​Hartford, Connecticut, November 20, 2017—Trinity College Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy & Law Abigail Fisher Williamson is a co-investigator on a research study that has been awarded a $699,960 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The AmeRicans’ Conceptions of Health Equity Study (ARCHES) will examine how Americans of diverse socioeconomic, professional, and racial/ethnic backgrounds think about equity and deservingness in the health domain. Sarah S. Willen, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Connecticut, is the principal investigator. Williamson and Colleen Walsh, an assistant professor of health sciences at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio, are co-investigators.

Trinity College Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy and Law Abigail Fisher Williamson. ​Photo by Antonio Rocha Portraits

The grant will support a two-phase study that launched in October and will run until October 2019. The researchers plan to investigate how Americans think about a question that plays a “pivotal but largely implicit role in American public discourse about society’s obligations to its members” – the question of “who deserves what in the health domain, and why.”

“Public health professionals often assert that ‘everyone deserves to live a healthy life,’ but we don’t know whether most Americans actually agree with that statement,” Williamson said. “Healthcare reform has been divisive in recent years, and unexamined attitudes about who is and is not seen as deserving could have something to do with that.”

In the first study phase, the research team will engage residents of Ohio’s Greater Cleveland area using interviews and ethnographic methods. A key partner in the study’s first phase is HIP-Cuyahoga (Health Improvement Partnership-Cuyahoga), a county-wide health equity initiative in Greater Cleveland. In the second phase, Williamson will lead the team in testing findings from Cleveland through a national survey.

The study will also draw on the expertise of researchers at Brown University, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Cleveland State University, Syracuse University, the University of South Florida, and the Sisters of Charity Foundation.

Williamson sees a clear connection between this research project and her teaching at Trinity. “There is growing student interest in healthcare policy, and I hope to bring what I learn back to the classroom,” she explained. Williamson said that Trinity students will also gain valuable experience as student research assistants as they learn to transcribe interviews and compile literature reviews for this project.

In addition to ARCHES, in 2015, Williamson began work on a study called “The U.S. Municipal Responses to Immigrants Survey,” supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The nationwide survey and analysis of findings gathered information from 1,000 towns about their formal and informal interactions with immigrants. To read more about that survey, click here.

Written by Kyle M. McGrath ’18

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.