Coping with COVID-19: Using Behavioral Science and Digital Health to Promote Healthy Families (2020-2021)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a secondary mental health crisis has emerged. Many families are facing disrupted routines, financial stress from job loss, pressures to work from home while caring for children and illness. 

Professor Eve Puffer has spent much of her career building therapeutic programs to improve families’ mental health in sub-Saharan Africa. When the pandemic arrived, Puffer led a survey of parents in 17 southern states to learn more about their well-being. She and her colleagues found significant levels of depression and anxiety symptoms; concerns about social, emotional and behavioral difficulties in children; and reports of deteriorating relationships within families.

This project team set out to adapt several approaches that had proved effective in Kenya for use in North Carolina with local community partners. In May 2021, around 25 families in Durham and surrounding areas began the Coping Together program, meeting virtually with trained facilitators from the partner organizations. In the eight-week program, adapted in collaboration with the partners, families participated in activities designed to address stress, strengthen relationships, reduce conflict and improve problem-solving techniques.


Fall 2020 – Summer 2021

Team Outputs

Coping Together (eight-week program in which families participate in a series of activities designed to address stress, strengthen relationships, reduce family conflict and improve problem-solving techniques)

Piloting a Virtual Family-Strengthening Program: Measures of Implementation Success (poster by Mahgul Mansoor, presented at Global Health Research Showcase, first place, best graduate poster, Duke University, October 25, 2021)


COVID-19 and Global Mental Health

This Team in the News

Faculty Perspectives: Eve Puffer

Mansoor Examines Duke Collaboration to Address Pandemic Stress

Fostering Resilience for Durham Families During a Stressful Time

Showcase Returns, Highlighting Students’ Personal Connections to Research

Bass Connections 2020-2021 Annual Report: Selected Highlights

A Family Support Model Developed in Kenya Comes to North Carolina

Eight Duke Scholars Examining the Mental Health Effects of the Pandemic

Faculty Perspectives: Gabriela Nagy

See related team, Coping Together: Reducing Mental Health Disparities for Latinx Families (2022-2023).

Digital health.

Team Leaders

  • Eric Green, Duke Global Health Institute
  • Eve Puffer, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Amber Rieder, Duke Global Health Institute

/graduate Team Members

  • Savannah Johnson, Psychology-PHD, Psychology-AM
  • Mahgul Mansoor, Global Health - MSc
  • Kaitlin Quick, Global Health - MSc
  • Justin Rasmussen, Psychology-PHD, Psychology-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Emily Duerr, Biology (BS)
  • Sierra Jones, Psychology (BS)
  • Pippa Lother, Computer Science (BS)
  • Sara Mehta, Computer Science (BS)
  • Preetha Ramachandran, Cultural Anthropology (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • David Eagle, Duke Global Health Institute
  • Gabriela Nagy Carrasquel, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, Duke Global Health Institute
  • Tiarney Ritchwood, School of Medicine-Family Medicine and Community Health

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Nivi
  • West End Community Foundation
  • Together for Resilient Youth (TRY)