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Researchers seek to promote positive development in Latino youths

Wed, 04/03/2013

LAWRENCE — Two University of Kansas professors have landed a grant to address common health concerns and promote positive youth development among urban Latino youth.

Michelle Johnson-MotomayaMichelle Johnson-Motoyama, assistant professor of social welfare, and Paula Fite, assistant professor of applied behavioral science and psychology, have landed a Strategic Initiative grant from the University of Kansas. The researchers will work with a charter school in the Kansas City area that was founded to address high school dropout rates in the Latino community.

The school’s enrollment is approximately 200 students, the vast majority of whom are Latino. The researchers plan to develop a culturally relevant education program to prevent the problems of teen pregnancy and substance abuse among the school’s youth through a set of practices known as positive youth development.

Paula Fite“What we’ve seen in the research is positive youth development has a downward effect on teen pregnancy and other risky behaviors,” Johnson-Motoyama said.

The researchers will conduct surveys with the school’s students and hold focus groups with teachers and parents as well to gain an understanding of how they view issues such as teen pregnancy, reproductive health and drug and alcohol use. They will also study interventions used to address similar concerns among Latino populations in other parts of the country to see what has and has not been effective.

Once they have gathered opinions from students, teachers and parents and completed a review of similar interventions, the researchers will work with the school community to devise a positive youth development intervention for the students. The faculty members plan to seek federal grant funding in the fall of 2013 to implement and evaluate the program. If it proves successful, they plan to make it more widely available to schools and community programs across the nation.

The program will be unique in its basis in the school community’s attitudes and understandings of the problems and reflection of their culture. Research has shown that such programs, when not culturally relevant, are often less effective, Johnson-Motoyama said. There is also evidence that when positive youth development programs are effective in reducing adolescent pregnancy rates, rates of other risk-taking behaviors decline as well.

The overarching goal of the program is to reduce adolescent pregnancies, the majority of which are unplanned or unwanted, as well as reduce rates of sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse among the school’s students.

The researchers’ backgrounds will also inform the program. Johnson-Motoyama specializes in immigration and child welfare and community-based approaches to research, while Fite is experienced in understanding the psychology of risk-taking behaviors and intervention research.

“By addressing such problems at a young age,” Johnson-Motoyama said, “our hope is to reduce adult disparities in health and well-being by improving academic achievement, and making gains in high school completion and college enrollment.”

 



When looking to tackle the issue of obesity in rural America, where should we start? The answer is not what you might think. Empathy, says Christie Befort, an associate professor at KU who has just won a $10 million award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to investigate solutions to rural obesity. Many physicians are embarrassed talking about weight—especially in a small town where everybody knows each other, Befort says. By providing obesity treatment options in rural primary care, she plans to start a conversation, and maybe a revolution, in rural health care. For more details on Befort's efforts, check out the 2015 Chancellor's Report: http://bit.ly/1D5A5MO and her video: http://bit.ly/1C5xYZa Tags: #KUcommunities #Obesity #Health #Rural #Midwest Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute - PCORI

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Explore KU: Experience a KU Men's Basketball tradition It’s explosive. It’s dramatic. It’s intimidating. It’s a KU tradition (see more at http://bit.ly/KUtraditions) simply known as the Confetti Toss. But it creates a primal eruption of fan enthusiasm at the opening of every KU men’s basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse. It starts as the visiting team is introduced on court. The KU student section is visibly bored and unimpressed. The entire section under the north basket holds up University Daily Kansans — making the point they’d rather read the newspaper than even look at the other team. They shake and rustle the student newspapers. Then the moment they were waiting for arrives — the Jayhawks enter the court. All Rock Chalk breaks loose. Newspapers, confetti and thousands of thundering voices soar into already charged atmosphere of KU’s hallowed basketball arena. The confetti hits its high point, near the banner on the north wall reading “Pay Heed, All Who Enter: Beware of the Phog.” And the confetti rains back into the stands, onto the court and into the memories of all at hand. It’s time to play.


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