Month: March 2017

InCHIP PI Linda Pescatello Featured as Member of Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee

The Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee is composed of 17 nationally recognized experts in the fields of physical activity and health. Dr. Linda Pescatello, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology, is a member of the panel and has been featured in a recent blog post. On the Committee, Dr. Pescatello serves as the as a member of the Cardiometabolic Health and Weight Management and Individuals with Chronic Conditions Subcommittees. Click here to read more.

3/23 – InCHIP Lecture and PCORI Webinar

Please see below for a link to join the PCORI Webinar!

RSVP for the Lecture and Webinar here.

Fortinsky-PCORI Event_Flyer

Access to PCORI Webinar
The PCORI Webinar will be available online and in the InCHIP Colloquium Room (Room 14, J. Ray Ryan Building). To view the PCORI Webinar online, please click here for the livestream video. If you would like to join the conference call line instead, please dial 415-655-0002, and join the meeting with the access code 647-696-588. (Please note that, unfortunately, this conference call line is not toll-free.)

This lecture is co-sponsored by:

From The Director

InCHIP Director Jeffrey Fisher
InCHIP Director Jeffrey Fisher

Dear InCHIP Affiliates

As usual, the atmosphere is highly dynamic at InCHIP, due to our wonderful administrative staff, Associate Directors, Executive Committee, and engaged faculty affiliates. This year we adopted a new Core structure to provide many more services to our affiliates, with a deep focus on training and development. We want to help faculty affiliates at each career stage to be even more successful in their research and their grant applications. In addition to an Administrative Core (which is not new), we now have a Training and Development Core, an Intervention Core, a Biostatistics & Methodology Core, and a Community-Engaged Health Research Core, all of which are active and available to InCHIP affiliates. In addition to providing extensive services, this new structure will position us to apply for future Center and other large interdisciplinary grants. Please read the articles on the new Cores in this issue of InCHIP Research News, visit our website which has pages devoted to each Core, and most of all, take advantage of what the Cores have to offer.

We have been privileged to bring to UConn and to InCHIP several critical new faculty over the past few years, as well as to move the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity from Yale to UConn as a unit within InCHIP. We are happy to announce that we have had the opportunity to continue to attempt to recruit exceptional faculty target of opportunity hires during the current academic year as part of a University initiative. We have interviewed new potential InCHIP researchers/UConn faculty in HIV prevention and in digital health, consistent with our long-term plans to hire a new generation of HIV prevention researchers (some of our HIV prevention researchers, like me, are getting older), and to grow in the fast developing domain of electronic and mobile health. Stay tuned for any news that may materialize on this front. Note that this issue of the InCHIP Research News highlights the research of two of the new faculty we have recruited in the past few years, Kim Gans and Lisa Butler. Both are great additions to our group and are very interested in collaborating with others at InCHIP and UConn.

An exciting initiative with Cuban health promotion researchers has been ongoing, led by Biostatistics & Methodology Core Director and InCHIP Executive Committee member Tania Huedo-Medina and Vice President for Global Affairs Dan Weiner, with assistance from InCHIP. This March, ten InCHIP researchers will be going to Havana to meet with ten Cuban health researchers for a weeklong workshop to develop collaborative research and funding plans. This global health initiative represents a wonderful opportunity for UConn and InCHIP, and one that we hope will continue to grow moving forward.

The highly acclaimed InCHIP Lecture series continues this semester with a number of very accomplished researchers from around the country. Take the opportunity to attend it “in person” over lunch (there is such a thing as a free lunch!) or watch it online, and make an appointment to meet with the speakers before or after their talk.

Last but not least, Dr. Kara Hall, who is the Director of the Science of Team Science (SciTS) Team at the National Cancer Institute, will be joining us for two days on May 11 and 12 to provide training in and facilitate discussions about team science. We are very fortunate to have someone with such tremendous expertise in team science coming to UConn. Not only did Kara help launch the SciTS field by co-chairing the 2006 conference, “The Science of Team Science: Assessing the Value of Transdisciplinary Research,” she also co-edited the 2008 American Journal of Preventive Medicine Supplement on the Science of Team Science, which has been the most cited and downloaded AJPM supplement to date.

