NC high school students embrace public health advocacy

Daquandra' Rankins

Daquandra’ Rankins

A group of North Carolina high school students are making strides in public health and youth advocacy, thanks to a partnership with the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Strengthening the Black Family, a community-based organization in Raleigh.

The Youth Empowered Advocating for Health (YEAH) program incorporates high school students into the public health research process, and trains them as health advocates for their peers. The project originated with an HIV prevention and advocacy focus, but has developed into areas such as teen pregnancy and stress and obesity.

Recently, a group of YEAH youth participants presented their work at the UNC Minority Health Conference, and YEAH youth leader Marjorie Freeman introduced the conference’s keynote speaker.

“Seeing Marjorie introduce Gale Christopher was amazing,” said Alex Lightfoot, an HPDP researcher and YEAH Youth supporter. “She was just so confident and eloquent and she was funny. She did a fantastic job.”

Lightfoot, Ed.D., and Briana Woods-Jaeger, Ph.D., developed the YEAH program alongside community partners at Strengthening the Black Family four years ago.

YEAH youth participants and leaders have been trained in a number of community based participatory research techniques, and frequently use Photovoice, a photography based program used to explore health determinants among minority youth.

Lightfoot says the YEAH program acts as a catalyst for personal growth among the youth participants.

“I’ve been able to watch them grow so much as they’ve moved through the program,” she said. “It’s expanding their horizons hugely, and what they can do and how they can affect change.”

“You can see the spark in them, as they’ve presented their work at APHA and have grown into themselves. They’ve become so confident and self assured. It’s been inspiring.”

For the last three years, the YEAH youth have been able to attend and present their work at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting.

“Presenting at APHA was huge,” said DaQuandra Rankins, a YEAH youth leader. “I didn’t recognize how huge it was going to be until I got there. And each year has gotten better and better.”

Rankins has attended APHA all three years, and has traveled to New Orleans and San Francisco with to present his work with YEAH.

“I’ve been all over the United States, and I feel like I have advocated,” he said. “I feel like I’ve done my job, and what I’m supposed to do, and I’m happy.”

HPDP research seek voice for immigrant populations

EnvisioningHealthHPDP researchers Eugenia Eng and Alexandra  Lightfoot and community partner Florence Siman are working with an interdisciplinary team at UNC on the Envisioning Health Project.  Envisioning Health is led by Mimi Chapman (UNC School of Social Work) and is focused on investigating whether art can help to enhance the health care of Latino/Latina adolescents. The team is working  with photojournalist Janet Jarman, whose work with the project was recently featured in a New York Times photoblog.

Eng, Lightfoot and Siman will add a youth perspective to the project using the participatory research method of Photovoice with Latino adolescents to enable them to document their experiences with health care and providers. The youth will share their Photovoice findings with pediatric residents in a community forum as a way to help build understanding about Latino/Latina adolescents, the experience of migration, and health care barriers they face.

No Kid Hungry NC joins HPDP

NKH NorthCarolina LOGO 196x120pixels

The UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) is excited to announce a new initiative with No Kid Hungry North Carolina to help expand access to federal nutrition programs including School Breakfast and Summer Meals to reduce hunger in NC children.

No Kid Hungry NC is the North Carolina program of the nonprofit Share Our Strength’s national No Kid Hungry campaign. No Kid Hungry has expanded into sixteen states including North Carolina.

The organization has been in North Carolina since 2011 and coordinates with the 115 school districts in the state to reduce hunger by increasing school breakfast participation. No Kid Hungry NC also works closely with state agencies and local partners to provide access to summer meals for children when schools are closed.

The HPDP-No Kid Hungry NC partnership, which became effective March 1, will increase HPDP’s capacity for research related to improving nutrition for school-aged children. The partnership already has led to several research projects, such as HPDP’s NOURISH program that works to promote healthy eating habits among children in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

HPDP Director Alice Ammerman said, “We are delighted to welcome No Kid Hungry NC to HPDP, as food security is a critical public health problem. We have already initiated a number of research collaborations around school nutrition and summer meals programs.”

No Kid Hungry NC is led by Lou Anne Crumpler, state director for the program. Tamara Baker is the program manager and communications director, and Helen Roberts is the school outreach educator.

“Dr. Ammerman is respected across the country for her leadership in nutrition and public health. We are honored to be one of the initiatives at the Center,” Crumpler said.

