field.

Dr. Max Stephenson Jr., Director for VTIPG, Bruno Sobral, Executive and Scientific Director for the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI), Virginia Tech, and Derren Rosbach, Doctoral Research Associate for VBI & VTIPG have submitted a paper to be presented at the conference. Entitled: “Unpacking the ‘Black Box’: Charting the Dynamics of Problem Framing for Transdisciplinary Research,” the paper addresses their experience with problem framing during their transdisciplinary research in developing efforts to reduce infectious disease in Sub Sahara Africa. The paper also aims to address concerns of future researchers regarding group conceptualization during inter- and transdisciplinary research.

For more information on inter- and transdisciplinary research and the 2008 Transdisciplinarity Conference visit