Public Health- Health Policy and Management, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Cohort Seven Fellow

Academic Mentor
Kristen Hassmiller-Lich
Research Assistant Professor, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Policy Mentor
Laura Edwards
President and CEO, Collaborative Health Solutions

Areas of Expertise
Evidence-Based/Evidence-Informed Programs, Home Visiting and Maltreatment Prevention, Mental Health and Well-Being, Prevention Science, Difference in Difference Modeling, Latent Class Analysis or Cluster Analysis, Longitudinal Data Analysis, Regression Modeling, Participatory Action Research, Adolescents and Young Adults, Transition-aged Youth


Gracelyn Cruden is a doctoral student in public health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC); she is also pursuing a minor in decision science modeling. Her primary research interests are at the intersection of prevention science, implementation science, and systems science to promote mental health across the life course and improve community-based service delivery. She is particularly interested in creating decision support tools to improve evidence-based policy and planning. Ms. Cruden’s current research projects include developing models that explore the optimum frequency for screening for adolescent depression in primary care, overlapping risk factors for opioid misuse and suicide, system supports and changes required to improve transition for young adults leaving the foster care system, and decision making support for local health departments choosing evidence based prevention interventions in response to community health assessments.

Prior to starting her PhD at UNC, Gracelyn worked at the University of Miami and at Northwestern University on implementation science methodology around trial design and implementation theory as part of the Center for Prevention and Implementation Methodology, and worked on NIMH-funded individual-level data analyses of adolescent depression prevention and treatment trials. While at Northwestern, she also helped begin implementation of Communities that Care in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. Gracelyn has additional experience working as a clinical liaison and office manager at a private outpatient mental health clinic. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Miami in Psychology and Biology and a Master’s degree in International Administration with a focus in Public Health from the University of Miami.


Group Model Building for Evidence Based Prevention Program Selection in North Carolina to Prevent Child Maltreatment

Families who experience homelessness are more likely to experience informal separations from their children and to have contact with the child welfare system. Children in families that experience homelessness also tend to fare worse developmentally compared to children in the broader population, but findings from comparisons to stably housed low-income families are less consistent. How homelessness produces these relationships or whether housing interventions are an effective way to improve child outcomes is not well understood. Data from a large-scale experimental study of housing interventions for homeless families offers a unique opportunity for examining how housing stability affects child well-being, child separations, and child welfare system involvement. The first study examines both (1) impacts of housing interventions on child separations and patterns of family involvement with local child welfare systems and (2) the extent to which changes in housing stability drives these relationships relative to other known risk factors. A second study assesses intervention impacts on children’s resilience across multiple areas of development and the role of housing instability, economic stress, school instability, parental stress, and family processes in these relationships. Findings will inform housing and child welfare policy and potential areas of partnership across systems focused on child well-being.