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Preventing sexual violence by addressing boys

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

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

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

BCTR researchers are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to evaluate a program for adolescent boys that aims to prevent them from becoming future perpetrators of sexual violence. Center researchers, coming together from across existing BCTR projects, will work together on the new Sexual Violence Prevention Project.

The partnership comes through the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), which was awarded a $1.8 million from the CDC over four years to investigate programs the prevent sexual assault. State public health officials are collaborating with the BCTR to conduct the research.

The team of BCTR researchers is collecting data from 12 sites in western New York who are offering the program over the next two years. In addition, the team is collecting data from 12 control sites, which are offering different types of youth programming for boys.

“We plan to enroll over 700 boys in the study, and our first groups launched this summer,” said Mary Maley, a BCTR extension associate for research synthesis and translation. “Participants complete questionnaires right before and after the program, and again three and six months later. We’re hoping to find that the boys in the intervention groups show improved attitudes and behaviors compared to the boys in the control groups. We’re very excited to be at the implementation phase of the project.”

Last month, the team visited the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to meet with CDC officials and other researchers across the country working on this issue for what they called a “reverse site visit.”

“This provided our team with a great opportunity to meet with a  number of CDC scientific officers and other researchers who are building the evidence base for effective sexual assault prevention programs,” said Jane Powers, senior extension associate and co-investigator. “We broadened our knowledge of the issues, learned about valuable CDC resources to support our work and expanded our network by meeting new colleagues and building partnerships.”

The program, Brothers as Allies, is based on the Council for Boys and Young Men developed by the One Circle Foundation. It enrolls boys ages 12 to 14 in small groups of 8 to 10 participants, which meet once a week with a male role model to focus on activities and discussions that define that it means to be a “real man.”  Boys in the program will learn how to step in when they observe bullying and work on developing empathy, communication, and relationship skills.

“The idea behind the program is entirely strength-based,” said Janis Whitlock, co-principal investigator and lead of the research team. “Boys are helped to build strong relationships with each other and with a positive adult role model as a means of understanding what positive relationships look and feel like. The male facilitators can then use these group bonds to encourage exploration and discussion of areas related to difficult topics, such as sexual violence.”

Many of the risk factors for sexual violence, such as hypermasculinity and endorsement of aggression, are based on attitudes and start to develop at this age through 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.

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(0) Comments.  |   Tags: Jane Powers    Janis Whitlock    Mary Maley    sexual health    youth   
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Teen Outreach Program helps prevent teen pregnancy

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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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Youth consult on research and media projects

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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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Engaging Cornell students to study adolescent sexual health in the digital age

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Janis Whitlock and Jane Powers

Janis Whitlock and Jane Powers

BCTR researchers Janis Whitlock (director, Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery) and Jane Powers (director, ACT for Youth) have joined forces to study how technology impacts teen sexual behavior. Their project Adolescent Sexual Health in the Digital Age explores youth and “technology-mediated sexual activity” (TMSA): how young people engage in sexually explicit activities through digital technologies, such as online pornography, sexting, and hook up apps. The work is supported by a recently-awarded Hatch grant.

As a starting point, Whitlock and Powers surveyed youth service providers, sex educators, and parents to assess their overall level of awareness and concern about TMSA, and to capture what these individuals have been observing among the youth with whom they interact.

To learn directly from young people themselves, the researchers enlisted the help of undergraduates. In collaboration with Professor Kelly Musick and students in her Research Design, Practice and Policy class (PAM 3120) Whitlock and Powers launched a semester-long project to develop a survey that could be used to explore TMSA among college students. Class members first participated in focus groups led by members of the ACT for Youth evaluation team, research assistants in the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery lab, and Callie Silver (HD ’16), a Cooperative Extension intern and core research assistant for the project. The focus groups prompted students to discuss how they think their peers navigate sex in this new digital landscape. The students then learned how to code the focus group transcripts and generate themes to develop a college survey. Once the survey was developed, students conducted a pilot study, generating approximately 400 responses. Finally, the class presented their findings as well as their recommendations for revisions to the survey.

In this mutually rewarding project, students learned about research methods through a real- world project, and in turn their work provided BCTR researchers with essential information that will be incorporated into an NIH proposal to further examine this understudied, but important, topic.

