CHIP holds annual competitions for research investment capital “seed grant” funds. The purpose of these competitions is to provide seed grant resources to investigators to support new pilot research in health behavior change at UConn of the type and quality likely to lead to external funding.
The competitions are announced during the fall semester of each year, with letters of intent to apply due in December and final applications for these awards due in early February. (For more details about the seed grant categories and application process, please visit the Seed Grants and Awards page).
In March, 2013, the Principal/New Investigator Review Committee awarded one $15,000 grant to a CHIP PI and three $7,500 grants to New CHIP Investigators:
CHIP PI Leslie Snyder (Ph.D., Communication) for a grant proposal entitled, “Development and Pilot Test of a Virtual Coach App on Weight Loss and Maintenance.”
CHIP Affiliate Kari Adamsons (Ph.D., Human Development & Family Studies) for a grant proposal entitled, “Supporting Fathers during the Prenatal Period to Improve Family Health Outcomes.”
CHIP Affiliate Tania B. Huedo-Medina (Ph.D., Allied Health Sciences) for a grant proposal entitled, “Measurement Challenging Conducting Individual Participant Data Meta-Analysis: A Metric Transformation.”
CHIP Affiliate Amy R. Mobley (Ph.D., Nutritional Sciences) for a grant proposal entitled, “The Forgotten Parent: Paternal Influences on Young Children’s Eating Behaviors.”
In March 2013, the Pilot Projects for Graduate Students Review Committee funded four $1,500 seed grants for each of the following CHIP graduate student affiliates:
Megan Clarke (Psychology) for a proposal entitled, “The Impact of Infant Sleep on Maternal Health Behaviors.”
Evan Johnson (Kinesiology) for a proposal entitled, “Two Methods of Running Intensity Prescription and Related Lipid Response.”
Laramie Smith (Psychology) for a proposal entitled, “60 Minutes for Health”: A Theory-based Intervention for People Living with HIV.”
Emily Tuthill (Nursing) for a proposal entitled, “Translation and Testing Content Validity of the IIFAS for Use in South Africa.”
Brief descriptions of each of these new seed grant projects are below:
Dr. Snyder and co-investigators CHIP PI Amy Gorin (Ph.D., Psychology) and CHIP Advanced Interactive Technology Center (AITC) Director Timothy Gifford will use their CHIP PI seed grant funding to develop a virtual health coach application (app) and test the feasibility of using the app, along with existing consumer-based, self-monitoring tools, to promote weight loss in adults. Specific aims for the seed grant include: (1) developing a working model of a theory-based, engaging virtual coach weight-loss app that will take individuals through a tailored intervention to promote a healthy diet, physical activity, weight loss, and maintenance of weight loss, (2) exploring factors related to adherence to daily self-monitoring of diet and physical activity, energy balance, and weight using widely-available consumer technologies, (3) testing the feasibility of an intervention based on the app in combination with self-monitoring in a small sample of ethnically-diverse overweight adults and adults looking to maintain recent weight loss, and (4) exploring issues related to future improvements in the intervention and potential means of its dissemination. The pilot data and beta version of the app generated by the CHIP PI seed grant will be used to support an NIH grant application aimed at the prevention and treatment of overweight status in adults.
Dr. Adamsons will use her New Investigator seed grant to conduct and evaluate a pilot program to increase pre- and post-natal involvement of soon-to-be fathers, with the ultimate goal of improving expectant mother and fetal health and child health after birth. The pilot program will promote parenting knowledge and skills, promote the importance of fathers’ role both during pregnancy and after birth, and provide social support from other fathers. The program will be part of a short-term longitudinal study. Fathers will be recruited between three and six months into the pregnancy (allowing for completion of the program before the birth of the child). Fathers will be randomized into either the treatment group or services-as-usual group. All fathers will be given a set of pre-test measures to assess prenatal care usage, health, and parenting knowledge. Programs will last for eight weeks, meeting once every other week for 1 1/2 hours. After program completion and again at child age 3 and 6 months, both groups of fathers will be given surveys. Groups will be compared on involvement, efficacy, and health outcomes both pre- and post-natally. It is anticipated that promoting fathers’ competence and increasing fathers’ investment in parenting will increase fathers’ involvement pre- and post-natally, resulting in health benefits such as mothers’ increased prenatal care and abstinence from alcohol/smoking, decreased low birth weight and pre-term babies, and lower infant mortality. Father involvement also is associated with psychological, cognitive, social, behavioral, and health benefits for children.
The New Investigator seed grant-funded work of Dr. Huedo-Medina ultimately may benefit other CHIP investigators who are using meta-analysis, a methodological strength of CHIP’s, in their research. The reanalysis of studies’ individual-level data has been recognized as the gold standard for combining evidence from existing studies. Individual participant data meta-analysis makes it possible to use advanced modeling strategies to examine links and complexity between behavioral and biological variables among diverse populations. However, precise metric transformations among factors that presume to measure the same variable are needed. Dr. Huedo-Medina’s team will identify approaches to statistical harmonization, which could be used when individual participant data from different sources are integrated. Although statistical methods for harmonization have been proposed, there has not been a comparison of effect sizes when they are used and no transformation metric has been suggested. The research team will review the statistical developments to combine different measures when complex concepts, such as behavior change on HIV prevention or adherence to treatment, are measured by individual items or scales. As the project progresses, Dr. Huedo-Medina and her team will document their work in scholarly journals in addition to writing guidelines for practitioners and scholars.
