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Headshot of Dr. Irene Wong

Irene Wong, PhD

  • Professor

  • Senior Fellow, The Center for Public Health Initiatives

3701 Locust Walk, Caster Building, Room D14
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214
  • office: 215.898.5505
  • fax: 215.573.2099

Research Interests

It has been assumed that given appropriate services and supports suited to their mental health status and needs, persons with serious mental illness (SMI) may maintain community tenure and participate as full members of the community in the least restrictive living environment, as exemplified by independent housing. However, while housing and support services are found to be two critical components in maintaining community tenure, services research has not examined the extent to which housing and service characteristics are related to community integration of persons with SMI living in independent housing. The research project seeks to document the levels of community integration and examine the extent to which housing and service characteristics explain variability in integration among consumers in supportive independent housing. A broadened definition of community integration is used, which encompasses the physical, social and psychological aspects of integration. A sample of 252 individuals was interviewed and their housing characteristics documented using direct observation and administrative data. Staff members of 27 residential support programs were interviewed on the behavioral environment (policy and availability of services) of programs, which provide community supports. Information collected from multiple sources will provide data to test hypotheses.

Project sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health (R24 MH-63220)

Dates: September 2001 to August 2004

Project-related Publications

Lee, S., Wong, Y.-L. I., & Rothbard, A. (2014). Effects of social networks on physical health among people with serious mental illness. Psychiatric Quarterly85(4), 453-465.

*Nath, S. B., Wong, Y.-L. I., Marcus, S. C., & Solomon, P. (2012). Predictors of health services utilization among persons with psychiatric disabilities engaged in supported independent housing. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal35(4), 315-323.

Wong, Y.-L. I., Matejkowski, J., & Lee, S. (2011). Social integration of people with serious mental illness: Network transactions and satisfaction. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research38(1), 51-67.

Wong, Y.-L. I., Lee, S., & Solomon, P. L. (2010). Structural leverage in housing programs for people with severe mental illness and its relationship to discontinuance of program participation. American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation13(4), 276-294.

Wong, Y.-L. I., & Stanhope, V. (2009). Conceptualizing community: A comparison of neighborhood characteristics of supportive housing for persons with psychiatric and developmental disabilities. Social Science & Medicine68(8), 1376-1387.

*Lee, S., Wong, Y.-L. I., & Rothbard, A. B. (2009). Factors associated with departure from supported independent living programs for persons with serious mental illness. Psychiatric Services60(3), 367-373.

Wong, Y.-L. I., Poulin, S. R., Lee, S., Davis, M. R., & Hadley, T. R. (2008). Tracking residential outcomes of supported independent living programs for persons with serious mental illness. Evaluation and Program Planning31(4), 416-426.

Wong, Y.-L. I., Filoromo, M., & Tennille, J. (2007). From principles to practice: A study of implementation of supported housing for psychiatric consumers. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research34(1), 13-28.

Wong, Y.-L. I., & Solomon, P. L. (2002). Community integration of persons with psychiatric disabilities in supportive independent housing: A conceptual model and methodological considerations. Mental Health Services Research4(1), 13-28. (Since 2006, the journal has combined with Administration and Policy in Mental Health as Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research).

Based on prior conceptual and empirical work on the concept of “community,” this exploratory study seeks to engender a broadened notion of community grounded on the experiences and perspectives of people with psychiatric disabilities. Specifically, the study seeks to address the following questions: 1) What are the types of community persons with psychiatric disabilities consider pertinent to their lives? 2) What are the core domains that constitute the notion of community from these individuals’ perspective? 3) What are the commonalities and differences in the perception of community among subgroups of individuals with different cultural identities and who live in different residential environments? The study has two components: 1) analysis of secondary data from a quantitative study on community integration entitled Community Integration of SMIs in Supportive Housing, and 2) collection and analysis of primary qualitative data from 90 individuals with psychiatric disabilities using focus groups and semi-structured interviews.

Project sponsor: Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Community Integration of People with Psychiatric Disabilities (Principal Investigator: Mark Salzer; www.upennrrtc.org), National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), Department of Education

Dates: September 2003 to December 2004

Project-related Publications

Wong, Y.-L. I., Stanton, M. C., & Sands, R. G. (2014). Rethinking social inclusion: Experiences of persons in recovery from mental illness. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry84(6), 685-695.

Wong, Y.-L. I., Sands, R. G., & Solomon, P. L. (2010). Conceptualizing community: The experience of mental health consumers. Qualitative Health Research20(5), 654-667.

Wong, Y.-L. I., Nath, S. B., & Solomon, P. L. (2007). Group and organizational involvement among persons with psychiatric disabilities in supported housing. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research34(2), 151-167.

This project is based on research collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice and Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong, China.  Building on the expertise of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from the fields of health communication, psychiatry, public health, social administration and social work, the goal of the project is to design and test a family-based intervention to reduce stigma of mental illness in rural China.  A one-day training program, designed to reduce the stigmatizing attitudes held by community health workers towards families affected by serious mental illness, was implemented in Xinjin County, Sichuan Province, in January 2019.  The project team adopts the principles of community-based participatory research through partnering with the local healthcare system. The investigators used the photo-elicitation interviewing (PEI) method to document the experiences of stigma and discrimination in persons diagnosed with schizophrenia and their family members. Case scenarios were then adapted from the PEI data as a core component of the training program.

