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Getting youth to drink water, not sugar


young man drinking a bottle of water with the text "drink water." Text at the bottom "Make the healthy choice. Give your body the water it needs" NY State Department of HealthResearchers from the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research helped inform new public service advertisements created by the New York Department of Health to educate youth about the dangers of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Researchers working on the ACT for Youth project conducted two rounds of focus groups in the summer/fall of 2017 and spring of 2018 to test possible messages that would encourage young minority males to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.

“The story demonstrates our ability to conduct research with youth across the state in order to help NYSDOH better serve and reach youth, ultimately helping—we hope-- to improve health,” said Karen Schantz, the communications coordinator for ACT For Youth.

A significant number of youth drink sugary beverages regularly. In one study conducted from 2011-2014, more than 60 percent of adolescent boys drank a sugar-sweetened beverage each day. This is alarming considering there is clear evidence that these beverages are associated with obesity, poor dental health and other health problems.

Amanda Purington, the director of evaluation and research for ACT for Youth, managed the focus groups. In them, groups of adolescent boys from western and central New York answered questions about the definition of “sugary” beverages and how much they consumed, and then evaluated sample ads created to encourage youth to avoid sweetened beverages.

“Many of the young people we talked with thought that sports drinks were healthy drinks and if they engaged in an athletic endeavor, they needed to drink them to replace electrolytes,” Purington said. “So, unfortunately, the marketing by the sports drink companies is working! On the whole, the youth were surprised by the amount of sugar in sports drinks because they really thought they were healthy drinks.”

Youth preferred ads with information, such as the amount of sugar in different kinds of sugary drinks. The most well-received ads struck a balance between providing information and delivering that information in a clear, concise – and often visual – way.

“They also liked having alternatives suggested, like ‘quench your thirst with water instead,’” she said. “But they didn’t just want to be told what to do, they wanted to come to their own conclusions.

“They also wisely acknowledged that a media campaign like this might lead to some short-term behavior change, but may not lead to long-term behavior change, especially in communities where sugary beverages are ingrained in the culture.”

The New York State Department of Health’s media campaign is now live.

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Evaluation data improves youth pregnancy prevention programs


By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

portrait of Amanda Purington

Amanda Purington

Using data gathered from the evaluation of health education programs to make improvements is an important component of quality adolescent pregnancy prevention programs. That’s the conclusion of BCTR staff Amanda Purington, evaluation and research director of ACT For Youth, a BCTR project focused on positive youth development and adolescent health.

Purington presented ACT for Youth’s approach for collecting and using data for program improvement in May at the 2018 Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Conference in Washington D.C. The conference is sponsored by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families and Office of Adolescent Health. Her workshop was selected for the conference based on the work ACT For Youth does as part of New York State’s Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP).

“This conference was a great opportunity to demonstrate how we’ve streamlined our evaluation data collection process and describe how we’re working with practitioners to use that information to improve programming,” Purington said.

The presentation detailed an effective process to promote collaboration between evaluators, technical assistance providers and practitioners. The process uses online methods to collect program implementation data from educators and creates interactive data visualizations. It allows practitioners to explore factors that impact program retention and implementation, and encourages them to use that information to improve their programs.

ACT for Youth, funded by the New York State Department of Health, is working on several community-based initiatives that focus on adolescent sexual health promotion and youth development: Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, Personal Responsibility Education Program, Successfully Transitioning Youth to Adolescence, prevention programs for sexually-transmitted diseases, and the mentoring program Pathways to Success. The organizations that house these programs are diverse, ranging from large, urban hospitals to small community agencies. Each program incorporates positive youth development strategies into their work with young people.

ACT for Youth is a partnership among the BCTR, Cornell University Cooperative Extension of New York City, and the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

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ACT for Youth awarded new contract with NY State


By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

ACT for youth logoA BCTR project that helps New York youth lead more positive, healthy lives will expand its work with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH).

The state awarded a new contract to the Assets Coming Together for Youth Center for Community Action (ACT for Youth), a BCTR project focused on positive youth development and adolescent health. The project will receive $1.1 million in each of the next five years to develop training and resources, provide technical assistance, and evaluate youth intervention programs.

ACT for Youth has partnered with the NYSDOH since 2000. This is the project’s fourth contract with the state.

