Mobile Community Health Research for HIV/STI Program Development

In February 2012, Professor Janet Heller submitted a proposal to CUNY’s Office of Academic Affairs, Office of the University Dean for Health and Human Services. The request was to fund paid internships for students in community-based public health promotion research. This unique opportunity will provide hands-on experience to students enrolled in the Community/School Health Education Program. Community health experience is particularly important for those students planning to enter the workforce upon completion of their A.S. degree.  Students will gain experience and skills necessary to increase their employment opportunities.

This project will integrate 6 student researchers into the Mobile Data Collection Team within a larger National Institutes of Mental Health R34 grant. The purpose of the research is to identify factors that would increase uptake of STI/HIV services among 18-24 year olds in NYC. Data collected will inform the development of a novel intervention to increase HIV/STI knowledge, reduce high-risk behaviors and increase testing.  Under the supervision of experienced clinicians and researchers, students will engage in data collection, analysis, and dissemination.

Three deliverables will result from this project:

  1. Data will contribute to a larger, federally funded study of HIV/STI behaviors and health promotion preferences among young adults in NYC.
  2. The isolated data from respondents at BCC and the surrounding area will be summarized in a research brief detailing risk factors, testing behaviors and recommendations for outreach, education and testing. The report will be written with student contributions under the supervision of Drs. Heller, Hyden and Patel and will be provided to the BCC Department of Health Services.
  3. A manuscript will be submitted for publication detailing the development, feasibility, and outcome of the student Mobile Data Collection Team.

This proposal involves multiple levels of impact:

  1. On the individual level, students will gain hands-on experience conducting public health research. Additionally, they will have real-time access to the data they are collecting and will meet regularly to discuss study results with public health professionals.
  2. On the community level, students will contribute to increased understanding of HIV/STI risk factors, attitudes and behaviors at their school and in their neighborhoods.
  3. On the national level, the data collected will contribute to formative research in support of an innovative federally funded HIV/STI intervention, to be developed in 2013 and tested via randomized controlled trial in 2014.

This initiative represents a unique multi-institutional, interdisciplinary collaboration between BCC and: Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Harlem Health Promotion Center, National Development and Research Institutes.

This project has multiple evaluation activities:

  • Implementation: Key contributors will participate in ongoing evaluation of the recruitment, retention, and engagement of student interns via regular feedback meetings with collaborators and students and documentation of barriers to project implementation.
  • Outcome: We will measure our ability to collect data and produce deliverables during the expected timeframe.
  • Student Impact: On a regular basis, students will submit reflective essays on their participation in the project, lessons learned, and impact on future personal and professional decision-making.

The project will take place from March 2012-August 2012 and has received $18,872.38 of funding. If the project is succesful, the Community/School Health Education Program will consider expanding this internship opportunity to provide data collection assistance to other community based research initiatives.