College of Education and Human Development

Family Social Science

Research: Tai Mendenhall

Research Interests:

  • Medical Family Therapy
  • Families and Chronic Illness
  • Trauma and Fieldwork
  • Citizen Health Care
  • Community-based Participatory Research

Research Projects:

As a principal investigator (PI), Mendenhall has secured funding for four major projects to-date (in collaboration with the Citizen Professional Center):

1) East Metro American Indian Diabetes Initiative

Partners: Family Medicine and Community Health, Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul/Department of Indian Work

Funding: Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul and Minnesota Department of Health

This initiative is a collaboration of four core team members who represent established and innovative organizations in St. Paul, Minn., and are highly invested in seeking knowledge and promoting the health of urban-dwelling American Indian (AI) people.

Our primary goal is to engage AI community members (including youth, adults, and elders), professionals (including medical, mental health, and social service providers), and university researchers to better understand and reduce health disparities. Using community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods, our team worked to identify unique challenges/needs and develop specific methods for tapping/utilizing families’ and community resources/assets to address said challenges/needs. We apply our findings in an iterative manner to the design and revisions(s) of culturally-powerful, multi-family interventions to prevent and/or effectively manage diabetes and its complications. These interventions include overlapping components that engage both youth and adults/elders. The inclusive and community-based nature of these interventions is consistent with the collective orientations of AI culture(s) and communal tradition(s).

Watch videos about this project at the Family Social Science YouTube playlist on the CEHD Channel.

2) The Family Education Diabetes Series (FEDS)

The Family Education Diabetes Series (FEDS) is an example of an effort to work together to transcend conventional top-down, service-delivery approaches to care. Community-based participatory research is beginning to show promise as a way to partner contemporary biomedical knowledge with the lived-experience, wisdom, and customs of Indigenous people. Pilot findings assessing its value and impact across key diabetes-relevant variables are exceptional.

Read the research study published in the National Institutes of Health National Library of Medicine.

3) Community-based Participatory Research to Decrease Smoking Prevalence in a High Risk Young Adult Population: A Collaboration between Job Corps and the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Students Against Nicotine and Tobacco Addiction (SANTA) is an action research project that engages local medical and mental health providers in partnership with students, teachers, and administrators in the Minneapolis/St Paul Job Corps community to reduce on-campus smoking. The initiative has endeavored to better understand the causes of students’ smoking behaviors; changed the campus environment in ways facilitative to stress-management and boredom-reduction; revised the manners in which smoking cessation and support services are conducted; and sustained the project following the discontinuation of its start-up grant.

Read the Action Research journal article.

4) Hmong Women United Against Depression (HWUAD) and Sisters Helping Sisters (SHS)

This initiative engaged local providers and representatives of the St. Paul Hmong community in a collaborative partnership to investigate, understand, and improve the lives of patients and refugees who are struggling with a variety of life stressors related to depression, chronic physical health problems, and psychosocial difficulties associated with relocation. Its mission is to tap the wisdom and resources of the St. Paul Hmong community to empower, support, encourage, and offer hope to Hmong women and their families who live with depression.

Read the Collaborative Medicine Case Study.