Headshot of Jane Powers

Jane Powers

“We’re thrilled to continue working with the New York State Department of Health, supporting their efforts to improve the health and well-being of adolescents in our state,” said Jane Powers, the project director.

ACT for Youth is currently working on several community-based initiatives that focus on adolescent sexual health promotion and youth development: Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, Personal Responsibility Education Program, Successfully Transitioning Youth to Adolescence, and Pathways to Success. As part of the new contract, ACT for Youth will now also support prevention programs for sexually-transmitted diseases for youth. The organizations that house these programs are diverse, ranging from large, urban hospitals to small community agencies. Each program incorporates positive youth development strategies into their work with young people.

ACT for Youth is a partnership among the BCTR, Cornell University Cooperative Extension of New York City, and the Adolescent Medicine Division at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Related:

ACT for Youth: Measuring positive youth development

ACT for Youth supports sex education and positive youth development at Provider Day

Teen Outreach Program helps prevent teen pregnancy

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ACT hosts visiting scholar from Malaysia


By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

This winter, the BCTR hosted a visiting scholar from Malaysia who shared information about youth development programs in her country.

Professor Haslinda Binti Abdullah is an associate professor and the deputy dean of research and innovation at Universiti Putra Malaysi.

Abdullah spent a week in Washington, D.C. at the American Evaluator Association conference, where she gave a presentation titled “Evaluating Trajectories of Youth-Adult Partnerships in Malaysia and United States” with Jane Powers, the project director of the BCTR’s ACT for Youth Center for Community Action.

Powers and Abdullah shared findings from evaluations of youth-adult partnerships conducted in the U.S. and Malaysia. Their research from both countries demonstrated that when youth and adults learn and act together as partners, they can produce high-quality and sustained efforts that endure over time.

Professor Haslinda Binti Abdullah with ACT for Youth Network members

Professor Haslinda Binti Abdullah (in red) with ACT for Youth Network members

Next, Abdullah visited Ithaca, where she met with BCTR staff for cross-cultural dialogue about youth development programs. And finally, she visited New York City, where she met with Cornell Cooperative Extension youth development practitioners and the ACT for Youth Network, a group of youth consultants who advise the NYS Department of Health and ACT to ensure their materials, resources, and research instruments are youth-friendly.

“It was a rich visit,” Powers said. “Malaysia is a very different society compared to the U.S. It was valuable to learn about the issues that young people face in another part of the world and the types of programming offered. For example, how they handle sex education in a primarily Islamic country.”

“But what was really enlightening to our team was discovering our similarities,” Powers said. “Because despite the differences, we learned that we share more than think.”

Abdullah said that she found the visit insightful, and hopes to continue collaborating with ACT.

“I find it interesting on how technology helps in term of promoting health-related programs organized by the ACT Youth Network,” she said. “And I learned about the reality of what it means for youth in New York to be involved with youth programs such as ACT.”

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Teen Outreach Program helps prevent teen pregnancy


By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

The ACT (Assets Coming Together) for Youth Center of Excellence at the BCTR is helping youth organizations across the state of New York launch a youth development program to help prevent teen pregnancy.

The Teen Outreach Program, or TOP, is a program for youth ages 12 to 17. It was developed for the St. Louis Public Schools in 1978. Since then, research has shown the program helps to prevent teen pregnancy and also improves academic outcomes such as increasing high school graduation rates.

With support from ACT for Youth, six agencies are funded by the New York State Department of Health to implement TOP.  As a replication partner, ACT for Youth staff will train facilitators, offer technical assistance and help the sites evaluate the program’s effectiveness. So far, one site in Long Island has nearly 300 youth enrolled.

2014 Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) portraits.

Divine Sebuharara

The program includes lessons about healthy behaviors and life skills including critical thinking skills, goal-setting, information about healthy relationships, communication, human development, and sexual health. TOP is unique because the curriculum component offers different levels for young people in different age groups, said Divine Sebuharara, an extension support specialist with ACT for Youth.

“Facilitators also have the ability to pull lessons from other levels,” she said. “So as they get to know the kids, they can tailor the lessons to their needs. They can provide more basic information for kids who need it, or they can provide more advanced information for students who are ready for the next level. This requires a skilled facilitator who really knows their youth. Skilled and caring facilitators are an integral part of this program’s success.”

