Thursday, November 29, 2012

Engaging Youth through PhotoVoice: ICH Intern Perspective I

By Alice Chan, ICH Intern

The second session of our Youth Photovoice project funded through Saffron Circle took place on Sunday, November 18th at the Chinese Culture Connection (CCC). It was great that our session took place in Malden, the home to most of our high school participants. After not seeing the youth for a month, I was excited to see them at the meeting! I’m sure they were also excited to take the next step in our exciting project!

Our second meeting focused on introducing the principles and importance of ethics, something that our youth needed to know about before receiving cameras to photograph their communities and lives. I’m sure our easy-to-read and creative ethics powerpoint slides helped to drive the message home! The slides and our quiz should be adequate resources for the youth to have before snapping a photo of a person. After this session, the youth will receive cameras to start on this exciting project – capturing pictures to represent what “mental health” means for them.

As the youth marked down the upcoming meeting dates on their Project Calendars, I felt optimistic about the project’s future. Along with the youth, I too expect to become better aware of mental health in my community and understand mental health’s presence in the Asian American community. Pictures are fun, simple, and creative works of art that express our emotions, stories, and ideas. Who wouldn’t like to have plenty of photos to share and show the world? I know I would. That being said, let’s run wild with our cameras!

The Saffron Circle Youth Photovoice Project is one of ICH’s many projects featuring novel Qualitative Methods and a Community-Based Participatory Research approach.

Alice Chan is an intern at ICH working with Shalini Tendulkar, ScD, ScM on the Youth Photovoice project through the ICH Education Program. Ms. Chan is a sophomore in the Department of Psychology at Tufts University.

For more information on internship opportunities like this one at ICH, please click here!

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The views expressed on the Institute for Community Health blog page are solely those of the blog post author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of ICH, the author’s employer or other organizations with which the author is associated.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dissemination: Strategies for doing it right in community based participatory research

By Shalini A. Tendulkar, Institute for Community Health, Stacey King, Cambridge Public Health Department

For academic researchers, dissemination typically involves the sharing of research findings through peer-reviewed journals. In the world of community-based participatory research or evaluation, dissemination can take on many different forms. Regardless of whether you ultimately disseminate your work here are few strategies to help you along the way…
  • Have an open discussion about dissemination with your partners and collectively identify the potential shared value of dissemination.
  • Collectively identify dissemination goals with partners early on in the project. Ask what would be most useful to partners. For example, they may want to include information and photos on their website that would be important to their own stakeholders. This may be relatively simple, but extremely valuable. Revisit these discussions at checkpoints throughout the project timeline.
  • If you are an academic partner, recognize that community partners are generally not in the “business” of writing articles. Be respectful of this when discussing dissemination with community partners.
  • Take time to learn how partners typically communicate with their stakeholders. Include some ways to work within their usual outreach. For example, they may host community meetings or hold events for families. These may be opportunities to co-present or staff an information table. Community-based organizations, like other entities, are always looking for ways to demonstrate their value to the people they serve.
  • Be open to considering non-traditional forms of dissemination. Click here to view the Institute for Community Health’s dissemination catalog to help start a conversation with your partners about the various forms of dissemination.
  • When developing grants with partners, try to allocate time and money to dissemination efforts if possible. If you have examples of dissemination strategies that have worked well in the past, it’s always useful to include these in a discussion. This will help the partners visualize better what could be effective for them.
  • Give all your partners an opportunity to be involved in dissemination efforts and recognize their contributions appropriately either through co-authorship or other types of acknowledgements.
  • Be focused in selecting dissemination strategies and set the group up for success. Generating a longer list of ways to disseminate will make everyone feel overwhelmed. Decide what you can do this year, what you can do next year, and so forth. Make sure that the group feels the plan is realistic and has value to everyone. Check in periodically on what is working and adjust the plan accordingly. Everyone wants to feel that they are contributing to a successful effort.
  • When considering dissemination it’s important to recognize that some participants may have very tightly controlled communication policies compared with others. It’s important to understand these policies and involve the appropriate individuals in making decisions about dissemination and how communication occurs. Especially when media is involved, you’ll only have one chance to “get it right.” Media has special challenges, and policies vary from agency to agency.
What other strategies have worked for you?