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New systematic translational review on teen pregnancy prevention programs

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The newest systematic translational review (STR) from the  BCTR Research Synthesis Project considers the question, "Do teen pregnancy prevention programs that include education for the teenagers’ parents show positive results?" A review of evaluations of existing evidence-based programs found that there could be benefits that varied from program to program. Full findings can be found in Parent Education for Teen Pregnancy Prevention.

STRs are the result of a new research synthesis protocol designed to include practitioner input in the review process while maintaining the structure of a systematic review and speed of a rapid review. The method was developed by Research Synthesis Project director Mary Maley to improve the accessibility and use of research evidence by community practitioners and policy makers. Review topics focus on applied practice questions which require a synopsis of evidence to use in order to strengthen program implementation. More about the STR process can be found here.

Previously pr0duced STRs:

Community Engagement in Practice

Psycho-Social Evaluation Measures for 8-12 year-olds in Nutrition Education Programs

 

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: pregnancy    Research Synthesis Project    sexual health    systematic translational reviews    youth   
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ACT for Youth supports sex education and positive youth development at Provider Day

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Attendees at Provider Day

Attendees at Provider Day
Photo by Brian Maley

This September, the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence (COE) sponsored Provider Day 2014, a professional development conference for 224 teen pregnancy prevention program staff from communities across New York State. The COE provides technical assistance, training, and evaluation for three pregnancy prevention initiatives funded by the New York State Department of Health. Sex educators and youth service professionals from each initiative came together in Albany to share and gain new insights, strategies, and tools to promote healthy development among youth.

The evening before Provider Day, the BCTR hosted a reception that set a warm and collegial tone. Jane Powers and John Eckenrode opened the day’s events, and BCTR staff offered workshops on a range of topics, including Self-Care and Youth Work (Heather Wynkoop Beach and Michele Luc), Youth with Mental Health Concerns (Jutta Dotterweich), Using Evaluation Data (Mary Maley and Amanda Purington), and Life Purpose and Teens (Janis Whitlock), among others.

One participant wrote,

I found the day valuable and validating. I believe we need all the validation we can get when working in this field. It's not easy, and when we can recharge and gain new knowledge and tools, I know that I come back to the office looking for ways to use the information I have gotten. Thank you!

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    Amanda Purington    health    Heather Wynkoop    Jane Powers    Janis Whitlock    John Eckenrode    Jutta Dotterweich    Mary Maley    mental health    sexual health    youth   
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Talks at Twelve: Ravhee Bholah, Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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2014_1023_014.jpg

Promoting Sexual Health Including HIV and AIDS Education in School-based Programs though Community Partnerships
Ravee Bholah, School of Science and Mathematics, Mauritius Institute of Education

Tuesday, December 16, 2014
12:00PM-1:00PM
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room



This talk is open to all. Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Plantations lot across the road from Beebe Hall.

In his talk, Ravhee Bholah will discuss findings related to policy and community partnerships that support sexual health education programs at selected New York State schools. He will share insights on institutional capacities that exist within schools to support these programs. Challenges experienced by schools and officials in the coordination and implementation of such programs, and models used in the training of educators on sexual health will be also addressed.

Ravhee Bholah, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the School of Science and Mathematics at the Mauritius Institute of Education in Mauritius. He has been coordinator of (1) sexuality education and (2) education for sustainable development (ESD) at this institute and has leading roles in curriculum development on sexual health, HIV prevention, and ESD including climate change education in the Republic of Mauritius. Ravhee is currently a visiting Fulbright Scholar in the BCTR.

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Visiting fellow Ravhee Bholah joins the center this semester

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news-bholah-inpostRavhee Bholah, an associate professor at the Mauritius Institute of Education, received a Fulbright Scholarship to study policy and community partnerships that promote adolescent sexual health, with a particular focus on school-based programs. He plays leading roles in curriculum development on sexual health, HIV prevention, and education for sustainable development in the Republic of Mauritius. Ravhee works closely with the United Nations Development Programme, UNESCO, the Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development, and the Southern African Development Community Regional Environmental Education Programme on regional programs addressing these issues. He has been a member of various committees at national and regional levels. For instance, he has been the chairperson of Network of African Science Academies Expert Group Committee since 2012 and a member of the South African Development Community Education for Sustainable Development Research Network since 2008. At national level in Mauritius, he is a member of steering committees at the Ministry of Education and Human Resources for the following: (1) Sexuality Education, (2) Health and (3) Climate Change Adaptation. He is a board member of the National Ramsar Committee in Mauritius. He has also done considerable work on climate change education. Ravhee will be working in the BCTR as a visiting fellow through the end of December.

