Morgan Clennin, PhD, MPH

Scientific Research Associate

Morgan Clennin, PhD, MPH, is a Scientific Research Associate at the Institute for Health Research. Her research interests include examining the influence of social and structural determinants of health and neighborhood environments on the development of chronic disease, with a focus on cardiovascular health and disparities. My dissertation examined the associations between neighborhood deprivation, cardiorespiratory fitness, and physical activity in youth. My training and research experiences have included: 1) measurement of built, social, and socioeconomic environment, including neighborhood deprivation; 2) conducting social epidemiology research utilizing population-based data sources and medical record data; 3) secondary data analysis employing diverse analytic methods including multilevel and longitudinal modeling approaches; and 4) evaluating natural experiments of community-driven health equity structural interventions.

Dr. Clennin serves as principal investigator or co-investigator for several research and evaluation projects, has authored nearly three dozen peer-reviewed publications and delivered over thirty-five presentations at professional conferences. She also collaborates with the Physical Activity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (PAPREN) and the Colorado Cardiovascular Outcomes Research (C-COR) Consortium.

Dr. Clennin earned her PhD in Exercise Science with an emphasis on social epidemiology and health disparities from the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. She completed her Master of Public Health from Saint Louis University with an emphasis in Behavior Science and Epidemiology. Currently, Dr. Clennin is applying for a career development award (CDA) that will provide essential training, resources, and protected time to support her transition to an independent investigator. The proposed project will harness novel data sources and interdisciplinary methods to examine social and structural determinants of disparities in cardiovascular disease risk. The goal of this research is to identify the unique structural determinants and exposures that explain why disparities emerge and how experiences with racial discrimination, structural racism, and neighborhood attributes intersect to influence disparities in cardiovascular disease risk.

Selected Research:

  • American Heart Association Career Development Award: The ELEVATED Study: Elevated BLood PressurE: A MultileVel Assessment of sTructural racism, nEighborhood inequalities, and Disparities
  • Elevated blood pressure (BP) is the most prevalent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The proposed research will leverage KP cohort data to address the following specific aims: 1) determine the extent to which structural conditions contributes to racial and ethnic disparities in BP; and 2) determine the extent to which cumulative neighborhood inequalities influence the relationship between structural racism and BP disparities. A better understanding of the root causes driving BP disparities will help identify ways to develop targeted clinic-based strategies and community-level interventions. This Career Development Award will provide the candidate, Dr. Morgan Clennin, with the opportunity to augment her expertise in neighborhood environment assessment and social epidemiology with new training in (1) decomposition modeling to understand how multilevel SR influence BP outcomes; and (2) time-varying spatial modeling to account for cumulative neighborhood exposures.

    • Funder: American Heart Association
    • Study End Date: 03/31/2025

  • Evaluating Community-Driven Healthy Equity Structural interventions to Address Social Determinants of Health
  • The CDPHE Office of Health Equity funds two separate grant programs under the Health Disparity and Community Grant Program (HDCGP, two programs under a single contract):

    • The first grant program funded 14 lead agencies with multi-sector partnerships to implement evidence-based strategies to overcome health disparities in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases in underrepresented populations by working on systems and policy changes that are community led. Community organizations were funded by the Health Disparities and Community Grant Program (Amendment 35). The goal of this evaluation was to conduct a comprehensive evaluation to assess 1) how the grant program built community power through authentic community engagement, capacity building, and establishing strategic and diverse partnerships; 2) the extent to which improved community power advanced progress towards policy, system, and environmental (PSE) changes to improve social infrastructure (e.g., housing insecurity, food insecurity, unemployment); and 3) the impact of achieved PSE changes on access to upstream social and economic resources (that will eventually lead to improved health outcomes and reduced health inequities and disparities).
    • The second grant program provided funding to 30 community and grassroots organizations to develop local plans and capacity toward achieving health equity. Goal is to create a foundation to improve social infrastructure and health outcomes that eventually lead to the reduction of health inequities and disparities. Funds are explicitly intended for projects that create and/or launch a foundation for making changes to public, systems-level, and/or organizational practices, rules, laws, and regulations that influence the health of underrepresented communities. Using the power ecosystem framework, the goal of this project is to conduct a comprehensive evaluation to document how grantees’ build community power and resilience; develop community-led, collaborative solutions that contribute to systemic change; and shift power in communities.