Project sponsor: Penn China Research and Engagement Fund, University of Pennsylvania.

Dates: 2015 – present

Project-related Publications

Wong, Y.-L. I. To build a research agenda on community inclusion of people with serious mental illness: Application of research methods. Invited presentation, International Conference on Social Policy and Social Work Development in New Era hosted by School of Social Development, Tianjin University of Technology, China, June 2018.

Zhang, T., Wong, Y.-L.I., Ran, M. & Kong, D. Self-stigma experience of people with schizophrenia and their family caregivers: A photo-elicitation study in a Chinese rural community. Paper presented at the 8th Conference – Together Against Stigma, Copenhagen, September 2017.

Wong, Y.-L. I. & Wang, A.-L. How to reduce stigma of mental illness? Lessons learned from western countries and relevance to Chinese society. Invited lecture, Guangzhou Brain Hospital, Guangzhou Mental Health Center and Guangzhou Crisis Research and Intervention Center, China, June 2017.

Professor Irene Wong is Professor at the School of Social Policy & Practice. She also holds a secondary appointment as Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania. She has more than thirty years of experience as a social work practitioner, educator and researcher, with an interdisciplinary focus that spans the fields of community development, housing and homelessness, and mental health services research.

Since coming to Penn in 1995, Dr. Wong has been principal investigator and co-investigator of numerous research projects in the areas of mental health, homelessness, housing, and community inclusion. With nearly 60 publications to her credit, Dr. Wong publishes widely in interdisciplinary and mental health journals including Social Science & Medicine, Social Service Review, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, Schizophrenia Research, Psychiatric Services, Health and Place, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, and Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research.

Since 2013, Professor Wong’s research has focused on understanding the cultural manifestation of stigma of mental illness in Chinese society and developing culture-specific and culturally relevant multi-level interventions to reduce stigma among persons with psychiatric disabilities and their family members. She is passionate about changing public perception of mental illness, a medical condition that affects about 17% of 1.4 billion people in China. She has developed this mixed-method research agenda with an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural team of researchers from the United States and China. Her goal is to make a positive impact on the well-being of families affected by serious mental illness in China and beyond.

Professor Wong’s areas of teaching include research in social work, quantitative analysis, understanding social change, and mental health with U.S. veterans. She was the Faulty Director of International Programs from 2010-2016 and Interim Associate Dean for Global Studies in 2018-2019 in the School of Social Policy & Practice. Since 2008, she has been serving as a member of the Hong Kong Social Workers Registration Board Assessment Panel. She is currently collaborator of Chengdu Mental Health Project, The University of Hong Kong, China.

Publications

Zhang, T.M., Wong, Y.L.I., Yu, Y.H., Ni, S.G., He, X.S., Bacon-Shone, J., Gong, K., Huang, C.H., Hu, Y., Tang, M.M., Cao, W., Chan, C.L.W., Ran, M.S., CMHP study group (published online, December 2018). An Integrative Model of Internalized Stigma and Recovery-related Outcomes among People Diagnosed with Schizophrenia in Rural China. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-018-1646-3

Kong, D, Li, M., Wong, Y.-L.I., Wang, J., Sun, B.C., Dong, X. (published online, October 2018). Correlates of emergency department service utilization among U.S. Chinese older adults. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-018-0828-0

Wong, Y.-L.I., Huangfu, Y., & Hadley, T. (2018). Place and community inclusion: Locational patterns of supportive housing for people with intellectual disability and people with psychiatric disorders. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 83, 108-119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2018.08.009

Wong, Y.-L.I., Kong, D., Tu, L. & Frasso, R. (2018). “My bitterness is deeper than the ocean”: Understanding internalized stigma from the perspectives of persons with schizophrenia and their family caregivers. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 12, 14. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13033-018-0192-4

Ran, M. S., Zhang, T. M., Wong, I. Y.-L., Yang, X., Liu, C. C., Liu, B., … & CMHP Study Group. (2018). Internalized stigma in people with severe mental illness in rural China. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 64(1), 9-16. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020764017743999

Wong, Y.-L. I., & Solomon, P. L. (2002). Community integration of persons with psychiatric disabilities in supportive independent housing: A conceptual model and methodological considerations. Mental Health Services Research4(1), 13-28. (Since 2006, the journal has combined with Administration and Policy in Mental Health as Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research) https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1014093008857

Wong, Y.-L. I., & Piliavin, I. (1997). A dynamic analysis of homeless-domicile transitions. Social Problems44(3), 408-423. https://doi.org/10.2307/3097185

Wong, Y.-L. I., Park, J. M., & Nemon, H. (2006). Homeless service delivery in the context of continuum of care. Administration in Social Work30(1), 67-94. https://doi.org/10.1300/J147v30n01_05

Wong, Y.-L. I., & Stanhope, V. (2009). Conceptualizing community: A comparison of neighborhood characteristics of supportive housing for persons with psychiatric and developmental disabilities. Social Science & Medicine68(8), 1376-1387. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.01.046

Wong, Y.-L. I., Stanton, M. C., & Sands, R. G. (2014). Rethinking social inclusion: Experiences of persons in recovery from mental illness. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry84(6), 685-695. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ort0000034

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