He will be mentored by Jennifer Tiffany during his time at Cornell, and he will be working very closely with the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence.

Ravhee is joined his wife Rouma and their three sons, Divyesh, Sudhakar, and Prabhakar, ages 10, 12, and 15, respectively.

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ACT for Youth at HHS Conference

(0) Comments  |   Tags: ACT for Youth,   Amanda Purington,   Jane Powers,   Jutta Dotterweich,   pregnancy,   prevention,   sexual health,   youth,  
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Jane Powers, Jutta Dotterweich, and Amanda Purington

Jane Powers, Jutta Dotterweich, and Amanda Purington of the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence were presenters at the 2014 U.S. Health and Human Services Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grantee Conference in Washington, DC this June. The conference brought together federally funded prevention programs to enhance understanding of best practices, programs, and strategies, particularly on the theme of “Bridging the Gaps: Eliminating Disparities in Teen Pregnancy and Sexual Health.”

Conference participants offer evidence-based programs in their communities in order to support youth in improving sexual health (e.g., delaying sexual activity and using condoms and effective contraception when they do become sexually active). These programs are not new, but to ensure positive results funders are now strongly emphasizing fidelity to program design as well as implementation quality. Recognizing that many participants struggle to collect and use data effectively, Powers and Purington offered tools to track attendance, monitor fidelity, and assess quality, as well as strategies to help facilitators use data to improve program implementation. They also shared lessons learned in New York State’s efforts to scale up evidence-based programs.

Dotterweich and Powers focused on building organizational capacity for evidence-based programming. They introduced participants to resources intended to enhance facilitator competencies, as well as an online training on implementing evidence-based programs in adolescent sexual health that was recently developed by ACT for Youth.

Jane Powers is project director for the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence, where Jutta Dotterweich is director of Training and Technical Assistance and Amanda Purington is director of Evaluation and Research. The Center of Excellence supports the New York State Department of Health in its efforts to promote adolescent sexual health.

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ACT focus group studies connect policy makers with youth voices

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Since its inception in 2000, the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence (COE) has sought to enhance efforts to promote the health and well-being of adolescents. As an intermediary funded by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the COE aims to connect research to practice by applying knowledge about what works in prevention and youth development in communities across the state. But the sharing of information is not a one-way street: the COE also collects wisdom and data from the field, which in turn is used to inform policy and practice.

One illustration of this process is the COE's recent youth focus group study. The COE has often been called upon by the NYSDOH to conduct focus groups on topics of interest in adolescent health, specifically so policy makers and decision makers can hear directly from youth in New York State (NYS). The focus group findings have been incorporated into funding announcements and media campaigns, and used to develop new sexual health initiatives. Recently, the COE partnered with grantees who are working in the field of teen pregnancy prevention to conduct focus groups with youth in order to understand how adolescents think about “family planning,” as well as identify barriers to their accessing reproductive health services. This study was driven by the fact that while significant numbers of adolescents are sexually active, there has been a decline in adolescent use of publicly-funded family planning services, a fact that has been observed nationally as well as in NYS. Major findings from this focus group study support those documented in national studies:

  1. teens want to prevent pregnancy, but they have misconceptions about and negative views of birth control methods; and
  2. utilization of family planning services can be improved by attending to several factors including teen perceptions of stigma, discomfort, and lack of privacy.

These findings are outlined in a recent COE publication, Youth and Family Planning: Findings from a Focus Group Study, which is part of the Research fACTs and Findings series. In addition, the COE has also presented findings to practitioners who work in the area of teen pregnancy prevention, adolescent sexual health, and reproductive health services. By connecting these results directly with those working in the field, the COE is able to reach a wide audience of practitioners, policy makers, and educators who can use the information to inform practice.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    adolescence    focus group    Research in Translation    sexual health   
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