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

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

This dissertation aims to increase decision makers’ ability to understand the factors that influence child maltreatment and well-being, and choose the interventions that will have the greatest impact on preventing adverse childhood outcomes in their communities. Decision makers desire more information on how to choose evidence-based programs and how to adapt programs for their communities.1,2 I hypothesize that choosing evidence based programs informed by a systems science model developed with stakeholders will lead to greater population health impact and more efficient resource allocation. First, Community Health Assessments in North Carolina will be reviewed to understand what risk factors are prioritized, how they are targeted for intervention, and to develop causal loop diagrams. Next, I will use a Group Model Building approach to build a system dynamics model that characterizes the complex factors affecting child well-being. Finally, I will use the model to simulate the potential effects of preventive evidence-based programs.