Month: May 2010

Doctors to be Trained in CHIP HIV Intervention

A new partnership with the W. Montague Cobb/National Medical Association Health Institute could lead to hundreds of African American doctors being trained in a nationally-recognized HIV prevention intervention developed at CHIP.

With UConn Incentive Grant funding, UConn’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) and the Cobb/NMA will train physicians in the east coast region of the NMA in CHIP’s Options intervention. Following successful completion of the pilot project, the partners will seek additional grant funding for a nationwide roll-out of Options to the NMA’s full membership.

Using powerful health behavior change methods, Options enlists trusted healthcare providers to talk with HIV-positive patients during routine medical appointments about reducing their risky sexual and drug use behaviors. Clinicians work collaboratively with patients in assessing their risky behaviors and willingness to change. Together, clinicians and patients then develop strategies and set future goals that are written out in a “prescription” for safer sex or drug use behaviors.

The intervention, developed by a research team led by CHIP Director and Professor of Psychology Jeffrey Fisher and CHIP Associate Director Deborah Corrnman, is one of the few risk reduction interventions for use with HIV-positive patients. It has been tested with urban populations and proven effective in the U.S. and South Africa. It also has been lauded by the CDC as a promising intervention and included in its Compendium of Evidence-Based HIV Prevention Interventions.

Options has been funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Department of Defense.

To date, over 500 trainings in Options have been completed both nationally and internationally.

The NMA is the oldest and largest organization of African American physicians in the United States with a mission to create parity and justice in medicine for African American physicians and their patients. The Cobb Institute was created in 2004 by the NMA to promote wellness, conduct research and eliminate health disparities including in the area of HIV/AIDS.

“This is an ideal partnership at an opportune time,” Fisher said. “We’ll be putting an intervention that has been proven effective into practice with one of the populations at greatest risk for new HIV infections.”

African Americans account for 45 percent of new HIV infections – more than any other ethnic or racial group in the U.S. – yet they make up only 12 percent of the total U.S. population.

“Healthcare providers have an excellent opportunity to address risk behaviors and reinforce safer
behaviors in their HIV-positive patients, because they have a trusting relationship and repeated contact for reinforcement,” Fisher explained.

Options, which Fisher’s team developed in consultation with physicians and patients, uses a patient-centered, non-judgmental and supportive approach.

CICATS and Cobb/NMA formed its partnership in July 2009.

Fisher, Cornman and the CHIP research team, including the Cobb/NMA Options Project Coordinator Joanne Cunningham, are working with Dr. Randall Morgan, Jr., executive director of the Cobb Institute, and Dr. Nicole Jarrett, director of Health Policy Research for the NMA.

To date, a daylong meeting with Dr. Morgan and Dr. Jarrett was held at the UConn Health Center campus in early January as part of a broader Cobb/NMA and UConn Planning Committee Meeting hosted by Dr. Judith Fifield, director of the Ethel Donaghue Center for Translating Research into Practice and Policy.  In mid-January, an 11-member Cobb/NMA UConn Options Advisory Board, comprised of nationally known physicians and HIV specialists, was convened and the first board meeting was held in early February.

Most recently, Fisher, Cornman and Cunningham attended the 11th Annual Scientific Colloquium held in Arlington, Virginia.  There, Fisher made a presentation to the NMA attendees about the Options project.

The first focus groups for the pilot project are planned for early summer with physician trainings to follow.

The UConn Incentive Grant was awarded to Fisher and Fifield, partners in the Community Engagement Core of CICATS.

New Aetna Grant Targets Childhood Obesity

CHIP collaborators are bringing parents and pediatricians together to target obesity in Hartford children as young as age 2.

With a new grant from the Aetna Foundation to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Dr. Michelle Cloutier, a professor of pediatrics at the UConn Health Center and a CHIP affiliate, and Amy Gorin, an assistant professor of psychology and a CHIP principal investigator, will develop and test an intervention to address obesity in African American and Latino children between the ages of 2 and 4.

“In general, rates of obesity are higher in underserved populations. In Hartford, 40 percent of African American and Latino children are obese or at risk for obesity by the time they start school at age 5,” said Cloutier, the grant’s principal investigator. The UConn researchers will assess how parents in the target population view their children’s diet, activity level and weight and they will work with pediatricians to deliver meaningful messages to parents about those topics. The messages will be linked to intervention strategies families have stated that they can implement at home. Cloutier and Gorin’s team will train participating healthcare providers in a technique known as ‘brief motivational counseling,’ so that they can effectively and efficiently reinforce the identified messages and intervention strategies at every check-up during the course of the study.

“A physician can say, ‘Eat less and exercise more,’ but that doesn’t help a family learn the specific things it needs to do differently,” said Cloutier, an expert in medical messaging. “This intervention will provide messages that can be tailored and customized for each family and that can be delivered consistently at every medical visit in three minutes or less.”