In addition, the program includes a community service learning (CSL) component where students engage in at least 20 hours on a project, or projects, they decide upon and assist in planning and implementing. “By engaging in CSL while learning new content and skills, participants are able to apply their knowledge and develop a sense of self-efficacy,” Sebuharara said.

ACT for Youth was launched in 2000 to reduce risky sexual behavior among youth by advancing the principles of positive youth development. The program is a partnership between the BCTR, Cornell University Cooperative Extension of New York City, Ulster BOCES, and the University of Rochester Medical Center. It receives funding from the New York State Department of Health.

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Positive Youth Development online courses


PYD 101Youth work professionals, volunteers, and advocates can now easily brush up on positive youth development thanks to a new series of short, online courses. Positive Youth Development 101 Online is based on, and can be used to supplement, the training curriculum Positive Youth Development 101 (PYD 101) by Jutta Dotterweich. The online courses were created by Jutta Dotterweich and Karen Schantz of the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence, in collaboration with members of the Cornell University Social Media Lab in Cornell's College of Human Ecology.

"We are making these courses available without charge to everyone who wants to learn about positive youth development," says Dotterweich.

"First and foremost we created them with 4-H and Cornell Cooperative Extension [CCE] in mind. While CCE staff and 4H volunteers may not always be able to travel to a training, they can take advantage of this online series either to refresh their understanding of positive youth development, or to learn about it for the first time." PYD 101 Online was presented to the 2017 CCE System Conference in April.

The interactive courses take about 30 minutes to complete and cover the following topics:

  • Principles of Positive Youth Development
  • Puberty and Adolescence
  • Youth and Technology
  • Youth Voice and Engagement

Additional courses will be developed in the fall of 2017.

This project is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Smith Lever project 2015-16-143.

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(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    curriculum    Jutta Dotterweich    Karen Schantz    youth    youth development   

ACT for Youth: Measuring Positive Youth Development


A myriad of evidence-based programs exist to help young people develop positive life skills and avoid risk behaviors. Evaluations of program success are frequently focused on whether programs directly reduce negative outcomes for youth. An alternative approach can be to measure Positive Youth Development (PYD) outcomes resulting from a particular program. Program evaluation with the PYD approach places the focus on positive, healthy outcomes for youth, rather than a focus on reduction of negative outcomes.

In 2015, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJ DOH) asked the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence to provide program evaluation of Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®). TOP® is an evidence-based program that offers young people community-based, service-learning opportunities in order to build on their strengths and reduce risk behaviors. The NJ DOH facilitates the implementation of TOP® and has traditionally measured its success using Wyman’s own pre- and post-surveys. While these surveys provide useful data, the NJ DOH wanted to augment the evaluation with a PYD approach. The ACT for Youth team, including Amanda Purington, Christine Heib, and Dora Welker, was contracted to identify specific PYD measures that could be used in conjunction with the existing evaluation approach, and to develop a survey tool for measuring progress in PYD outcomes.

act pyd

Figure 1. Relationship between subscales, Five Cs, and PYD; from Geldhof et al., 2013.

To develop the new surveys, ACT for Youth used the Positive Youth Development Inventory – Very Short Form.These measures are based on the Lerner and Lerner “Five Cs” model of PYD, which encompasses the “Cs” of youth development: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Caring, and Character. Each of these “Cs” are measured using subscales that assess different aspects of youths’ lives. The PYD surveys created by ACT for Youth incorporate these subscales to get a more comprehensive picture of youths’ lives and the impacts of the TOP® program.

While funding for the evaluation came from the NJ DOH, implementation was done through the Central New Jersey Family Health Consortium, Inc. (CJFHC). Youth completed the PYD pre- and post-surveys at five separate programming locations where TOP® was implemented during the 2015-2016 school year. Additional information such as demographics, living situation, year in school, and school attendance were also collected, enabling ACT for Youth to conduct a more comprehensive analysis of program effects.

After looking at results of the PYD pre-surveys, ACT for Youth found high baseline scores for all five of the Cs. This was a very positive finding -- however, it did create a challenge for evaluation, since with such high initial scores there was not much room for further improvement. While the evaluation did not detect much improvement, and saw some decreases, overall these high scores were largely maintained at post-survey.