“We are the only No Kid Hungry initiative based at a major public research university. Our funding partner Share Our Strength appreciates the tremendous contribution that the Center has made in advancing public health over many years. The Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, under the leadership of Dr. Ammerman, is the ideal home for the No Kid Hungry NC program,” Crumpler added.

Most of the No Kid Hungry programs focus on school breakfast and summer meals. Others also work on at-risk after school meals, expanding access to SNAP benefits, and promoting other federal child nutrition programs.

One of No Kid Hungry NC’s current projects is a statewide School Breakfast Challenge that encourages K-12 public schools to increase participation in their breakfast programs. State leaders recently announced the Challenge winners for 2013 and recognized the top performing schools in the state; USDA has reported that more than 10,000 additional children ate school breakfast in North Carolina in 2013. Plans for a second Challenge for the fall of 2014 will be announced soon.

Also under the leadership of Share Our Strength is Cooking Matters, the national nutrition education program of No Kid Hungry that teaches families how to shop and prepare healthy foods on a budget. HPDP has used the Cooking Matters curriculum for several years in its educational efforts to families in our state.

Nationally, No Kid Hungry gets support from the Food Network, celebrity chefs, corporate and nonprofit partners. The national spokesperson for No Kid Hungry is Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges.

Workplace intervention promotes healthy child care workers

HopeWorks8_cropped_200The health and wellness of NC child care workers will will be getting a boost thanks to a new intervention program at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Care2BWell, which is directed by UNC HPDP Research Fellows Dr. Dianne Ward and Dr. Laura Linnan, will test an intervention model designed to help childcare workers improve physical activity and healthy eating.

The program, which is funded by a $3.4 million, five year grant from the National Institute of Health, will work with 104 childcare centers across North Carolina.

Ward, who is also professor of nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and Linnan, professor of health behavior in the same school, said that childcare workers have received very little research attention in the past, despite earning low wages and making up 1.2 million jobs in the United States.

“Child care workers have demanding jobs,” Linnan said. “They work long hours, some work on holidays. And they’re expected to be 100 percent focused on the children they care for.”

By increasing physical activity and and improving healthy eating habits, workers will be put at a decreased risk for many chronic diseases such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes. With this in mind, Ward said the intervention has important implications for the health of workers and children alike.

“Parents know how important it is to find quality health care for their children,” she said. “Childcare workers are critical to that effort. If childcare workers are healthy, they are in a much better position to provide excellent care for the children they work with.”

Linnan echoed Ward’s sentiment, and stressed the importance of childcare worker health.

“We believe they will feel great physically and mentally,” she said. “And as a result, we expect they will model these healthy behaviors for the children in their care.”

The intervention will be carried out for six months, and will work directly with center directors and childcare workers.

Donna White deputy director of the North Carolina Partnership for Children said Care2BWell is positioned to have a major impact in North Carolina.

“The Care2BWell study is a great opportunity for child care workers to improve their health and be strong role models for the children in their care,” she said. “Child care centers across our state will benefit from this study, and, in turn, so will the families and children in the communities they serve.”

HPDP researchers connect community members with hospitals in Lehigh Valley

After a two year partnership with the UNC Office of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, five area hospitals in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania have ratified the Community Health Needs Assessment and as well as a NHNA-based Action Plan.

The CHNA platform analyzes the driving factors of health in a community, and identifies community action and investment strategies to improve health conditions.

HPDP researchers Alex Lightfoot, PhD, and Molly DeMarco, PhD, worked with the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust, to help the Lehigh Valley Health Network achieve the CHNA standards.

“The Trust contracted with me and Molly De Marco to design and implement a process in collaboration with the HCC to reach out to underserved communities and ensure their input was included in the CHNA process,” Lightfoot said.

DeMarco and Lightfoot worked with community organizer Melvin Jackson to complete the assessment.

Lightfoot and Christina Younge Hardy were first contacted by the health network to provide an overview of the CBPR model in December 2011. Since then, Lightfoot and other HPDP researchers have worked with Lehigh Valley hospitals to incorporate CBPR standards into their health research and operation.

Following the hospitals’ work with HPDP, the Health Care Council of Lehigh Valley has signed a three year agreement to continue the initiative. According to Pool Trust Program Officer Ron Dendas, the individual stock within each institution has risen, population health strategies now play larger roles in hospital business

Lightfoot said she is excited about HPDP’s work in Lehigh Valley, and hopes to continue work with the area in the future.

