Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert has been awarded a Stanford Impact Lab Design Fellowship to broaden his research into infectious disease in prisons and jail, many of whose residents are members of racial and ethnic minorities and have worse health outcomes than non-incarcerated populations.
Goldhaber-Fiebert, PhD, has built a robust team of researchers in his SC-COSMO modeling consortium — including other Stanford Health Policy faculty and graduate students — to conduct sophisticated primary data analyses and to create mathematical models designed to prevent and project how COVID-19 will impact California state prisons and other populations.
Members of the consortium have published more than a dozen research papers during the pandemic and continue to advise the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“Over the past 15 months, I have pivoted my long-term research agenda to focus on COVID-19 policy, prioritizing projects that directly connect to and work with governmental entities,” said Goldhaber-Fiebert. The team has documented how COVID-19 infection and mortality rates were five-to-six times and two-to-three times higher, respectively, in incarcerated populations compared to the population outside of corrections facilities.
“I found this striking and heart wrenching,” he said. “This was further magnified by the knowledge that in other state and federal prison systems, incarcerated people — upwards of 2 million — often fared even worse.”
The Stanford Impact Labs invests in teams of researchers across the university who focus on large social problems where progress is possible when practitioners and scholars work together to craft local, national, and global solutions.
Goldhaber-Fiebert will work with his team to explore how data analytics, decision science, simulation modeling and infectious disease epidemiology can improve the health of residents in California prisons and enhance preparedness for future epidemics.
“Multiple infectious diseases including new pathogens like COVID-19, as well as influenza, HIV, and hepatitis C, are of particular concern for incarcerated populations given their dense living environments and other high concentrations of risk,” he said.
Goldhaber-Fiebert said the team would continue to work with the state departments while also leveraging his team’s research to support better health policy across a range of disease.
“We acknowledge that a partnership of necessity during a crisis will not necessarily translate into the broader and deeper partnership we envision here without investment on our part,” Goldhaber-Fiebert said. With the $50,000 fellowship award, he intends to cultivate and deepen the team’s partnerships and transition them to long-term projects.
Heidi Bauer, a public health physician with the California Correctional Health Care Services, said the Stanford modeling team has contributed to protecting the health of the nearly 100,000 people incarcerated in California state prisons.
“In the first phase of preparing for the pandemic, the Stanford team modeled safe intake strategies leveraging quarantine and testing to protect the general prison population from introduction of the virus,” Bauer said. “After the first surge, Stanford models demonstrated both higher risk of transmission in dorm and open cell-front housing, as well as higher risk of hospitalization and death associated with older and medically fragile patients. This work supported policies for more protective housing for higher risk individuals.”
She said the team’s vaccination models supported policies to prioritize the most vulnerable patients and attempt rapid roll out, the success of which helped to shape plans for the safer reopening of prison activities and visitation.
“We are deeply appreciative of our partnership with Stanford University in protecting the health of California’s incarcerated persons.”