To better understand differences among the results, the ACT for Youth team also analyzed pre- to post-survey differences in relation to a variety of grouping variables, such as attendance and “baseline risk,” which was measured on the Wyman pre-survey. Examples of risk factors in this survey include: “failed a course,” “been suspended,” “been pregnant/caused a pregnancy,” and more. ACT for Youth grouped and coded these risk factors into “academic baseline risk” and “sexual health baseline risk” and used these baseline risk levels to further assess TOP® program efficacy, taking into consideration the diverse backgrounds of youth participants and their very different starting points at the beginning of TOP® programming. The goal of this analysis was to see if TOP® is more effective among certain distinct populations. Interestingly, some of the findings from this analysis pyd chart 1suggest that TOP® implementation may have some of its most positive effects on the most vulnerable youth.

Creating and using the PYD surpyd chart 2veys allowed the evaluation team to assess positive youth development, alongside traditionally measured negative risk factors, for a more comprehensive and optimistic evaluation of TOP® in New Jersey. While it was unexpected that a number of items moved in the undesired direction from pre- to post-survey, several reasons might explain this. First, as mentioned, with highly positive baseline scores it is difficult to achieve significantly higher results at post. Additionally, it is possible that implementation of the TOP® program mitigates what would otherwise be even greater declines in certain areas. In the future, this hypothesis could be explored by having youth not involved in TOP® programming also complete pre- and post-surveys as a way of assessing a control group.

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(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    Amanda Purington    Christine Heib    Dora Welker    evaluation    youth    youth development   

Researchers evaluate a program for boys to avert sexual violence


By Susan Kelley for the Cornell Chronicle

Jane Powers, Mary Maley, Amanda Purington, and Janis Whitlock

Jane Powers, Mary Maley, Amanda Purington, and Janis Whitlock

Cornell is helping to usher in new, more effective ways to prevent sexual violence.

A team from the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) is evaluating a curriculum for boys aged 12-14 aimed at preventing sexual violence. The program is a shift from previous approaches, which generally focused on helping people avoid becoming victims of sexual assault.

Instead, this approach aims to keep boys and young men from committing sexual violence in the first place.

“If you want to stop perpetration, this may be the best tack to take,” said Mary Maley, extension associate for research synthesis and translation. “This is an innovative approach, because we’re looking at reducing risk for perpetration, not reducing risk for becoming a victim.”

BCTR is working in partnership with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), which recently was awarded a $1 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). New York state is one of five awardees nationwide to receive a CDC grant to evaluate various programs to prevent sexual assault.

BCTR is the research arm of the NYSDOH project. The team will spend this first year refining the methodology, developing research tools and protocols, and recruiting program sites and participants. Data collection will begin in the fall of 2017.

The BCTR team will be working with a curriculum, the Council for Boys and Young Men, developed by the One Circle Foundation, which provides training and curricula that promote resiliency and healthy relationships. The basic idea is that male facilitators will set up and lead “councils” which consist of eight to 10 boys in seven to nine urban upstate sites.

Much of the content focuses on prosocial behavior. Councils will meet a few hours a week for several months, focusing on activities, dialogue and self-expression that challenge myths about what it means to be a “real man.” They’ll learn behavior that prevents violence, such as how to step in when they see bullying. They’ll also work on activities that develop empathic behavior, communication and relationship skills, and the ability to respect difference. Another seven to nine sites will serve as study controls to enable the researchers to test the efficacy of the curriculum.

“The idea is that they’re building strong relationships with each other and with a positive adult role model, so they’re actually able to model what positive relationships can be,” said Janis Whitlock, co-principal investigator and lead of the research team.

The middle school years are a prime time to help boys develop these skills, she said. This is the age at which they start to tune in to broader ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman.

Many of the risk factors for sexual violence, such as hypermasculinity and endorsement of aggression, are attitudinal and start to develop at this age through many moments of interactions with other boys and men, Whitlock said.

“This is a perfect time to be giving them a variety of models to choose from, because boys in particular face fairly narrow models of what it means to be a man,” she said.

Evaluation of this type of program comes at an opportune time, Whitlock said, as the definition of sexual assault has greatly expanded in recent years. Historically, sexual violence has meant penetration only. Now it includes unwanted touch, comments, penetration in various ways, and negative online behavior.

