Utilizing Networks to Understand the Social Contextual Drivers of Health with Diverse Youth

Wednesdays@NICO Seminar, Noon, April 30, 2014, Chambers Hall, Lower Level

Michelle Birkett, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Social Sciences, Northwestern University

Utilizing Networks to Understand the Social Contextual Drivers of Health with Diverse Youth


An individual’s behavior and health is increasingly understood as a product of both individual processes and the social and ecologic system in which they exist. Within this perspective, this talk will describe several ongoing efforts to collect and utilize network and contextual data to understand the health of vulnerable LGBT populations. Two projects will be highlighted. One project aims to understand network influences on HIV transmission and HIV racial disparities using the social, sexual, and drug network data of 175 young men who have sex with men (YMSM). The second project aims to utilize Facebook Network Interviews as a tool for understanding the social contexts of LGBT youth.


Michelle Birkett is currently a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Social Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine and a Research Scientist in the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program. Dr. Birkett received her doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a focus in Child and Adolescent Psychology. Her research utilizes network and multilevel methodologies to understand the social contextual influences on LGBT adolescent health and well-being. Dr. Birkett collaborates on a variety of research projects related to LGBT adolescents, health and wellbeing, multilevel modeling, and network and contextual drivers of health disparities. Currently Dr. Birkett is the Principal Investigator a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded project to understand the role of sex, drug, and social relationships in HIV transmission within young men who have sex with men (YMSM). Additionally, she is the Principal Investigator on the ninth wave of a longitudinal cohort study which is focused on assessing the social contextual online environments of LGBT adolescents through in-depth Facebook interviews and network data collection.