    • Funder: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, Office of Health Equity
    • Study End Date: 06/30/2024

  • Evaluating Colorado regulations that grant cities the authority to support the safe and equitable operation of mobile home communities
  • Newly enacted Colorado HB1309, 1196, and 1201 require the Colorado Division of Housing to institute new regulations for manufactured housing parks and grants cities the authority to enact ordinances that support the safe and equitable operation of these communities. This study will evaluate the implementation process and impact of these policies in 3 different Colorado communities. The first aim is to use a case study approach and conduct a policy implementation evaluation of all 3 policies to determine how implementation varied across three diverse Colorado communities. The second aim is to use a cross-sectional pre-post design to assess the impact of all 3 policies on housing security, safety, and affordability in all 3 communities. This study will fill a gap in the literature by assessing how these statewide policies are implemented in three different small to moderate-sized communities and the impact of the policy on the housing security of the residents who live there.

    • Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    • Study End Date: 01/31/2023

  • Office of Health Equity’s (OHE) Health Disparities and Community Grant Program (HDGP) Evaluation
  • The Office of Health Equity’s (OHE) Health Disparities and Community Grant Program (HDGP) is providing support to agencies across Colorado to address upstream determinants of health (e.g., housing, education) with the goal of improving downstream health outcomes (e.g., access to care, decreased chronic disease rates). Grantees are focusing on changing systems and policies that affect the upstream determinants of health. The goal of the The goal of the project is to evaluate community-driven health equity structural interventions by designing and implementing utilization-focused evaluation to assess the impact of the initiative on systems and policies, equitable access to resources and health disparities. The main outcomes of the evaluation are documenting shifts in the availability, accessibility, and acceptability of social and economic resources.

    • Funder: Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, Office of Health Equity
    • Award End Date: 06/30/2023

  • Transforming Food Systems: Evaluating pathways to scale up the Healthy Food Incentives program
  • The Colorado Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Produce Box program aims to reduce food insecurity and increase access to healthy and nutritious foods. This program is a local initiative to provide fresh, high-quality produce directly from local growers to participating WIC households. While the program demonstrated success, little is known about how to effectively scale up the program and how program expansion might impact the distribution of locally sourced healthy produce. To address this gap, Nourish Colorado and Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Research are employing a mixed methods evaluation approach to identify: 1) how participation in this program impacts suppliers; 2) strategies for scaling the delivery of the program; and 3) potential leverage points for policy interventions to support suppliers continued commitment to support such of programs. Local growers will be actively engaged in the evaluation and help identify viable strategies to scale up the program. Our findings will generate actionable evidence to guide the transformation of local food systems and identifying sustainable pathways to translate an evidence-based healthy food incentives program into practice.

    • Funder: National Institutes of Health/National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences
    • Award End Date: 04/2023

  • An evaluation of a healthy food incentives program to addressing food insecurity among Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Households
  • The Colorado Nutrition Incentive Program aims to increase access to and consumption of Colorado grown fresh produce by women, children, and older adults experiencing economic insecurity. Local agencies purchase CSA shares (or produce boxes) from local growers and provide families in need with a weekly supply of produce. The overall goals of the evaluation are to: 1) inform future implementation and expansion of the produce box program by conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the reach and impact of the program among WIC households; and 2) generate supporting data for policy advocacy efforts aiming to improve the availability and accessibility of nutritious foods among WIC households.

    • Funder: Nourish Colorado
    • Award End Date: 01/2023