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The views expressed on the Institute for Community Health blog page are solely those of the blog post author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of ICH, the author’s employer or other organizations with which the author is associated.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New ICH website launches!

By Brianna Mills, Adriana Bearse, Shalini Tendulkar, Lisa Arsenault, Eileen Dryden, Lise Fried


Hi, and welcome to the new ICH website. It’s been a long time coming, but our site is now more like us: easy to connect with and focused on utility and accessibility!



We’re very proud of the team here at ICH who have spearheaded this update. If you click on the names of the authors of this blog post, you can learn more about them on their brand new profile pages, along with the rest of our staff.

We would also like to thank our Executive Director, Senior Staff, and our staff and partners who have helped out with this project. Special thanks go out to our social media consultant, Doreen Nicastro, Steve Carter and the IT department at the Cambridge Health Alliance, and the designers and developers at Electric Pulp, who made this website a reality!

Here’s a quick tour of the site…

Connecting to the community is at the heart of what we do here at ICH, and we’re highlighting that work on our new site, with pages dedicated to our partners, our community initiatives, and our internship program. We’ve revamped the descriptions of our products and services as well, adding new detail about our approach and expertise. We’ve also expanded our project profiles and catalogued our publications, including abstracts, reports and journal articles.

Finally, check out our blog for project updates, news and personal posts from ICH staff that will give you a sense of who we are and what it’s like to work with us.

This is a big change for us, and we’d love to get your comments below, or hear from you on Twitter, Facebook or via email. Welcome once again, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Using the Census to Make Sense of Your Community

    By Lisa Arsenault, PhD, Shalini Tendulkar, ScD, ScM, Nazmim Bhuiya, MPH, Kelly Washburn, MPH, Lise Fried, DSc, MS

The first population census of the United States was conducted back in 1790 when the population was just under 4 million.  The US Census Bureau has come a long way since those early days, yet the images that come to mind are still probably pretty archaic — data enumerators going from door to door with pencils and clip boards and maybe even on horseback in the early years!  Well today the Bureau works like a well-oiled machine, coordinating a monthly data collection of 250,000 households via mailed questionnaires, computer assisted telephone interviews, and in-person interviews.  This data (called the American Community Survey or ACS) is combined to give us very detailed estimates each year of who is living in the US.  In contrast, the decennial census (conducted every 10 years) collects only basic information on gender, race/ethnicity, household composition, and housing tenure.    

Recent news that the US House of Representative voted to cut funding for the ACS (and the Economic Census) may lead you to conclude that the data from such surveys cannot be that informative or useful.  However, nothing can be further from the truth, particularly for those of us working with communities and public health-related programs at the local level!  US Census Bureau Director, Robert M. Groves, does a wonderful job explaining the impact of the proposed defunding in his Director’s Blog.  Here we hope to highlight several examples of how the Institute for Community Health has used data from the American Community Survey to support the work of our community partners and further research into the health of local populations.

One nearly universal topic of interest is poverty.  The ACS is one of the primary sources for poverty data and we work on this topic frequently.  Recently, ICH pulled together a presentation for the Community Affairs Department of Cambridge Health Alliance that included the proportion of individuals living below the poverty line in Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Revere, and Somerville, MA.  We paired the data with information that ICH had collected on the weight status of adults in these cities and were able to illustrate a relationship between poverty and obesity at the population level.  The data provided a catalyst for the Community Affairs group to begin discussions related to food justice within their service communities.
Census data is also an integral part of our work as evaluators of public health programs.  The Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy’s Youth First Initiative is currently testing community-wide approaches to reducing teen pregnancy in Springfield and Holyoke, MA.

