Alva Ferdinand’s research interests are health laws and ethics, disparities in health outcomes, research integrity, state and federal regulation in health care delivery and effectiveness at laws aimed at improving public health.
Ferdinand is the director of the nationally-recognized Southwest Rural Health Research Center. The center, funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration's Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, focuses on policy relevant research on meeting the needs of rural populations, minority populations and health disparities (including border health). Her ground-breaking research has influenced life-saving health policies, particularly Texas’ texting while driving ban. Her research has been recognized in several national media outlets, including CNN, US News and World Report, the Associated Press and The Washington Post.
In one case, Ferdinand used a panel study design that examined the effects of different types of texting bans on motor vehicular fatalities. She and her co-researchers used the Fatality Analysis Reporting System—a nationwide census providing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Congress, and the public with data regarding fatal injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. A difference-in-differences empirical approach was used to examine the incidence of fatal crashes between 2000 through 2010 in 48 U.S. states with and without texting bans. Age cohorts were constructed to examine the impact of these bans on age-specific traffic fatalities.
Results indicated that primarily enforced texting bans (i.e., a police officer can stop a driver for texting while driving without having another reason) were significantly associated with a 3 percent reduction in traffic fatalities among all age groups. This equates to an average of 19 deaths prevented per year in states with such bans.
Further, primarily enforced texting laws that banned only young drivers were the most effective at reducing deaths among the 15–21-year-old cohort. Secondarily enforced texting restrictions (i.e., a police officer can only cite a driver for texting after stopping them for some other violation, such as speeding, driving while intoxicated, etc.) were not associated with traffic fatality reductions in any of their analyses.
Ferdinand has had multiple works featured in publications, including her research about the impact of texting bans on motor vehicle crash-related hospitalizations that was published in the American Journal of Public Health.
She is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health. She earned a BA in international studies from Oakwood University, a JD from Michigan State University College of Law, and an MPH and DrPH, both in healthcare organization and policy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.