News

Collaboratory on School and Child Health Helping to Develop CT Model for Trauma-Informed Schools By Beth Krane

Sandra Chafouleas, PhD Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Department of Educational Psychology
Sandra Chafouleas, PhD Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Department of Educational Psychology

A growing awareness of the prevalence of childhood exposure to trauma and an increased understanding of its corrosive, potentially lifelong impacts on health and behavior together are fueling a national movement to create trauma-informed schools, says InCHIP Principal Investigator (PI) Sandra Chafouleas. Such schools foster environments that are responsive to the needs of trauma-exposed students using systematic approaches and implementation of effective practices, the Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology explains.

Chafouleas co-authored an introduction to a special issue of the journal School Mental Health devoted to the topic and also wrote an article for the issue offering a blueprint for trauma-informed schools in spring of 2016. Since then, UConn’s Collaboratory on School and Child Health (CSCH), which Chafouleas co-directs, has been working to coalesce efforts to build a state model for trauma-informed schools in Connecticut. Steps taken include hosting a documentary screening and panel discussion, co-sponsoring a well-attended conference, helping to form a monthly working group comprised of relevant state and local stakeholders, and taking part in a series of professional development opportunities offered for educators across the state this fall.

Its initiative in this area is an example of CSCH doing precisely what it was formed to do two years ago. CSCH, which represents a partnership between the University’s Neag School of Education, Office of Public Engagement and InCHIP, brings researchers, policy makers, and practitioners together to promote the health, safety, and well-being of the whole child.

“We don’t always ask the right questions when we see a student struggling academically, missing school, or getting into trouble repeatedly,” Chafouleas said. “Once educators look at student behavior through a trauma-informed lens, it is easier to reframe their questions from blaming the child to asking what happened to the child and how can we help.”

In reframing, schools then can respond by teaching students needed coping and self-regulation skills instead of possibly re-traumatizing students with harsh discipline policies that don’t address the underlying problems, she said.

In the special journal issue, Chafouleas highlighted the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s four key assumptions underlying trauma-informed approaches: (1) a realization of the widespread prevalence and impact of trauma, (2) a recognition of the signs of traumatic exposure, and (3) a response grounded in evidence-based practices that (4) resists retraumatization of individuals.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, 2014)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, 2014)

The blueprint she wrote with colleagues shared some of the best evidence-based interventions that schools could adopt, described using a familiar framework for multi-tiered service delivery within schools – the School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) framework developed by her Neag School of Education colleague, Professor George Sugai. That framework focuses on planning, implementation, and evaluation of services across different levels of student need.

Using a multi-tiered service delivery approach, a school system might adopt a curriculum for social-emotional learning to teach all students coping and resilience, provide a smaller portion of the student body exposed to traumatic events access to in-school counseling resources, and identify an even smaller group of students exhibiting negative effects of trauma exposure and assess whether they need a combination of in- and out-of-school services. For example, in New Haven, the Clifford Beers Clinic partnered with the New Haven Public Schools and other agencies to lead trauma-informed school services. Led by the Clifford Beers Clinic, all school personnel received what Chafouleas refers to as “Trauma 101” training, students with moderate need have been offered access to an evidence-based intervention delivered in schools, and care coordinators intervene with those students and families experiencing the most toxic effects of trauma.

“Schools form a great space for addressing childhood trauma and its lasting effects,” Chafouleas said. “The kids are already there. Prevalence research estimates that two out of three children will be exposed to trauma by the age of 17. We want to facilitate the early identification of children affected by trauma, and to create ease of access to the most appropriate services to facilitate child wellbeing.”

“There are a lot of people and groups around the state who are committed to this kind of work,” Chafouleas said. “The question at the outset was, how do we bring them together to do the work more efficiently and effectively?”

Last fall, CSCH hosted one of the first screenings of the documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope followed by a panel discussion with the film’s director James Redford; Alice Forrester, Clifford Beers Clinic Chief Executive Officer and CSCH Steering Committee Member; and Paul Diego-Holzer, Executive Director from Achieve Hartford!. The documentary chronicles the work of the researchers who discovered the long-term biological, psychological, and social effects of abuse and neglect in childhood, and highlights the efforts of pediatricians, therapists, and educators using the best evidence-based interventions to help children exposed to chronic stress. New Haven Public Schools and Clifford Beers Clinic are among those featured in the film.

Then, in the spring, CSCH co-sponsored a symposium on trauma-informed schools attended by more than 100 education, mental health, and community leaders, including an introduction by Connecticut Department of Education (CT DOE) Commissioner Dianna Wentzell. The Neag School of Education, Capitol Region Education Council (CREC), CT DOE, Ana Grace Project, Clifford Beers Clinic and the Child Health Development Institute (CHDI) collaborated with CSCH on the conference.