HPDP Deputy Director publishes guide for engaging faith-based communities

Lori Carter-Edwards preferred_250HPDP Researcher Lori Carter-Edwards, Ph.D., recently published a chapter in Lead the way: principles and practices in community and civic engagement, a book that will act as a public health guide for engaging faith-based communities. The chapter explains the history and importance of faith-based communities in health promotion, and discusses a multidimensional approach for engaging faith-based organizations (FBOs).

FBOs are nationally positioned as an important force to address and prevent health disparities. The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is currently working to create partnerships between FBOs and the government to achieve the goals of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Carter-Edwards said the chapter will be a useful tool for anyone interested in using FBOs as a source of community health promotion.

“The book will be used in leadership courses and will undoubtedly be a nice instructional tool for both new and seasoned leaders,” she said.  “The editors and I, and I expect the other authors in the book, hope this work will be useful to anyone interested in conducting community engaged research and practice among leaders among diverse racial and ethnic groups.”

As the chapter explains, FBOs have long served as a center for community support and engagement in African American populations, and are ideally situated for health education and promotion efforts.

Carter-Edwards worked closely with the North Carolina Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NC OMHHD), to develop and evaluate the Community Empowerment Network (CEN), a collaboration of FBOs described in the chapter.  The CEN partnered with 150 churches across 20 counties in North Carolina, and employed the collaborative FBO framework Carter-Edwards describes in the chapter.

Carter-Edwards said she hopes the chapter will provide readers a deeper understanding of the role faith-based organizations play in community based engaged research.

“I’d like those who read the chapter to gain greater understanding of the time, effort and core principles of engaged leadership and health promotion in FBOs,” she said.

“I hope my chapter will generate dialogue among faith-based leaders and between faith-based leaders and academic and other community stakeholders such that they are able to better leverage partnerships and resources necessary to improve health among the members of their congregations and beyond.”

The UNC Center Health Promotion and Disease Prevention is a member of the Prevention Research Center network funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heart to Health sets baseline for evaluating heart disease prevention programs

logo_heart-to-health_FINAL_10-21-10As heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the US, researchers at the UNC Office of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention are working to evaluate and develop effective prevention programs.

HPDP’s Heart to Health team published an article in Contemporary Clinical Trials that sets the baseline for future evaluation of coronary heart disease prevention programs.

The article is the first of a two-part study that will compare counselor-delivered and web-based programs to determine which is more effective to prevent CHD.

In the study, primary investigator Stacey Sheridan, Ph.D., and HPDP researchers evaluated baseline characteristics for participants in CHD prevention programs.

Stacey Sheridan

Stacey Sheridan

Sheridan and her team conducted prevention program trials at five diverse practices in a family research network.

“The goal of Heart to Health is to provide the necessary information to make informed choices about how to best implement CHD in practice,” Sheridan said.

“It’s important because it compares the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and acceptability of two alternate ways to implement high quality CHD prevention.”

The second portion of the two studies that compares prevention programs is now well underway, and the results are scheduled to be published in 2014.

Food Explorers program kicks off healthy eating in Rockingham County Schools


Lizzy Eychner samples Apple Dunkers as part of the Food Explorers program

As parents and students crowded the halls of Rockingham County Schools for Open House, they were greeted by a host of healthy new lunch menu items.

“That’s so good!” said Lizzy Eychner, a Rockingham County student, as she tried the new Apple Dunkers her cafeteria will be offering this year.

The Open House was the kickoff to Food Explorers, a research partnership between the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP), Rockingham County Schools, and Chef Cyndie Story. The program is funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation  and the Reidsville Area Foundation.

Food Explorers is a  social marketing campaign, and is designed to promote healthy lunch menus and increased fruit and vegetable consumption at school. The campaign is deployed in tandem with  upgrades to school cafeteria equipment, new fruit and vegetable recipes and child nutrition staff training.

“Interventions aimed at changing school food in the past have not focused on marketing the changes to kids, parents, and school staff,” said Linden Thayer, a doctoral student in nutrition and policy at the Gillings School of Global Public Health and the project manager of the study. She added that this often means that school lunch programs lose student participation because students and parents are upset by unsolicited menu changes.

“We focus on selling the idea of changes to the school lunch menu to kids, teachers, and parents to try to prevent backlash and promote the new healthy options,” said Thayer.