As evaluators of their efforts, ICH has pulled data from the ACS to determine the number and proportion of teens residing in each city by census tract.  This data will be mapped and overlaid with the locations of the community health centers that have partnered with MATP on the project.  This information will provide Youth First with invaluable information on where the at-risk population resides within the community and how well the clinical providers are geographically positioned to serve the target population.   Such information can help a program evaluate and target their efforts, use resources more efficiently, and achieve a greater impact on a community’s health.


Finally, we frequently use census data to more generally describe a community’s population and its changes over time.  ICH supported the data efforts of the “Well Being of Somerville Report 2011” which was released last fall by the Somerville Health Agenda at Cambridge Health Alliance.  Using census data, we were able to describe the current population of Somerville, MA and show how the population’s characteristics have changed over the past decade.  Indicators including age, race/ethnicity, poverty, housing, language, country of origin, income, and educational attainment were all obtained from the US Census and ACS for Somerville.  And importantly, these indicators are all considered ‘determinants of health’ or factors in peoples lives that can affect one’s health in positive and/or negative ways.  Collecting these types of data and examining them alongside other types or sources of data yield great insight into the assets a community possesses as well as the challenges it may face from a public health perspective.  Overall, the this report is currently serving as a tool for local leaders and stakeholders to determine the public health needs of Somerville and inspire future planning efforts in the city.

We hope you’ve been impressed by how integral the data from the US Census Bureau is to what we do to improve health.  Our community partners rely on these data to inform their efforts — whether spurring new conversations, planning and targeting programmatic activities, or generally assessing the characteristics of a community.  There simply is no substitute for the American Community Survey.   And the most amazing part?   The data are there, right now, available online to anyone who is interested in learning about their own community.  Check it out!

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The views expressed on the Institute for Community Health blog page are solely those of the blog post author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of ICH, the author’s employer or other organizations with which the author is associated.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Here's my data, now where are the results?

       In the world of research and evaluation, we really just want to cut to the chase and find out how big of an impact our program had. Seriously! We did all this amazing work with our program, we put in the effort required to collect data using carefully thought-out instruments, and heck, we even dutifully entered all that data into the database...why can't we see the results right away? Well, it's relatively simple; data do not become actionable information (that is, informative information) without added effort.
       It's a lot like baking a cake. Would you ever wonder where your slice is before the ingredients were combined and it was baked in the oven? Of course not! Similar to cake preparation, there is a whole phase of analytic work (mixing of ingredients) that must take place before the analysis can be done (baking) and the results (cake) are ready for consumption.
       A quick side note: as anyone who has been handed a bunch of analytic results can tell you, there is still a lot of work to be done to translate those results into clear and engaging tables, charts, presentations and reports, but that is (figuratively) the icing on the cake and we'll cover that at another time.
       For now, we want to focus on what happens during the mixing. What gets done to data before it's ready to go into the oven? Here I've compiled a fairly comprehensive list of things to look for/do with raw data prior to the actual analyses. It is by no means exhaustive, nor does it apply to every data situation, but it's a great place to start the discussion.
                                                            ~Bon App├ętit!

Do a quick review to see if the data 'make sense', if the data are complete, in the data are what was expected.
Review the analysis plan (the recipe!) and make sure what is planned is feasible with the data you have.
Check the data structure to make sure it is set up correctly for the type of analysis that is planned. Reconfigure if necessary.
Know what the unique ID variable in the dataset is.
Identify and get rid of any duplicate or test observations.
Examine the inclusion/exclusion criteria for the project and make sure all observations in the dataset actually belong there.
Check each variable - frequency if categorical, univariate if continuous - is it complete, is it formattedly correctly.
Check for skip patterns and exclude responses to questions if they should have been skipped over.
Collapse, recode, and create new variables as needed for the final analyses.

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The views expressed on the Institute for Community Health blog page are solely those of the blog post author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of ICH, the author’s employer or other organizations with which the author is associated.