Throughout this fall, Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) and Clifford Beers Clinic have sponsored five additional screenings of Resilience, coupled with panel discussions across the state, in response to educators’ overwhelming interest in learning about trauma-informed approaches. The professional development opportunities have been offered in Hampton, New London, Cheshire, Norwalk, and Torrington. Chafouleas and Forrester have each participated on many of the panels.

And a working group consisting of the symposium collaborators and additional organizations continues to meet monthly to discuss what a state model for trauma-informed schools should look like in Connecticut and to create an action plan for developing it. Chafouleas said the working group is using a multi-tiered service delivery framework such as the one presented in her blueprint as a guide, but each partner also brings its own experiences and expertise to the process.

Chafouleas said a number of CSCH’s partners have indicated they are pleased to have UConn at the table committed to working with them, from helping to identify the best-evidence based policies and practices to eventually guiding effective implementation of the model and evaluating how it is working.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New InCHIP PI Is Testing a Postpartum Weight Loss Intervention on Social Media By Beth Krane

New InCHIP Principal Investigator Molly Waring is bringing a postpartum weight loss program to women where they already come together – Facebook.

Molly Waring, PhD (Allied Health Sciences)
Molly Waring, PhD (Allied Health Sciences)

Waring specializes in technology-based weight loss interventions for women of childbearing age. She understands that new moms are extremely busy and don’t always have time for weight loss programs with in-person meetings. Waring also knows that more than 80% of online moms use Facebook, the most popular online social network, and about half of those moms already seek social or emotional support about parenting issues online.

“Delivering our intervention via Facebook allows us to connect with postpartum women where they are, more fully integrating into their lives and daily routines,” said Waring, an epidemiologist and an Assistant Professor of Allied Health Sciences. “A mom in our study may be looking at updates from her high school friends or photos of her sister’s vacation on Facebook, but then she’ll also see a post that says, ‘What’s your plan to be active today?’ or a post starting a conversation about stress management or how to get support from family or friends around lifestyle changes.”

Waring and her collaborator Sherry Pagoto, professor of Allied Health Sciences and Director of the UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media, joined UConn’s faculty this fall from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Both Pagoto and Waring lead programs of research that merge the most compelling scientific evidence for health behavior change with technology and popular social media platforms to deliver interventions that are effective, convenient, and sustainable.

Waring and her team of researchers, including Pagoto, conducted a successful pilot study of their Facebook-delivered weight loss intervention for postpartum women to see if women would be interested in it and stay engaged. The findings of this pilot study, which will be published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior in early 2018, include a retention rate in the 12-week program of 95%, with 100% of women visibly engaging in the last four weeks of the intervention including 42% who engaged on the last day of the study.

Women enjoyed the intervention and achieved results participating in it, Waring reports in the article. More than 80% said they would participate in the program again and recommend it to a friend. Nearly 60% lost at least 5% of their starting weight.

women running on treadmills

Now, with a new three-year grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Waring, the Principal Investigator, and Pagoto, a Co-Investigator, will build on their pilot study and conduct a randomized

All of the women in this trial will receive a lifestyle intervention based on an existing program but adapted for postpartum women, so it covers, for example, the caloric needs of nursing mothers, safe exercises to do in the early postpartum period, and fun ways to exercise with your baby. There will be a topic for each week of the program, ranging from diet and exercise to sleep, social support, and stress management.

Half of the women in the study will attend one 90-minute in-person group meeting with a trained coach each week, and the other half will be part of a private Facebook group in which a trained coach will post information twice a day, which women will see as part of their regular Facebook feeds.

”I’m predicting that women who participate in the weight loss program via Facebook will lose about the same amount of weight as women attending traditional weight loss meetings, but that Facebook delivery will be more convenient, cost-effective, and sustainable,” Waring said. “And that ultimately gives our Facebook-delivered intervention an edge in terms of potential for impacting women’s lives.”

Pregnancy and the postpartum period are critical times to change women’s weight trajectories, she said.

As many as half of postpartum women are at least 11 pounds heavier one year after delivery than they were pre-pregnancy. Pregnancy weight gain that isn’t lost after delivery also can lead to obesity for some women. A recent study found that 30% of women who were normal weight pre-pregnancy were overweight at one year postpartum, and 44% of overweight women had become obese.

Waring hopes to ultimately reach as many postpartum women as possible, and delivering the intervention through a widely available social media platform such as Facebook, can help with this goal. In addition to helping women lose weight after having a baby, Waring and her team aim to create a ripple effect that also positively impacts women’s families.

“We’re trying to catch women at a time in their lives when many are already highly motivated to make healthy behavior changes for themselves and their new babies. For instance, some women may give up smoking when they become pregnant,” Waring said. “It’s a great time to help women make choices that result in healthier lives for themselves and for their children.”

