NIH Grant

Schweitzer Earns New National Institutes of Health Award

By Ben Dimapindan

Lisa Schweitzer

A team of researchers, including faculty from across the University of Southern California, received a $505,000 award from the National Institutes of Health for a new project titled, “Access to Scientific Information and Services for Latino Families with Autistic Children.”

The research team consists of representatives from: the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development; Keck School of Medicine of USC; department of biomedical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering; Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; and a community partner, Fiesta Educativa — a nonprofit organization that provides information, training and advocacy services to persons with disabilities as well as their families.

According to SPPD Assistant Professor Lisa Schweitzer, “The project will evaluate the access that Spanish-speaking families with autistic children have to programs and services for their children. We’re hoping to find out how to make it easier for families to get what they need and how to help Fiesta Educativa best deliver services to families in need.”

Schweitzer, whose areas of research encompass social inclusion, social justice and urban systems, explained that her focus for this project will be to examine how different urban environments in Los Angeles either contribute to or detract from a family’s ability to participate in programs for their special-needs children.

“My project is geographic,” she said. “I want to figure out if certain types of neighborhood environments make it easier for families to be able to get to Fiesta programs, the school, the doctor, etc. In short, do urban environments provide the right resources for families with autistic children, and how do families shape the environments they are in to get what they need?”

Schweitzer added that partnering with fellow researchers from other USC schools always presents a valuable learning opportunity.

“The great thing about interdisciplinary research is that you can work with people who care about the same issues you do, but from different perspectives,” she said.

In addition, Schweitzer noted that the National Institutes of Health award not only speaks to the quality of work at USC, but also reflects the solutions-oriented research of SPPD.

“The university has tremendous people across the campus, and … SPPD is a thriving unit,” Schweitzer said. “SPPD is exactly the type of environment where I think innovation occurs — a place where people care about ideas, each other and the opportunity to do research that contributes to making life better.”

Photo by Tom Queally