As you know, there have been substantial changes in the upper UConn administration in recent months. We deeply thank Mun Choi, Sally Reis, Jeff Seemann, and Jeremy Teitelbaum for their wonderful support of InCHIP over the years. Each of them has had a significant impact on the success and growth of our Institute, and we wish them every success in their new roles.

We look forward to a successful and exciting remainder of the academic year.

 

Best,

Jeff

InCHIP’s New Core Structure Offers “One-Stop Shopping” for Researchers

By Loretta Waldman

The past year has been one of significant growth and transformation at InCHIP, most notably for its evolution from the Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention (CHIP) to the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP). As part of the change from a Center to an Institute, InCHIP has created a new Core structure that provides “one-stop shopping” for researchers. From the creation of an initial research idea to the implementation of a funded research project, InCHIP provides services and support at each step of the process. Of the many services being offered, InCHIP is prioritizing training and mentoring opportunities that help develop faculty and graduate students into strong researchers.

InCHIP’s Directors believe that the newly developed Core Structure and the developmental focus will lead to UConn researchers obtaining larger multidisciplinary grants.

“The reality of public health issues is that they are complex,” says Deborah Cornman, an Associate Director and Associate Research Professor at InCHIP. “Certainly, individual researchers can still get grants to address these issues but, more and more, funders are looking for a team approach that brings in different perspectives and areas of expertise. Historically, not just here at UConn but at most academic institutions, researchers have been pretty siloed. We are trying to bridge those siloes and bring people together. So for the past couple of years, we have been working aggressively on forming multidisciplinary teams of researchers.”

The new Core structure was created to facilitate InCHIP’s efforts and is comprised of five Cores:

  • Administrative Core
  • Training & Development Core
  • Intervention Core
  • Biostatistics & Methodology Core
  • Community-Engaged Health Research Core

Critical to the operation of these Cores are InCHIP’s two Boundary Spanners, John Giardina and Grace Morris, who work diligently to help carry out many of the activities of these Cores and support researchers across the University.

The Administrative Core, headed by InCHIP Director Jeff Fisher, provides exceptional pre-award and post-award services. The Administrative Core staff works closely with researchers to provide them with tailored support and services as they prepare their grant proposals and, then once their grants are funded, as they conduct their research.

Cornman called the Training & Development Core “one of the most important Cores at InCHIP.” It is headed by Amy Gorin, an InCHIP Associate Director and Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences. For UConn researchers at all stages of their careers, from graduate students to tenured faculty, this Core provides a variety of services including training in grant writing, faculty mentors, seed grant funding, research team development, and expert assistance with developing grant proposals. Examples of the grantsmanship training that this Core provides include a six-session Grantsmanship Training Workshop last Spring, a three-session Specific Aims workshop this fall, and a Budget Workshop in February.  A workshop in Team Science is scheduled for May of this year.

Another form of support provided by the T&D Core is the InCHIP Internal Seed Grant Competitions.

“There are currently five seed grant opportunities being offered by InCHIP,” Gorin says. “The idea here is that a small investment pays off substantially in the long run. If you allow people to collect the pilot data they need, they are much more successful with their external grant applications.”

A new InCHIP Grant Proposal Incubator is also part of the T&D Core. Co-chaired by Blair Johnson, Professor of Psychological Sciences and InCHIP Principal Investigator, and Michael Copenhaver, Associate Professor of Allied Health Sciences and InCHIP Principal Investigator, the Incubator provides feedback to Principal Investigators and their teams about their research ideas and grant proposals.

“The Incubator is an opportunity for investigators to present an idea or a draft of a grant proposal to a panel of expert researchers and get feedback on it, including how to best sell their idea in their proposal,” says Gorin.

The Intervention Core is another InCHIP resource for researchers. It helps them “create programs, interventions, and innovations that can address priority individual and public health issues,” says Cornman. Co-directed by InCHIP Director Jeff Fisher and Kim Gans, Professor of Human Development & Family Studies and InCHIP Principal Investigator, the Intervention Core provides researchers with assistance in designing, implementing, evaluating, and disseminating innovative behavioral interventions. The Core maintains a directory of 20 faculty members with expertise in health behavior interventions who are willing to assist investigators with their intervention research.

