Research in Progress

Research in Progress

Injury and Violence Prevention

Both unintentional injuries and those caused by acts of violence are among the leading causes of death for Americans. Dr. Karen Liller leads much of the injury prevention research at the College of Public Health. She is presently a full tenured professor in the College of Public Health specializing in public health and injury prevention. Dr. Liller holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in medical technology, technical education, and education (curriculum and instruction). Dr. Liller has held numerous administrative positions including associate dean for Academics and Student Affairs in the College of Public Health and dean of the USF Graduate School and Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation. She is also the strategic lead for the Policy, Practice, and Leadership area at the USF College of Public Health and developed the Activist Lab of which she serves as director.

Dr. Liller is presently serving as the Harrell Center interim director temporarily.  She recently was appointed to serve on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Liller has received several national and state grants related to injury prevention, most recently related to sports injury prevention in children and adolescents. A few examples of her most recent project are as follows: 

  • Study: Injuries and Concussions Among Children, ages 5-11, Playing Sports in Recreational Leagues in Florida.
  • Study: Champions for Children: Positive Parenting Partnership, P3.
  • Study: Sports Injuries among High School Athletes in the State of Florida
  • Development and evaluation of firearm and unintentional injury prevention programs Surveillance for the Florida National Violent Death Reporting System

These studies have led to several peer-reviewed publications and presentations at national and international meetings. Dr. Liller and colleagues have some of the only data on sports injuries in young children playing sports in settings outside of schools.


To track violent deaths in the United States, the CDC devised the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), the only multistate-based reporting system that pools more than 600 unique data elements from multiple sources into an anonymous database that covers all types of violent deaths (homicides and suicides) in all settings for all age groups.

Florida recently joined the NVDRS after receiving a three-year, multimillion-dollar grant provided by the CDC to the state. Dr. Karen Liller, USF College of Public Health (COPH) professor and child and adolescent injury prevention expert, is the principal investigator overseeing Florida’s collection of data. USF investigators will take information from the medical examiner’s report, death certificate and law enforcement records, which will help researchers better understand the “why” of violent deaths.

Previously, Drs. Liller, Thomas, and Salinas had utilized the National Violent Death Registry System to compare the incidence of violent deaths during and after disasters in the United States (Study: Violent deaths during and after disasters:  an ecological study; Previous Grant from APHA/CDC).

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), Child Maltreatment & Juvenile Violence


The Harrell Center has been conducting an evaluation of the Individual Perceptions of Batterer Intervention Programs for several years.  The evaluation assesses the progress and current status of the implementation of an evaluation system for Batterers Intervention Programs (BIPs) by the courts in Hillsborough County, Fla. A separate analysis was conducted with women’s offenders only (Study: Understanding women in batterer intervention programs) to examine the characteristics of women in BIPs in Hillsborough County, Fla., and their experiences. Findings provide directions for program modification based on women’s descriptions of their needs.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that occur before 18 years of age, which include child abuse and neglect (child maltreatment), as well as exposure to domestic violence, economic hardship, parental mental illness, substance use, and loss of parental figures (e.g. divorce, or incarceration). Harrell Center researchers have been conducting analyses of the associations between adverse childhood experiences and other forms of adversity. Drs. Salinas, Thomas, Kirby, and other colleagues are using non-identified secondary data on children ages 0-17 drawn from the National Survey of Children’s Health 2016/2017 to determine factors associated with the co-prevalence of adverse childhood experiences and bullying (a form of juvenile violence). Analysis includes moderation and mediation using structural equation models (STATA and MPLUS software).
Other analyses conducted at the Harrell Center utilize community samples data to assess the role of risk and protective factors. The Youth Outreach Survey 2015-2016 was a county-wide anonymous online survey conducted as part of an academic-community partnership between the Harrell Center and Safe and Sound Hillsborough (a local violence prevention coalition). The purpose was twofold: (1) To gauge youth perceptions on family and community relationships, mental health issues, alcohol and substance abuse, and neighborhood deterioration; and (2) To use these surveyed values and identify the risk and protective factors that predict and prevent violence. The Harrell Center developed the survey findings report and continues to conduct analyses of this dataset.

