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Drexel SPH Receives Autism Speaks Grant

Funding to Help Improve Autism Risk Communication

January 13, 2014

Researchers from the Drexel University School of Public Health recently received a $65,000 grant from Autism Speaks to lead the study “Improving Environmental Risk Communication in Autism Spectrum Disorders.”  The grant was awarded to Michael Yudell, PhD, MPH, an associate professor (below left), and John Rossi, VMD, MBioethics, an assistant professor (below right).

Michael YudellThe award is part of $2.7M in recent grants from Autism Speaks as part of its Early Access to Care initiative, which is designed to reduce the average age of diagnosis and increase access to high-quality early intervention for all children affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  Autism Speaks notes the grants will also advance the understanding of autism’s environmental risk factors, and continue the development of effective and accessible treatments for ASD and its related medical conditions.

“Our Scientific Review Panel has recommended each application after thoughtfully considering critical reviews by expert panels of external reviewers, including community advocates,” says Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Rob Ring. “The funded work in this group of projects touches upon some of the most important areas of unmet need facing the autism community today, including the issue of wandering, the safety of new treatments and the effective delivery of services to low-resource communities,” Dr. Ring adds.

John RossiAs part of the study at the School of Public Health, Yudell and Rossi will assess views and understanding of autism risk factors among families, researchers, clinicians, self-advocates and the wider public. The project’s findings will help Autism Speaks ensure that it is conveying new scientific information about autism risk in ways that best meet the needs of the autism community.

Yudell’s work seeks to document historically stigmatized populations, the challenges they face in public health and medicine, and how this history impacts contemporary health challenges.  He also explores the ethical issues associated with ASD, including risk communication and health disparities.  His next book, Race Unmasked: A 20th Century Struggle to Define Human Difference (forthcoming, Columbia University Press), examines the way in which biologists and geneticists shaped the race concept during the 20th century from eugenics to the sequencing of the human genome.

Rossi is active in graduate and undergraduate teaching, and his research interests include animal ethics, as well as the public health issues involved in animal-based food production and animal-human disease environments.

For a description of all grant abstracts announced by Autism Speaks visit the Autism Speaks Science Grant Search page.