Recently in Community Engagement Category

Thumbnail image for 002-umf_RShafler_8-30-2013.jpgA community-University research team successfully influenced public policy earlier this month, when Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill that helps care for pregnant, incarcerated women and their babies. Dr. Rebecca Shlafer, an assistant professor in the U of M's Department of Pediatrics, and Erica Gerrity of the local nonprofit Everyday Miracles both testified about how the bill could improve health outcomes.

The two have been actively researching the issue together ever since receiving nearly $25,000 from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute's Community Collaborative Grants Program.

This initial funding enabled the team to analyze and evaluate Everyday Miracle's Isis Rising project, which has been providing expectant inmates at the Shakopee Women's Prison with doulas who offer support, education, and training.

Their early results indicate that a doula care program may be a promising approach to improving health outcomes such as birth weights and maternal mental health. The program has already helped vastly decrease cesarean delivery rates, an outcome that could reduce the risk of complications and save taxpayer dollars.

A recent University News Service story about the Isis Rising project noted:

Statistics show that in the year before Isis Rising systematically provided doula care at Shakopee, seven of 11 (63 percent) babies born to inmates were by costly cesarean section. The number dropped to one in 29 (three percent) among babies born with doula support (October 2011-October 2013). Also, no doula babies were preterm or low birth weight.

Shlafer (shown; photo credit: Brady Willette) knew more could be done to help the research reach the people who could benefit most. As the bill was making its way through the legislative process, she told the University News Service:

"I think Isis Rising is making great progress in its community-University partnership with the Department of Corrections to work together and support this population of women who need it. This problem is bigger than any one agency. It has to be a multisystem approach."

The collaborative research project helped lead to new legislation that has key provisions for pregnancy testing, postpartum support, doula care, and an advisory committee to study this topic. After making the jump from pilot funding to policy change in just a few years, Shlafer noted:

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be where we are now in such a short period of time. We are truly thankful for the initial community-university pilot grant from CTSI that made this partnership a reality."

In addition to being an awardee of CTSI's Community Collaborative Grants Program, Shlafer has received support from two CTSI research career development programs and an inter-CTSA grant. Specifically, she's been an awardee of the New Investigator Pre-K Career Development Program, the KL2 Scholars Career Development Program, and the Wisconsin-Minnesota CTSA Collaborative Health Equity Award Program.

Five faculty investigators will be conducting health research at this year's Minnesota State Fair, thanks to grants from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). CTSI awarded a combined $29,908 to U of M researchers through its new Driven to Discover Community Health and Research Grants Program, which supports pilot research and evaluation projects that address health issues facing Minnesotans.

Grant recipients will enroll and collect data from State Fair attendees at the U of M's new Driven to Discover building. This dedicated research facility, a joint effort of the Office of the Vice President for Research, the School of Public Health, and the Medical School, offers university and community researchers access to approximately 1.7 million potential participants each year, and will be a unique resource for carrying out population-based research.

The grants program is managed by the Office of Community Engagement for Health, a CTSI function focused on building relationships with communities to conduct, disseminate, and apply health research.

Congratulations to the inaugural awardees:

Sarah Beehler, PhD, Department of Biobehavioral Health & Population Sciences (Duluth), in partnership with the Medical School Department of Psychiatry and the Minneapolis Veterans Administration Medical Center
Project Title: Assessing Supportive Resources of Veterans and Their Families in Greater Minnesota

Jayne Fulkerson, PhD, School of Nursing, in partnership with the Extension Center for Family Development
Project Title: Childhood Obesity Prevention in Rural Minnesota Communities

Traci Mann, PhD, Department of Psychology
Project Title: Self-Regulation of Eating in an Unstructured Eating Environment

Sarah Schellinger, Department of Speech Language and Hearing Science, in partnership with the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance
Project Title: The Role of Education on Public Perceptions of Traumatic Brain Injury

Karl Self, MBA, DDS, School of Dentistry, in partnership with the Minnesota Dental Therapy Association
Project Title: Minnesotans' Awareness and Attitudes about Dental Therapists as a Function of Health Literacy and Caries Risk

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) has released a new video in which two U of M faculty researchers - Drs. Bhargava and Shlafer - talk about how CTSI has helped them be more successful.

Maneesh Bhargava, MD, is an assistant professor with the U of M's Department of Medicine and a CTSI K to RO1 Scholar who's studying biomarkers that can predict outcomes in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). "CTSI has had a huge impact on my career," says Dr. Bhargava, citing how CTSI helped him protect his time so he can devote most of his time to research. He also notes benefiting from CTSI's support on study design and statistics, as well as the weekly seminars he attends as a CTSI scholar.

The video also features Rebecca Shlafer, PhD, an assistant professor at the U of M's Department of Pediatrics and a CTSI KL2 Scholar. Dr. Shlafer's research focuses on incarcerated parents in Minnesota and their minor children. In the video, she describes how she benefits from CTSI's "intentional link with community partners," as well as mentors who have helped her with everything from survey development to distilling her research for a conference at the White House.

Drs. Bhargava and Shlafer are part of CTSI career development programs that provide support via mentorship, training, and funds.

2013 CRI-blog2.jpg
Over the past several weeks, ten local organizations enhanced their capacity to develop research projects that address health issues facing their communities.

They attended Community Research Institute (CRI), a six-week workshop that trains community leaders and staff in health-related research methodology for developing and conducting grant-fundable research projects. CTSI collaborates on the annual event with two other University organizations, the Center for Health Equity and the Program in Health Disparities Research.

Real-world Research Skills
For example, Susen Fagrelius of the Little Earth of United Tribes is studying how diabetes and other chronic, food-related conditions impact the local Native American community, with the hopes of helping its members make positive choices about their health.

"The benefits of the Community Research Institute are beyond what I could ever imagine," said Fagrelius. "Getting study funding that could last several years used to be only a dream. Now, I know it's possible."

Participants (shown) learned how to apply the research skills they learned to a real-world project, and increase their capacity to develop grant-fundable research projects. In addition, they received expert feedback on their project proposals via one-on-one consultations with University faculty, developed a better understanding of the University research resources available to help them, and had the opportunity to network with researchers at the University and in the community.

The Power of Partnerships
Sue Everson-Rose, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of the Program in Health Disparities Research, stressed the importance of the relationship between the University and the broader community during the final session, telling participants, "We're trying to do community-based participatory research better, and we can't do that without community."

Fagrelius echoed this cooperative sentiment, noting, "It's so important to approach research collaboratively, and in a way that honors, respects, and protects the community."

This year's CRI participants represented a diverse group of participants, with representatives from Arubah Emotional Health Services, East Philips Park Sports Association, Junior League of St. Paul, Little Earth of United Tribes, Minneapolis Urban League, Native American Community Clinic, New American Alliance for Development, Open Cities Health Center, Rainbow Health Initiative, and SEWA-AIFW (Asian Indian Family Wellness).

By receiving the Clinical and Translational Science Award, the University of Minnesota is now required by NCATS and NIH to ensure an acknowledgment of the CTSA in any publications that result from UMN CTSI assistance with a project.

How to acknowledge CTSA support

All publications resulting from the use of CTSI resources are required to credit CTSA by using the text below.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health Award Number UL1TR000114. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

When to acknowledge CTSA support
Please note that assistance is not limited to monetary support (e.g., pilot grant funds), but also includes use of CTSI space, consultation with CTSI faculty or staff, and use of any CTSI Internal Service Organization services (Project Management, Clinical Research Coordinators, Nursing and Nutritional Services, Biostatistical support, and Regulatory assistance such as IND/IDE support, clinical trial monitoring, or ClinicalTrials.gov support).