Researchers at the Harrell Center collaborate with a worldwide network of colleagues to address the determinants of intimate partner violence and its prevention. For example, a focus group study was conducted in Belize by Drs. Martha Coulter, Ismael Hoare, and others, to understand the perspective of rural indigenous populations. This study was part of a larger project that utilized the multiple streams theory and community based participatory research to frame the exploration of health in Indigenous populations. Multiple streams theory is an explanatory theory which discusses the relationships between issues relating to policy, the environment as well as establishing causal linkages. The larger project involved Panama, Ecuador, and Belize.

Researchers at the Harrell Center also conduct secondary data analysis using the demographic health surveys (DHS) of multiple countries around the world. The DHS system has collected accurate and representative datasets on population, health, HIV, intimate partner violence, and nutrition through more than 400 surveys in over 90 countries. The data are non-identified and publicly available by request for researchers. The most recent projects are led by Dr. Abraham Salinas, Dr. Nicholas Thomas, and Dr. Takudzwa Sayi (past post-doctoral fellow of the USF Center of Excellence in MCH) using the 2016 Haiti DHS, 2016 South Africa DHS, 2016 Nepal DHS, and the 2012 Nicaragua College of Public Health students are also mentored and participate in conducting the analyses, learn epidemiological skills, and how to do scientific writing. The purpose of the secondary analyses studies is to determine the role of socio-ecological determinants of intimate partner violence victimization in international settings (Haiti, Nicaragua, and South Africa).  Other analyses with different datasets have also included reproductive health, mental health, and disasters (e.g. post-hurricane mental health issues in Florida).

Faculty at the Harrell Center serve on several county-wide, state, and national initiatives to prevent and eliminate family violence, including work with the Hillsborough County Domestic Violence Task Force, Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, Gulf Coast’ Refugee Advisory Board, among others. We are also part of interdisciplinary research groups such as the COPH Violence Prevention Research Group led by Dr. Etienne Pracht. With regards to primary prevention, Harrell Center researchers are also part of a primary prevention study (Triple P) in partnership with community partner Champions for Children. We also provide domestic violence awareness training for healthcare professionals and community organizations, as well as other topics in collaboration with other centers at COPH. Faculty at the Harrell Center also offer a two-week (3 credit) family & community violence course in the summer for students and professionals, using an academic-community partnership model where we bring local experts from organizations directly working to address family violence in Tampa Bay. Faculty and students at the Harrell Center serve in leadership roles with the Family Violence Prevention Caucus of the American Public Health Association.
The Harrell Center serves as intermediary between academia and practice to prevent and address family violence in our communities. We are partnering with the Hillsborough County Domestic Violence Task Force, and USF COPH Office of Engagement and Constituent Relations to develop a set of short online videos aimed at providing an overview of victims’ assistance services in Tampa Bay. These videos can be utilized by providers and community organizations to learn more about DV services and adequate referrals. Ultimately, we want to improve the delivery of care and services for victims of domestic violence. As an educational strategy, this project also includes an evaluative component with the target audience.

Example Dissertation Topics of COPH students and the Harrell Center

The Harrell Center is also the home of research led by students on topics focusing on family violence. Ongoing dissertation research includes:

  • Student: Ngozichukwuka Agu.
    Topic:
    Exploring Adult Attachment in Intimate Relationships among Women who were exposed to Intimate Partner Violence in Childhood.
  • Student: Yingwei Yang.
    Topic: Exploration of factors associated with perceptions of community safety among youth in Hillsborough County, Florida: A convergent parallel mixed-methods approach.

In addition to the aforementioned projects, the Harrell Center also collaborates with other faculty on diverse topics such as autism, obesity, family-centered care, maternal care, parent training, research ethics, among others.