So far the program has been a hit among students, parents and staff alike.Logo

Third and fourth grade students in the program will be issued an Explorers Passport at the beginning of the year, and new fruit and vegetable trading cards every week. When the student tries one of the 39 new fruits and vegetables offered in the lunchroom, he or she will receive a stamp in their passport. Students will have a chance to review each new food to determine their favorites. They can become Master Explorers and earn rewards if they participate in the passport program and trading card game and try new food throughout the school year.

“We believe the Masters Explorers incentive program will significantly increase student consumption of fruits and vegetables,” said Thayer.

The research team is led by Alice Ammerman, Ph.D., director of HPDP and a professor of nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Thayer. Seth Noar, Ph.D., and Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, Ph.D., from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, will be leading the social marketing portion of the program. Undergraduate and graduate students from both schools are also working on the project.

The research team spent 9 months talking with students, parents and teachers about how to structure the program.

“We combined data gathered from focus groups with 4th and 5th grade students, and in-depth interviews with parents, teachers, administrators, and school lunch staff in Rockingham,” Thayer said.  “We tested several campaign ideas with students in focus groups and then used the focus group feedback to develop the final project idea.”

Students who bring lunch from home will be able to participate in the Food Explorers program by taking free samples of all new foods. However, Thayer said one of the program’s goals was to increase interest in school lunches.

“An increase in participation in school lunch would be a first because previous school meal programs have all resulted in reduced participation resulting in a loss of money to the lunch program,” Thayer said.

The Food Explorers program will continue until the spring, and researchers will begin to gather follow-up data to determine the program’s impact in April 2014.


For more information, contact Sonya Sutton, HPDP Communications Specialist, at; 919-966-4118.

Zachary Freshwater

HPDP researcher named Gerontological Society of America Fellow

Mary Altpeter

Mary Altpeter

HPDP Research Fellow Mary Altpeter was awarded fellow status with the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in July. Altpeter has been an active member of the organization since early 2000 and has served on several national level GSA committees.

Fellow status is the highest class of membership within the society, and is an acknowledgment of outstanding work in gerontology. Every year existing fellows nominate individuals that meet rigorous requirements that take into consideration service, education, experience, and contribution to gerontology.

Altpeter has attended multiple GSA symposia as well as workshop and poster presentations. She has also served as a reviewer for GSA-related journals and maintained involvement with GSA sister organization, the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education.

She said she was honored to receive the award.

“I admire Gordon Streib’s many contributions to the field of aging and am so pleased to be in the company of the other award recipients,” Altpeter said.

Gordon Streib was a distinguished gerontological researcher was a GSA Fellow and a founding member of the Southern Gerontological Society.

Altpeter will be officially inducted into the GSA in November at the society’s 66th Annual Scientific Meeting.


Falls prevention program receives recognition from National Council of Aging

Tiffany Shubert

Tiffany Shubert

Every year, one in three adults fall and suffer tremendous negative impacts on their quality of life. While the risk of falls remain high among older adults, there has been a significant gap in fall prevention literature and its translation into real world settings.

Tiffany Shubert, a research fellow at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease prevention, sought to close this gap. She worked with other investigators to develop the Stay Safe, Stay Active program. Stay Safe, Stay Active was voted best application of the RE-AIM framework by and won an honorable mention from the National Council of Aging (NCOA).

Following the direction of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research, Shubert translated a fall prevention intervention into a community program at a Chapel Hill senior center. The Stay Safe, Stay Active program enrolled seniors in a 37 week, balance and strength training class that was supported by a grant for two years.

“We took a program that was validated in the literature and manualized it so that it would be delivered in a standardized way,” Shubert said.

The program successfully reduced falls by 40% and significantly decreased fall-related injuries compared to age-matched controls.

“By the time the grant funding stopped, the program had been fully adopted by the senior center and was sustained for the following four years and still going strong,” she said.

Shubert said the program is significant for older adults’ health outcomes, as it has easily measurable impacts.

“The program we translated has the potential to decrease rates of falls by 30%,” she said. “Translating these programs and delivering them in a sustainable way into the community is one way to begin to address this problem.”

Shubert’s paper utilized the RE-AIM framework designed to enhance the quality, speed, and impact of public health efforts to translate research into practice.

“I am thrilled that the work is being recognized on a national level and excited to see what happens next,” she said.