RESEARCH PROJECTS

(2020-2021)

The Feasibility and Acceptability of Community Health Workers Serving as COVID-19 Contact Tracers in Chicago’s Underserved Neighborhoods

Project Summary: 

COVID-19 is a worldwide pandemic that is disproportionately affecting people of color across the U.S. and in Chicago. Contact tracing is a public health approach that involves identifying and contacting individuals who may have come into contact with an infected patient. Sinai Community Institute recently received funding to pilot a contact tracing effort in North Lawndale, and the Sinai Urban Health Institute (SUHI) will be training and evaluating the program. Results from this pilot will lead to creating a community health worker (CHW) workforce to expand contact tracing across Chicago—particularly in the South and West sides. The purpose of the current study is to partner with SUHI to move this project forward, and to lead a research study investigating the role of CHWs in this effort.

(2018-2021)

Identifying Predictors of National School Lunch Program Participation in Chicago Public High Schools: PROJECT CHOMP

Project Summary: 

Since the implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2012, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) have provided healthy options for youth during school hours. Participation in these programs has been shown to both reduce food insecurity and increase healthful eating among children and adolescents, but families may choose not to participate. High school student rates of participation in school meal programs are particularly low. Therefore, it is essential to understand the predictors of NSLP and SBP participation for high school students from the perspectives of both students and caregivers. It is also important to assess communication preferences regarding school meals to increase participation. Therefore, the current study addresses three main research questions: 1) What factors influence high school students’ participation in the NSLP and SBP?; 2) What are common student and caregiver health behaviors and beliefs and how might those behaviors or beliefs undermine or amplify the benefits of school meals?; and 3) How do caregivers and youth prefer to be communicated about schools meals? To answer these questions, 80 student-caregiver dyads will be recruited from five Chicago Public High Schools to engage in focus groups or interviews on the topic of school meals as well as complete supplementary questionnaires about their health behaviors and beliefs. Focus groups and interviews will be coded for overall themes. Results from the current study will be used to inform future studies aimed at promoting increased school meal participation, and will inform the development and assessment of a digital communication tool encouraging meal participation and healthful eating among Chicago High School students.

(2017-2021)

Mi Guia (My Guide) pilot study: An e-Health Intervention to Improve Symptom Burden and Health-Related Quality of Life among Hispanic Women Completing Active Treatment for Breast Cancer

Project Summary: 

This study aims to create and evaluate Mi Guía (My Guide), a culturally informed eHealth psychoeducational and psychosocial intervention for English or Spanish-speaking Hispanic women completing active treatment for breast cancer. Mi Guía is grounded in evidence-based paradigms to improve cancer-related symptom burden and health-related quality of life. In the first phase of the project, we created Mi Guía and refined the intervention using usability and feasibility testing. In the second phase of the project, we tested the initial efficacy of Mi Guía compared to a health education control on cancer-related symptom burden and health-related quality of life outcomes. We are now conducting a follow-up study to test the efficacy of the intervention in patients undergoing active treatment.

(2017-2021)

Psychosocial stressors and physical health symptoms predicting health behaviors among undergraduate students  

Project Summary: 

This project seeks to examine relationships between daily hassles, daily physical health complaints, and involvement in certain health risk behaviors (e.g., substance use) or health promoting behaviors (e.g., sleep, dietary intake) among undergraduate students at DePaul University.  We are also interested in determining whether these daily hassles or daily physical health complaints are still important influences on health behaviors even after factoring in the role of certain demographic factors, physical health challenges, and psychological problems.  Attention to the undergraduate population is important since emerging adulthood is a time in which health risk and health promotion behaviors are still malleable. Thus, understanding factors that influence health promotion and health risk behaviors during this developmental period is the first step in development of interventions to enhance young adult health in the short and long term. We have completed data collection for the original study, but are now collecting follow-up data from these participants at 3 time points over the course of one year.

(2017-2018)

The Role of Food Reinforcement in the Efficacy of a “Smarter Lunchroom” Intervention

Project Summary: 

Childhood obesity is a public health concern, particularly among African-American and Latino children. Children consume much of their daily caloric intake at schools. Since the implementation of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act in 2012, the National School Lunch Program has provided healthy food options for children during school hours. To increase the selection and consumption of these healthy foods, research has found that small and inexpensive environmental changes can help to make selecting fruits and vegetables accessible, attractive, and normative, which results in increased consumption of these items. Examples of these changes include 1) giving healthy foods fun names, 2) placing healthy items in front of the food line, and 3) displaying fresh fruit in attractive bowls. Although these environmental interventions have been found to increase healthy eating among elementary school children, no studies to date have investigated effect modifiers or mechanisms of dietary change. The current study aims to determine whether baseline food reinforcement and delay discounting levels predict responsiveness to an environmental lunchroom intervention. Eighty-eight elementary school children (grades 1-4) were recruited from a Chicago Public School during the 2017-2018 school year. Our primary outcomes paper is under review, and we have several other manuscripts in preparation.

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