Cloutier and Gorin’s preliminary work on this project included developing a 21-question survey, called Growing Up Healthy, and conducting the survey with parents of children seen at two Hartford clinics affiliated with Connecticut Children’s. Parents were invited to complete the survey if they had a child with a Body Mass Index (BMI) at or above the 85th percentile.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) considers a child overweight if his or her BMI falls between the 85th and 95th percentile. A child is considered obese if his or her BMI falls above the 95th percentile.

Through their survey, Cloutier and Gorin identified several behaviors linked with children being overweight or obese. These included the amount of juice consumed, the type and amount of milk consumed and the amount of television viewed daily. These behaviors will be the focus of the intervention they are developing.

“The strength of this intervention is its simplicity,” Cloutier said. “Small changes in these three areas over the course of a year could make a huge difference.”

The researchers plan to recruit up to 40 pediatricians and 250 children to participate in the study. They anticipate each child will see a healthcare provider at one of the two Hartford-based clinics three to five times during the course of the study, which will last one year.

They will compare the BMI of each child at the beginning of the year with his or her BMI at the end of the year to determine the intervention’s effectiveness. They also will evaluate if it is efficient for pediatricians to deliver the brief obesity intervention at every visit, given the time constraints they face.

Cloutier, who also directs the Asthma Center at Connecticut Children’s, is optimistic, based on the results she had with a disease management program she created for pediatricians and their patients. The award-winning program, Easy Breathing, helped busy physicians identify and treat asthma in their patients.

She believes it is because of the success with Easy Breathing, coupled with the extent of childhood obesity and the concern that pediatricians have in this area, that Hartford’s pediatric community has been so enthusiastic about Growing Up Healthy to date.

Cloutier and Gorin’s pilot work on this project was funded through an award from The Donaghue Foundation and a UConn Research Foundation Faculty Grant.

CHIP Director Named Distinguished Professor

UConn Today, April 20, 2010

CHIP Director Jeffrey Fisher is one of three UConn faculty members named a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor this year in recognition of excellence in research and teaching.

Three faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are this year’s new Board of Trustees Distinguished Professors.

Jeffrey D. Fisher in psychology, Harry A. Frank in chemistry, and Johann Peter Gogarten in molecular and cell biology all earned the distinction, which is the University’s highest award for faculty excellence in research, teaching, and service.

“These are three outstanding researchers and teachers who have made substantial contributions to their fields and mentored a new generation of scientists,” says Jeremy Teitelbaum, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “They set the standard for the College’s mission of excellence in teaching, research, and service.”

Read more

Statistical Support for CHIP Affiliates

If you are in need of any statistical help, we have set up an arrangement with Dr. Ming Chen of the UConn Statistics Department in order to fulfill your statistical needs.

CHIP Statistical Support is offered to give CHIP-affiliated investigators the opportunity to have a methodological and statistical pre-review of a proposal being prepared for major external funding. Statistical support can also be used to assist CHIP-affiliated investigators with other health related research work. This opportunity is available throughout the year.

If you are in need of any statistical help, we have set up an arrangement with Dr. Ming Chen of the UConn Statistics Department in order to fulfill your statistical needs. Please follow the directions below in order to gain access to a statistical consult.

Step 1: Visit

Step 2: On the left side of the stat dept main page, under “Consulting”, click on “Application”.

Step 3: On the consulting main page, click on “Start Online Application” and then follow the step-by-step instructions to complete the online process.

Step 4: If Step 3 is successful, Dr. Chen will automatically receive an email notification. Then, he will set up the userid and password and notify the applicant.

Step 5: Dr. Ming Chen will arrange an initial meeting.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Jeff Fisher at

CHIP Graduate Student Affiliation – DRAFT

CHIP now offers an Affiliate status to graduate students to accommodate your interest in multidisciplinary research in the area of health behavior change.

There are a number of benefits that you may experience as a CHIP Student Affiliate.  First, there may be opportunities for collaboration or mentorship with highly-regarded, well-published and funded researchers from across the health behavior change domain.  Through our network of CHIP Affiliates, we can guide you toward graduate research and career opportunities.

Second, you will receive notice of our CHIP Brown Bag Lecture series that attracts presenters of national and international prominence who share late-breaking research in the fields of health behavior change and health communication related to HIV/AIDS, cancer, obesity, alcohol abuse, diabetes management, and medication adherence.  Search our database of previous presenters here.

CHIP uses a significant portion of its funds to foster new health behavior change research. Specifically, CHIP graduate students may apply annually for grants to conduct preliminary research related to CHIP overarching goals.  Priority is given to promising research likely to develop into a larger study and garner external funding (such as a National Research Service Award proposal through the National Institute of Mental Health).  Click here for further information.

To become a graduate student affiliate, please e-mail the following information to

— Name
— Department
— E-mail address
— Name of your advisor