Temple Times Online Edition
    NOVEMBER 11, 2004
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Faculty members present work on problems in public health
at the meeting of the American Public Health Association

A number of Temple faculty from the departments of public health and nursing in the College of Health Professions presented new research on a range of topics at the American Public Health Association meeting Nov. 6–10 in Washington, D.C.

Hepatitis B is rapidly becoming a serious health problem in America, especially in the Asian-American population. Among all ethnic groups, Chinese Americans have the highest incidence rates for this disease, which strikes more than 1.2 million people in the United States each year.

Grace X. Ma, associate professor of public health and director of the Center for Asian Health at Temple, discussed these disturbing trends and unveiled her latest research, which will be used to design a community-based, culturally appropriate intervention to increase the screening/vaccine rates in Chinese Americans. For Ma’s study, 282 Chinese Americans in New York City were evaluated to gauge their knowledge and awareness levels, attitudes and practices toward hepatitis B, hepatitis B screening and vaccine behavior.

Because today’s teens live in an “e-world,” it’s natural for them to turn to the Internet for health information. To determine how adolescents use a sexual health Web site and what kinds of questions they ask, researchers analyzed thousands of questions posed by teens on www.sexetc.org, a Web site run by Rutgers University.

According to the principal investigator, Temple professor of public health Clara Haignere, about two-thirds of the questioners were females age 15 to 17. Most questions concerned sex (27.5 percent), pregnancy (22 percent), and female and male health (17 percent). Regarding sex, adolescents most often wanted to know about kinds of sex and orgasms. Pregnancy questions most often dealt with how pregnancy happens. And female and male health questions dealt with bodily functions, puberty, menstruation and going to a gynecologist.

“We suspect that repeat questions to the Web site might influence behavior,” Haignere said. “About 17 percent of the adolescents submitted two or more questions. This level of dialogue between the adolescents and the responders could influence the adolescents’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. Future research may demonstrate how tailored Web intervention might lead to better adolescent decision-making.”

Elderly immigrants and refugees suffer from low levels of health literacy. To determine their specific health literacy deficits and learn how to combat this problem, Temple researchers and students evaluated Chinese, Hispanic, Russian and Korean elderly in Philadelphia.

The researchers found that the most significant barriers centered on isolation, language, powerlessness and healthcare access. According to Rita Lourie, assistant professor of nursing at the College of Health Professions, “Our results also revealed a knowledge deficit on the part of healthcare providers regarding culture and its impact on nutritional education.”

The researchers plan to use their findings to improve health care for elderly immigrants. Other Temple nursing faculty who participated in the study were Cathy Curley, Patricia Dillon and Kim Olsen.

In and of itself, the epidemic of obesity poses a significant health risk to children. But the condition can also lead to other health problems including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma, making the risk even more urgent. According to Temple researchers, the combined threat of obesity and asthma has increased in low-income children in Philadelphia since 1998.

“These findings make it even more important that we recognize, prevent and address obesity in children,” said Brenda Seals, assistant professor of public health at the College of Health Professions. Public health student Jenne’ Johns and Robert Gage, director of sponsored research, were also on the research team.

State mental health services agencies were unprepared for the fear, anxiety and uncertainty felt by many in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In response, a detailed mental health emergency preparedness plan for every state was created with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government entities.

Researchers from Temple’s department of public health recently completed a pilot study of these plans for New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The team found that the communication strategies for dealing with mental health needs, mechanisms for communicating with diverse populations and the communication assumptions about the states’ population distributions differed for each state. Their work uncovered each state’s communications strengths as well as areas where more strategic planning is needed.

“These plans need to reflect best practices to maximize services in unpredictable and uncontrollable events. Further, the development of specific mental health communication strategies targeting at-risk individuals is needed,” said lead researcher Thomas F. Gordon, professor of public health. Other members of the research team include Sheryl Burt Ruzek, Brenda F. Seals, Sarah Bauerle Bass and Alice Hausman.

Other Temple presentations:

Nancy Rothman, professor of nursing at the College of Health Professions, presented, or was part of a team that presented, several studies: “Project Access: The Final Analysis of Successful Childhood Insurance Outreach,” presented with Judith Watman of Temple University Children’s Medical Center; and “Graduation Time: First Time Parents Succeeding: The 2001-2004 Nurse-Family Partnership Program Collaborative,” presented with colleagues from La Salle University, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and Drexel University.

Rita Lourie and Cathy Curley of the College of Health Professions’ department of nursing and Marilyn Wood, Robin Dunn and Nancy Henkin of intergenerational learning presented a poster, “Youth Perspectives on Tobacco and Marijuana: Can a Social Problem Solving Theater Arts Based Curricula Help Middle School Children Resist Smoking?”

Sheryl B. Ruzek and Sarah Bauerle Bass of the department of public health at the College of Health Professions and Pamela Z. Poe of mass media and communication at the School of Communication and Theater presented “Communicating evidence-based information to patients with a serious or life-threatening condition: A comparative analysis of the development and dissemination of patient decision aids.”

Grace X. Ma, associate professor of public health and director of the Center for Asian Health at Temple, presented “Impact of acculturation on smoking in Asian American homes” with Steve Shive, research associate; Yin Tan, project manager and research associate; and Rosemary M. Feeley, research assistant.

Xuefen Su, research assistant at the Center for Asian Health, presented “Knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and barriers to breast cancer and early detection among Chinese women in the greater Philadelphia region” with Grace X. Ma; Yin Tan, project manager and research associate; Alice J. Hausman, professor and chairwoman of public health; Brenda F. Seals, assistant professor of public health; Rosita L. Edwards; and Jamil Toubbeh.

- By Tory Harris and Eryn Jelesiewicz