Along with facilitating the formation of collaborative research partnerships between investigators and intervention experts, the Intervention Core hosts lectures and workshops with leading investigators in the field of behavioral intervention research. One recent event featured Ross Buck, Professor of Communication, who gave a presentation on the potential value of interventions that teach people how to accurately forecast, label, and understand their emotions. After his lecture, he led a discussion with faculty and graduate students about health behaviors that might benefit from an emotional education intervention, such as safer sex, diet, exercise, and substance abuse.

“InCHIP is trying to build stronger intervention research at UConn, and this Core is a way of giving faculty the support they need to do that,” says Gans.

The Biostatistics & Methodology Core provides the support researchers need to conduct statistically rigorous research and successfully compete for grants in the health sciences. Under the direction of Tania Huedo-Medina, Assistant Professor of Statistics and Allied Health Sciences, this Core connects researchers with a range of statistics experts and helps them establish successful collaborations for innovative health behavior research.

The Community-Engaged Health Research Core is the newest Core at InCHIP. Headed by Cornman, InCHIP’s Associate Director, the goal of the Core is to develop partnerships between UConn researchers and community-based organizations who work together to identify and address critical health issues facing Connecticut and other communities. This Core is working closely with UConn’s Office of Public Engagement as well as with a variety of community organizations, including the Institute for Community Research, Hispanic Health Council, and Community Solutions, among others.

“The idea is to have the infrastructure in place to encourage and support community-engaged health research,” says Cornman. “Part of the Core’s mission is to provide training to faculty and community partners about how to most effectively work together to conduct community-engaged research that is feasible and sustainable, and has a positive impact on health.”

InCHIP Director Jeff Fisher succinctly summed it up this way:  “We tackle complex public health problems here at UConn, and InCHIP provides services and resources to help researchers be successful at that, including assistance with developing research ideas, writing strong proposals, and ultimately implementing their research.”

New Training & Development Core Workshop Offers Specialized Training on Specific Aims

By Loretta Waldman

InCHIP’s new Training and Development Core (T&D) offers training, mentorship, research team development, and support for grant writing for UConn investigators at all stages of their careers, from graduate students to tenured faculty. A three-part Specific Aims Workshop held in November and December is the most recent example of how the T&D Core supports health researchers.

“The Specific Aims section is a one-page section of a grant application where researchers establish the premise and scientific rigor of their proposed project”, explains Amy Gorin, an Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences and Associate Director and Principal Investigator at InCHIP who oversees the core.

“In one short page, you need to excite the reviewers about your ideas, your study hypotheses and the potential impact of your research; it’s critically important that this section be as compelling as possible,” she says. “The workshop offers specific tips on doing this.”

Some 45 people turned out for the first session on Nov. 14, Gorin says. Along with the purpose of the Specific Aims page, participants learned what information needs to be included. Gorin and Grace Morris, a Research Specialist at InCHIP, shared examples of the Specific Aims pages from funded grants and discussed what about them worked well and what didn’t. At the close of the session, participants ready to pursue grants were invited to draft their own aims and have them peer-reviewed at the next session.

Twenty-three participants opted to do so and returned on Dec. 5. The group was a mix of graduate students, junior faculty, post-doctoral students and faculty who have not yet received external funding. A broad range of UConn departments and entities were represented, including UConn Health, School of Pharmacy, Human Development & Family Studies, and the Institute for Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The session focused entirely on peer reviews of the drafts, with participants dividing into smaller groups based on their content area. InCHIP faculty leading the small group discussions included InCHIP Associate Director and Associate Research Professor Deborah Cornman and professors Meg Gerrard, Rick Gibbons and Blair Johnson.

The third session on Dec. 12 employed an open office-hours style format. Having had a week to mull over feedback, participants were invited to return to ask questions and work on further refining their drafts.

Training and Development (T&D) is one of five new cores introduced by InCHIP. The T&D Core offers supportive services and training that engages with researchers at every stage of the research process and every stage of their careers through a variety of means that include one-on-one meetings with InCHIP Directors and staff, mentorship programs, training workshops, collaboration events, and Grant Proposal Incubator services.

