Virginia Journal of Public Health Features Research Directed by Hollins Professor

Abubakarr Jalloh

Two research projects led by a Hollins University professor have been published by the official journal of the Virginia Public Health Association.

“Learning Modalities and Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Literature Review,” a paper coauthored by Assistant Professor of Public Health Abubakarr Jalloh and Annie Morgan ’22, and “Examining the [Social] Determinants of Health Among Immigrant and Refugee Families: Lessons Learned from the Field,” a poster presentation by Jalloh, appear in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of the peer-reviewed Virginia Journal of Public Health.

“Learning Modalities and Mental Health During COVID-19” grew out of Jalloh and Morgan’s faculty-student research fellowship at Hollins in 2021. With an emphasis on Virginia, they looked at the potential impact of learning modalities (in person/face-to-face, virtual/online, or a hybrid of the two) during the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of K-12 students between March 2020 and May 2021. The authors examined 39 data sources, including health and educational sources from two government agencies and three school districts in southwest Virginia.

“The literature reviewed for this study suggests a possible link between some learning modalities and K-12 students’ mental health during the pandemic,” the authors conclude. “While virtual instruction was more likely to lead to negative mental or emotional health (including anxiety, depression, sense of helplessness, isolation, and others), the literature implies a possible link between in-person learning and positive mental health for students, which may be attributed to social interaction and receiving mental health services at school. Hybrid learning has been the least studied of all learning modalities. [It] may be a critical component in addressing the gaps described with virtual and in-person instruction.”

Jalloh and Morgan say their study’s findings should be interpreted “with caution because they are not based on a correlational research design, and thus cannot establish a relationship between any particular learning modality and mental health outcomes. More research is needed in Virginia and across the country to foster our understanding of the potential impact of different learning modalities…in order to come up with recommendations on best practices with a focus on addressing students’ mental health.”

“Examining the [Social] Determinants of Health Among Immigrant and Refugee Families: Lessons Learned from the Field” reflects Jalloh’s extensive background working with immigrant/refugee families, students, and out-of-school youth from diverse ethnicities and nationalities. He drew upon his first-hand experience with migrant agricultural workers across Iowa and his collaborative endeavors with healthcare providers in bridging the gap that often emerges due to sociocultural differences between migrant families and local healthcare providers.

“These families frequently move across the U.S. in search of agricultural work,” Jalloh explains in the poster presentation’s abstract. “This migration exposes them to a myriad of challenges and opportunities related to social determinants of health.”

Jalloh cites the language barrier; deficits in insurance, transportation, and information about how and where to access essential social services; and confusion regarding medical and dental bills as some of the primary obstacles faced by migrant agricultural workers in Iowa. Still, most migrant workers in the state reported gains they had made regarding income, improved educational options for their children, a greater ability to support families back home with money, and meeting new people from different places and learning about other cultures.

“Understanding the social determinants of health that impact the lives of migrant agricultural workers and families would help tailor public health interventions, policies, and social services to address the unique challenges experienced by this underserved population,” Jalloh noted. “For example, providing affordable housing and better working conditions are critical to improve their livelihoods and health outcomes.” He stresses the need for further studies of migrant workers’ experiences to better understand their needs.