Dr. Mobley and co-investigators Dr. Adamsons and Dr. Gorin will research and provide insight into paternal influences on child eating behaviors, diet quality, physical activity, and weight. The New Investigator seed grant will provide the resources to conduct one-on-one interviews with up to 150 fathers of preschool-age children. These formative results will be used to develop and evaluate effective childhood obesity prevention programs using parents as the agents of change with focused inclusion of the father. Specifically, the overall aims are: (1) identifying the relationship of paternal feeding practices and feeding styles on child eating style, diet quality, and weight status, (2) evaluating the relationship between paternal diet quality, physical activity, and weight status on the diet quality, physical activity, and weight status of their preschool age children, and (3) evaluating the influence of father-reported maternal and paternal perceptions of the role of the father on his preschool child’s feeding practices, diet quality, and body weight. The research team notes that the parent of a young child is a key player in the child’s weight status due to genetic influences on weight as well as the food environment they provide and the feeding process they employ with the child. However, most of the research surrounding modifiable factors associated with child obesity, such as diet, physical activity, and feeding practices, has been one-sided, often ignoring the father of the child. Their research attempts to correct that deficit.
Under the guidance of Dr. Gorin, Psychology doctoral student Megan Clarke will collect quantitative data regarding infant sleep patterns, parents’ use of sleep training, and maternal psychosocial health and physical activity levels. Clarke’s hypothesis is that mothers who sleep train their infants will sleep more, have lower levels of postpartum depression (PPD), and engage in more physical activity. Data collected from this pilot study potentially could establish a relationship between infant sleep training, maternal physical activity levels, and postpartum weight loss. Clarke ultimately could use her pilot data to inform the development of an intervention designed to support mothers in behavioral sleep training of infants and in increasing their postpartum physical activity levels. This work could be significant because it would provide a targeted approach for a high-risk time for weight gain for women of childbearing age – during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Under the guidance of Kinesiology Professor Lawrence Armstrong, CHIP PI Linda Pescatello (Ph.D., Kinesiology), and Kinesiology Assistant Professor Elaine Choung-Hee Lee, Kinesiology doctoral student Evan Johnson will compare two methods of exercise intensity prescription during a six-week run training program. Of the four components of aerobic exercise prescription (frequency, intensity, duration, and type) outlined by the American College of Sports Medicine, intensity presents the greatest challenge to exercise prescription. Johnson’s study will involve two groups undergoing run training programs, identical except for the method in which running intensity is prescribed. The first group will have exercise intensity prescribed via heart rate (HR), corresponding to specific percentages of peak oxygen uptake, while the second group will have intensity prescribed via the psycho-physiological rating of perceived exertion (RPE), corresponding to the same percentages of peak oxygen uptake. Additionally, run performance and cardio-metabolic risk factors will be measured before and after the six week run training program to determine if differences in intensity prescription manifest in differences in exercise performance and/or health outcomes. Johnson hypothesizes that the group with intensity prescribed via HR will match more closely the target intensities than the group with intensity prescribed via RPE, a finding that can be used in performance and clinical settings to optimally prescribe exercise.
Under the guidance of CHIP Director Jeffrey Fisher (Ph.D., Psychology) and CHIP PI K. Rivet Amico (Ph.D., CHIP), Psychology doctoral student Laramie Smith will evaluate a theory-based, single-session, 60-minute intervention to strengthen retention in HIV medical care over a six-month period among HIV-positive patients with a recent history of poor retention in care in the Bronx. Improving retention in HIV care is critical to ensuring optimal long-term health of people living with HIV. Successful interventions supporting sustained retention in HIV care additionally should ensure the significant reduction of HIV-disease burden and HIV-viral load, responsible for most HIV transmission in the U.S. The retention in care interventions evaluated to date have targeted structural or social drivers of access to care vs. individual-level determinants of care utilization. They also have failed to provide an appropriate control condition for testing intervention efficacy. Smith, by contrast, will focus on individual-level determinants of care utilization and use a randomized, controlled study design. Her proof-of-concept study aims to evaluate the intervention’s efficacy in: (1) improving retention to patients’ next few clinic visits over a six-month period, (2) promoting change in the individual-level, theory-based determinants of retention in care, and (3) testing if changes in behavioral determinants predict changes in retention in care behavior at six months.
Under the guidance of Dr. Fisher, Nursing doctoral student Emily Tuthill will use her CHIP seed grant funding to conduct work that is vital to the successful completion of her NIH National Research Service Award (NRSA) project, yet unfunded by the NRSA award. Through her NRSA, Tuthill seeks to change the predominantly non-exclusive breastfeeding behavior of HIV+ South African women, with the ultimate goal of reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission. With her CHIP seed grant funding, Tuthill will employ bilingual translators to have the validated Iowa Infant Feeding Attitudes Scale (IIFAS) translated into isiZulu and back-translated. Tuthill also will have content experts evaluate the cultural understandability, clarity, and fit of the tool and will make modifications to ensure a culturally-adapted tool. The resulting culturally-adapted instrument will effectively measure Tuthill’s target constructs in the NRSA project (intention towards exclusive breastfeeding, information, motivation and behavioral skills).