Wakeel opened the “Data Science for Social Good” session at 1 p.m. with her talk: “Framing Population Health Disparities during COVID-19 Pandemic Using Maternal and Child Health Epidemiological Approaches.”
Her presentation addressed how maternal and child health theory and methods can inform multidisciplinary data science practices to improve the health of individuals across the life course and promote health equity among all segments of the population.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted vulnerable populations, including racial and ethnic minorities, low-income individuals, the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with underlying chronic physical and mental health conditions,” says Wakeel. “While services are focused on responding to the immediate needs of communities―and rightly so― we have an opportunity to harness data to examine the long-term and multidimensional impacts of the pandemic on vulnerable populations and leverage that data to improve health outcomes.”
Among the approaches Wakeel proposed were: investing in longitudinal research; examining and linking multiple determinants of health; applying a systems thinking approach; validating measures among vulnerable groups and focusing on optimizing health and resilience.
“It is particularly important to shift our focus as population health researchers from risk to protective factors and resilience in communities,” says Wakeel. “Instead of solely seeking to minimize risk, we must invest in promoting optimal and holistic health trajectories and take into consideration the relationships between individual, interpersonal, community and systemic level factors that impact health.”
Wakeel has 20 years of academic and research training in the Maternal and Child Health field. She is one of the first researchers to conceptualize and operationalize the construct of personal capital and examine its relationships with stress and adverse obstetric outcomes.
“My long-term research goal is to conceptualize and measure personal capital, which women may draw upon to help reduce their exposure to or cope with stress and achieve healthy perinatal outcomes,” says Wakeel. “Importantly, by learning what these resources are, how they may differ among different cultural, racial/ethnic, and socioeconomic groups of women, and how they develop across the life course, we can develop programs and policies that help build personal capital among vulnerable groups of women and ultimately promote health equity at the population level.”