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Testing AI to advance health equity

A sociologist at Washington State University will test how people at risk for lung cancer in a rural area of the state respond to AI-generated text messages encouraging them to visit a local clinic to be screened for the disease.

Two versions of messages will be sent to some 200 patients, one direct and one polite, said Anna Zamora-Kapoor, who’s leading the NIH-funded project that aims to advance health equity and researcher diversity.

Why it matters: The project aims to help rural clinics use the limited resources they have to reach out to a higher number of patients than they’ve been able to in the past.

It should also show which message would most effectively convince people to be screened for cancer.

Zamora-Kapoor’s project targets people between ages 50 and 80 with a history of smoking who would benefit from a low-dose CT scan to detect lung cancer as early as possible. But the insights from the project could also be useful for screening for other cancers, she said.

“We need to create structures to make sure that emerging and powerful tools like AI and machine learning are democratized,” she told Carmen. “Right now, if we just let the market decide who’s going to access these tools, they’re just going to benefit the rich, they’re just going to benefit urban areas and they’re just going to benefit the white majority that doesn’t have an accent,” she said.

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How our first jobs shape the rest of our lives

We all start somewhere. And our first jobs — no matter if you’re an ice cream scooper or an investment intern — leave lasting marks on us. First jobs teach us about ourselves and the world around us. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

MPR News host Angela Davis talked with WSU sociologist Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson about how our first jobs shape our minds, habits and futures.

Listen to the full interview:
Minnesota Public Radio News


Working to help make college accessible to all

Xóchitl López motivates students to attend college and works to make college more accessible to underserved communities, she says.

She is an organizer for the coalition Communities for Our Colleges in Central Washington, an advocacy group. She is currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in sociology online at Washington State University after getting her associate degree from Yakima Valley College.

Read the full story:
Yakima Herald-Republic

Pandemic led to surge in multigenerational homes

Grandparents served as a safety net for grandkids when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, with unexpected numbers of elders moving in or opening homes to an additional 460,000 U.S. children, said a Washington State University researcher.

A study found such multigenerational households comprised a majority in a 2020 surge of nearly 510,000 children in all pandemic-era “doubled-up” residences. That meant kids and at least one parent lived with another adult – grandparent, aunt, cousin or roommate. The study didn’t count a parent’s partner or an adult sibling.

Mariana Amorim.

Mariana Amorim, a WSU sociology assistant professor and lead author, said mainly grandparents provided a safety net for families, particularly for six months beginning in spring 2020, when schools and other systems closed.

However, the spike in such living arrangements from 2019 to 2020 was temporary and returned to expected levels in 2021. The research compared such yearly co-residency patterns by using survey data collected by the U.S. Census.

Read more:
The Spokesman-Review
The Chronicle
The Columbian



The challenges—and dangers—of climate protests

You may not have heard much about it, but a recently formed group called On2Ottawa is in the middle of a three-week campaign of disruption in the country’s capital, agitating for the federal government to take stronger climate action.

Since arriving on Aug. 20, the group has blocked traffic in front of the Chateau Laurier hotel, the Laurier Avenue bridge over the Rideau Canal and the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge between Ontario and Quebec. On Tuesday, a member of the group threw washable paint on a painting by Tom Thomson in the National Gallery of Canada.

Dylan Bugden.

Ottawa Police says 12 people have been charged with 36 criminal offences to date.

While the efficacy of such civil disobedience tactics is often debated in the media, they can have the desired effect, said Dylan Bugden, a professor in environmental sociology at Washington State University.

“Civil disobedience can work,” he said. “It works strongest, of course, among people who are already sympathetic [to the cause]. But it can move a small number of people towards that movement.”

Bugden cautioned that to be successful, the tactics should challenge those directly responsible for the problem protesters are trying to solve, such as governments or industries.

Read the full story:
CBC News