 

A New InCHIP Grant Investigates Americans’ Perspectives on Health Equity By Beth Krane

A leading U.S. health foundation has enlisted an InCHIP expert to assist in its efforts to help build a national “culture of health.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation approached UConn Associate Professor of Anthropology Sarah Willen to help broaden and strengthen its understanding of Americans’ perspectives on health equity and deservingness. The Foundation’s “culture of health” framework aims to promote health equity and cultivate a sense of health as a shared value.

Sara Willen, PhD (Anthropology)
Sara Willen, PhD (Anthropology)

With help, in part, from an InCHIP Rolling Seed Grant and advice from mentors at both InCHIP and CDC, Willen responded to the Foundation by building an interdisciplinary research team and advisory board, conducting a two-day planning workshop, and preparing a detailed proposal.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded Willen and her research team a two-year grant to support a two-phase study, ARCHES (AmeRicans’ Conceptions of Health Equity), which launched last month. The team is beginning by conducting interviews in Cleveland, Ohio, with Americans from diverse socioeconomic, professional, and racial and ethnic backgrounds, and then will use those qualitative findings to develop and conduct a national survey. An additional study component is an ethnographic study of HIP-Cuyahoga, a regional health equity initiative based in Greater Cleveland.

Willen and her team plan to investigate “how Americans think about a question that plays a pivotal, but largely implicit, role in American public discourse about society’s obligations to its members – the question of ‘who deserves what in the health domain, and why,’” she said.

“Often we hear health researchers and folks in public health say things like, ‘Everyone deserves to live the healthiest life possible,’” Willen said. “That’s a bold statement, and we don’t know whether it’s supported by all Americans. In fact, it’s possible some see things quite differently. Our goal is to develop a better understanding of how people’s moral values and personal experiences influence their views and their actions.”

Willen’s focus on health-related deservingness emerged from her research on unauthorized migration and health in different countries, including Israel.

“Health researchers who work on international migration know full well that ideas about who is and who is not deserving of attention or investment vary considerably from one country to the next,” said Willen, who also directs the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights at UConn’s Human Rights Institute. “Whether we are health officials, policymakers, voters, or researchers, our views are always influenced by moral values and commitments that tend to remain unspoken.”

“Now we want to open up these questions and pursue them more broadly here in the U.S.,” Willen said. “How do people think about what they themselves deserve in the health domain? How do people’s views and experiences influence their ideas about what others deserve? And, moreover, how might these ideas change over time?”

Willen said her group will examine how individuals’ positions on these issues might affect their health behaviors as well as their perspectives on health disparities, sense of social interconnectedness, and level of civic involvement.

Willen’s core research team includes co-investigators Colleen Walsh, an Assistant Professor of Health Sciences at Cleveland State University, and Abigail Fisher Williamson, an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy & Law at Trinity College, as well as UConn Anthropology PhD Candidate William Tootle, Jr. The project also involves research consultants from Brown University, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University, Syracuse University, and University of South Florida.

The first study phase, in Cleveland, involves interviews with 140 people, including elected officials, public health professionals, community leaders, philanthropists, clergy, and local residents. Half of those interviewed will be active in HIP-Cuyahoga, and half will not. Researchers also will attend HIP-Cuyahoga meetings, observe its events, and track its public messaging.

Willen chose to conduct the study’s first phase in Cleveland because it is similar to many American cities, yet also exhibits some of the country’s greatest disparities in health outcomes by race/ethnicity and class, including indicators like infant mortality, childhood lead exposure, and life expectancy. And HIP-Cuyahoga presents a nationally-recognized model for responding to those health inequities.

The second phase of the study will test the team’s qualitative findings with a national survey of 3,000 Americans.

Willen said InCHIP Director Jeffrey Fisher, InCHIP Associate Director Amy Gorin, and InCHIP PI and Director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity Marlene Schwartz, who has worked extensively with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, were all instrumental in helping her respond to the Foundation’s initial interest in her research.

In accepting the grant, Willen has committed to a host of deliverable products including academic papers and presentations, a case study and teaching module focusing on HIP-Cuyahoga, blog posts, and op-ed pieces for mainstream media.

“One of the most exciting things about working with RWJF is their challenge to consider the implications of our research from the outset, ” Willen said. “Not only do we need to produce rigorous findings, but we also need to think constantly about the bigger questions that researchers sometimes neglect: Why does this matter? Who should care about our findings, and how can we make our findings accessible to the right people, in the right way? How might our work change minds?”

 

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.
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Rudd Center Director Marlene Schwartz, PhD: Women’s Wellness Honoree at Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame

marleneschwartz

Rudd Center Director and Human Development and Family Studies Professor Marlene Schwartz is being honored this evening by the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame as a Women’s Wellness Honoree for her work in food and nutrition policy and in particular her focus on child health and wellbeing.

We want to extend congratulations to Marlene for this recognition and for all her fantastic work in child health!

The ceremony will take at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford from 6-9PM. Click here for more information about the event and Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.