Grantee: Andrew D. Plunk, PhD

Andrew D. Plunk

Andrew D. Plunk, PhD

Ethicist and Social Epidemiologist
  • Eastern Virginia Medical School

Dr. Plunk's work is motivated by the idea that medical and public health research should meaningfully impact people's lives. A proponent of community-based participatory research, he studies policy as a tool for promoting the health of marginalized groups in light of the fact that affected communities typically have very little say about what happens to them. His recent research has focused on smoke-free housing policies implemented in response to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rule requiring all U.S. public housing be smoke-free by July 31, 2018.

Dr. Plunk has found that compliance with smoke-free housing is often severely undermined when residents consider the policies to be illegitimate (i.e., unfair). In some cases this seems to have led to unintended consequences at odds with the intent of the policies, including increased indoor smoking and reduced willingness to quit smoking. In the current project, Dr. Plunk will work with community stakeholders to develop recommendations for adapting smoke-free housing to ensure that it is effective and equitable. A theory-guided implementation framework will be used to further our understanding of the impact of pervasive perceived unfairness and mistrust among an underserved population. While there is a focus on compliance with smoking bans, this work could be broadly applicable, as evidenced by a subsequent supplement that expanded the aims of the original study to include examining how perceived fairness and mistrust affect compliance with COVID-19 guidance.

I've done interesting and scientifically important work with large datasets that never involved having to talk to a real person, but it wasn't until I started to use mixed methods and partnering with a community advisory board that I felt like my work could actually matter. I remember feeling completely humbled the first time a lay community member's feedback helped me understand what the data were trying to tell me, but which I had been unable to see.”