That’s important, because middle school boys have the potential to be involved in minor forms of sexual violence, such as unwanted touch, sexting and sharing of others’ images online, Whitlock said.

In this environment, the CDC’s vision was to evaluate the most innovative programs available, Whitlock said. “They wanted to push the envelope so we can get some traction on this issue, because it’s not getting better.”

The project continues a long and fruitful partnership between NYSDOH and BCTR, according to co-investigator Jane Powers. Together the two entities have collaborated over two decades to strengthen community support for youth using research-based programs and practices, she said.

“Results of this research will potentially improve the health and wellbeing of youth in New York state and beyond,” Powers said.

Researchers evaluate a program for boys to avert sexual violence - Cornell Chronicle

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Workshop: How to Conduct Focus Groups, Tuesday, March 14, 2017

 
how to workshops

How to Conduct Focus Groups
Jane Powers and Mandy Purington, ACT for Youth

Tuesday, March 14, 2017
12:00-2:00 PM
166 MVR Hall



Focus groups are a unique, and sometimes challenging, way to collect qualitative data. During a focus group, participants are asked about their perceptions, opinions, and attitudes in an interactive group setting. This workshop will provide an overview of planning and conducting focus groups, including:

  • defining a focus group
  • designing focus group questions
  • recruiting and preparing for participants
  • facilitation tips and
  • analyzing the data.

Jane Powers, Director, ACT for Youth
Amanda Purington, Amanda Purington, Director of Evaluation & Research, ACT for Youth

To Register:

Please contact Patty Thayer at pmt6@cornell.edu
Lunch will be served.
This workshop is open to all Cornell faculty, staff, and grad students.

event-htdrrws-event-image2Part of an interactive workshop series

Researchers are increasingly conducting studies in community settings and applying for grants that require documentation of real-world impact. Indeed, some funders now require components such as dissemination plans, stakeholder engagement, or community participation. To meet these new demands, researchers may wish to collaborate with non-academic groups and craft research questions and results that inform practice or policy. This series of interactive workshops shares the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research’s extensive experience conducting research in real-world settings and translating empirical findings into practice. Each workshop addresses a key challenge that researchers face in doing translational research and provides practical tools for overcoming obstacles to conducting effective translational research.

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Youth consult on research and media projects


ACT Youth Network

Sara Birnel Henderson and Michele Luc with Youth Network consultants

The ACT for Youth Center of Excellence sponsors a network for young people who are interested in making change and supporting the health and well‐being of youth in New York State. At its heart is the ACT Youth Network NYC, a panel of young adult and teen consultants who meet monthly to provide youth perspectives on health‐related projects for researchers and organizations. Meetings are held at the offices of Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC and are led by Center of Excellence staff Sara Birnel Henderson and Michele Luc.

The ACT Youth Network is available for consultation on health projects that seek to reach youth. Past consulting work has included piloting workshops, surveys, and focus groups, reviewing media campaigns, and giving feedback on written content such as brochures and websites. Topics have ranged from all aspects of health to social causes to community gardening. The ACT Youth Network NYC has consulted for: Weill Cornell Medical College’s Clinical and Translational Science Center; New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Women, Infant, and Adolescent Health; New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault; New York State Youth Development Team; New York University Lutheran; Love Heals; and Opening Pathways: Youth in Latin America, among others. Individual researchers have also benefited from Youth Network consultations.

The ACT for Youth Center of Excellence was launched in 2000 with generous support from the New York State Department of Health. Housed in the BCTR, the Center of Excellence partnership also includes Cornell University Cooperative Extension - NYC, Ulster BOCES, and the University of Rochester Medical Center.

To find out more about the Youth Network, or to schedule a consultation, contact a Youth Network coordinator:

Find the ACT Youth Network brochure here.

Examples of ACT Youth Network Consulting Projects:

  • Immigrant youth survey
  • Youth clinic survey
  • Sexual orientation curriculum
  • Youth development and health website
  • Sexual health media campaigns
  • Lifelong health focus group pilot
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder messaging for youth

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(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    CUCE-NYC    health    Sara Birnel Henderson    sexual health    translational research    youth   
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