The T&D Core grew out of early versions of grantsmanship training offered by InCHIP, including a two-day workshop and, last year, a six-week course. The Specific Aims workshop was developed based on requests for more in-depth training on each section of a NIH grant application, Gorin says.

“It was a very successful event,” she said. “We received lots of positive feedback. People were asking for more training opportunities around grant writing.”

The T&D Core is offering several additional workshops this spring including one on grant budgets on Feb. 7, creating a biosketch on Feb. 14, and training in team science in early May.

Intervention Promoting Fruit & Vegetable Consumption Produces Positive Results, Says Prof. Kim Gans

By Loretta Waldman

fresh to you truck

A first-of-its-kind intervention study aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption among low-income residents is the focus of a forthcoming paper by Kim Gans, a professor of Human Development & Family Studies and an InCHIP Principal Investigator and Core Director. Gans led the study conducted through an innovative, public-private partnership between the Institute for Community Health Promotion at Brown University, where she is an adjunct professor, and a Rhode Island produce distributor.

The study, Live Well Viva Bien, involved 15 subsidized Section 8 family, elderly and disabled housing sites. Eight of the sites participated in the intervention, which included access to a discount mobile market at each site offering high quality fruits and vegetables at lower-than-supermarket prices. The control group received physical activity and stress reduction interventions. The results were encouraging.

At 12 months, researchers saw a statistically significant mean increase in fruit and vegetable consumption. In elderly and disabled housing sites, they saw a difference in consumption of over 2/3 of a cup per day between the intervention and control sites.

Gans and her fellow researchers saw a need for sustainable interventions that increase year-round access to and availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Prior to the study, there had been no rigorous randomized trials looking at the efficacy of fruit and vegetable market programs in boosting fruit and vegetable consumption, she says.

“This is the first randomized trial to ever look at the effectiveness of a fruit and vegetable market program,” says Gans. “There have been other evaluations and studies done, but none of them has been a randomized trial.”

Funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute, the intervention also included nutritional education such as monthly newsletters, DVDs, recipe cards, cooking demonstrations and two six-week campaigns attempting to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables and to increase the variety of fruits and vegetables they eat.

Recruited residents had their fruit and vegetable consumption measured at baseline, six and 12 months, Gans said. The markets, dubbed Fresh To You, were held the first two weeks of the month for 12 months, both inside and outside, and prices were 15-25 percent below those at the supermarket.  Interventions were offered in English and Spanish and also included a kick-off event and taste testing opportunities.

Americans do not eat adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables and prior to this study, researchers determined that 74 percent of Rhode Islanders don’t.  The importance of fruits and vegetables in the diet is well-established, says Gans, as are the risks associated with not getting enough of them in our diets.

  • Insufficient vegetable intake is among the top 10 selected risk factors for global mortality.
  • Fruits and vegetables are high in micronutrients, dietary fiber, phytochemicals
  • Insufficient intake of F&V is related to cancer, CVD, and stroke, obesity and diabetes

Other positive results of the study included a “dose response” effect showing that the more markets people came to the higher the change in their fruit and vegetable consumption was, Gans said.  Those people who came to every market – roughly 12 percent of study participants– showed an increased fruit and vegetable consumption of over two cups per day, she said.

“We also saw a relationship between watching the DVD and intervention change,” Gans says. “People who watched the DVD showed a bigger increase in daily fruit and vegetable intake than those who did not.”

The market is now run by the Rhode Island Public Health Institute and has a new name – Food On The Move – as well as a new logo. Gans currently has a new intervention study in the works aimed at increasing physical activity in Latino men. It is built on a similar study involving Latino women.

Stigma Intervention and HIV Testing for Black Gay Men and Transgender Women, a New Study by Prof. Lisa Eaton

By Loretta Waldman

stop stigma

Professor Lisa Eaton is embarking on a new intervention aimed at reducing the impact of stigma and logistical barriers to HIV/STI testing.

Funding for the new study was finalized in September and is provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), said Eaton, an InCHIP researcher and Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies. The goal of the study is to remove critical barriers well recognized by her and other researchers – emotional and logistical barriers to more frequent HIV/STI testing among Black men and transgender women who have male sex partners.

The need for the intervention is tremendous.
Continue reading