Vital Record » Public Health http://news.tamhsc.edu Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:00:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Teach your children about school bus safety http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=teach-your-children-about-school-bus-safety http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=teach-your-children-about-school-bus-safety#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:00:19 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?p=11320 With the start of a new school year, school bus safety is something parents should discuss with their children, says the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health]]>
Little girl looking out of a school bus window

Teach your children to stand three giant steps (about six feet) away from the curb as they wait for the bus.

With the start of a new school year, school bus safety is something parents should discuss with their children.

Adam Pickens, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, recommends the following safety precautions to help keep your children safe.

Help your children arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive and remind them to stay away from the street while waiting on the bus. Remind them that as the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (six feet) from the curb until the bus comes to a complete stop and to watch for cars.

Emphasize to your children they should stay seated and not put their head, arms, papers or anything else out the window. Also, remind them to wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before getting up.

“Once your child exits the bus, they should always walk in front of the bus where the driver can see them,” says Dr. Pickens. “Staying five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus is a good rule of thumb. Remind your child to never bend down in front of the bus to tie shoes or pick up objects, as the driver may not see them before starting to move.”

There are many good information resources to help keep your child safe this school year, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

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Addressing public health abroad: Aggies team up to provide health services in Ecuador http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=addressing-public-health-abroad-aggies-team-up-to-provide-health-services-in-ecuador http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=addressing-public-health-abroad-aggies-team-up-to-provide-health-services-in-ecuador#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 15:00:44 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=24050 This summer, an interdisciplinary group of Aggies - composed of students from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, College of Medicine, College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy - spent a week abroad providing basic health services to residents of Guamaní, Ecuador. ]]>

This summer, an interdisciplinary group of Aggies – composed of students from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, College of Medicine, College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy – spent a week abroad providing basic health services to residents of Guamaní, Ecuador.

A small community of about 39,000 residents, Guamaní lies on the southern outskirts of the country’s capital, Quito. A relatively new, incorporated community, Guamaní deals with many public health issues including water, sewer, transportation, safe recreation and reliable trash removal. The students wasted no time getting to work, and within the first two hours, created:

  • a triage center for medical and dental attention;
  • a pharmacy center for filling prescriptions after seeing a doctor, nurse and/or dentist;
  • an education center to teach positive nutrition and health routines;
  • a child care center;
  • and a public health training and interview center.

Throughout the week, students worked with community residents and leaders to implement a community health assessment, conducted focus groups and visited with families to discuss what public health means to them. Additionally, residents participated in a photo voice exercise, walking the community, photographing and simultaneously commenting on health conditions in Guamaní.

“Being on the ground and learning directly from residents about the public health challenges in Guamaní really allowed us to apply what we’ve learned in the classroom,” said Evelia Castillo, a student in the Master of Public Health program. “Despite the challenges, the people are resilient and resourceful. They are already working to address many of the challenges that were documented. I hope the work we completed in collaboration with Guamaní residents can be used to amplify their current efforts.”

The data will be consolidated in a report and sent to Guamaní leaders and participants for their use in creating and implementing future community health development projects.

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“Shoppable products”—getting the best deals on health care http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=shoppable-products-getting-the-best-deals-on-health-care http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=shoppable-products-getting-the-best-deals-on-health-care#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:57:02 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=24036 Insured or uninsured, we all feel the pinch of higher health care costs. Get the most bang for your buck by shopping around. Comparison shopping could save you time and money on routine medical services]]>

Infographic on shoppable health care products

 

Learn more about price transparency

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Innovative preeclampsia research to identify potential biomarkers http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=innovative-preeclampsia-research-to-identify-potential-biomarkers http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=innovative-preeclampsia-research-to-identify-potential-biomarkers#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 13:00:12 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=24007 Brandie DePaoli Taylor, Ph.D. will lead a research team that will study subtypes of preeclampsia with different severity. She hopes to help clinicians get ahead of the illness through a new study to identify biomarkers of the disease with the three-year, $181,507 study funded by The Discovery Foundation]]>
Pregnant woman having blood pressure checked

Affecting at least 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies, preeclampsia is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine.

Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous complication facing pregnant women and a major cause of maternal morbidity and mortality worldwide. The disorder is characterized by newly acquired high blood pressure and protein in the urine during pregnancy. Despite decades of research, the ability of doctors to predict preeclampsia has not improved significantly.

Brandie DePaoli Taylor, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, hopes to help clinicians get ahead of the illness through a new study to identify biomarkers of the disease. In the three-year, $181,507 study funded by The Discovery Foundation, Taylor will lead a research team that will study subtypes of preeclampsia with different severity.

Brandie Taylor, Ph.D.

Brandie Taylor, Ph.D.

Thorough identifying biomarkers in maternal blood during the first trimester of pregnancy, researchers hope to better understand differences in immunological responses between women who will develop early-onset and late-onset preeclampsia as compared to women who go on to have healthy pregnancies. This information will be used for new studies focused on predicting specific subtypes of the disease.

“Preeclampsia is a complex disease that may have several subtypes with different causes, which complicates prediction and clinical management efforts,” Taylor said. “To better understand the role of cellular stress and immunity in developing preeclampsia subtypes, we will examine biomarkers in maternal blood that are present prior to disease onset.”

Preeclampsia is a major public health burden and can lead potentially to fatal damage to a woman’s kidney, liver and brain. To date, the only treatment for preeclampsia is delivery of the placenta. Delivery is often premature leading to health risk for the baby and increasing the possibility of infant mortality. Health issues for the mother extend beyond pregnancy with an increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease later in life.

“There is a critical need to identify biomarkers to better understand preeclampsia subtypes for improved prediction and clinical management,” Taylor said. “Given the immediate and long-term risks, advances in preeclampsia research will ultimately lead to healthier moms, babies and adults.”

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Let children move around, stand or walk in the classroom. You’ll see the difference http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=let-children-move-around-stand-or-walk-in-the-classroom-youll-see-the-difference-2 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=let-children-move-around-stand-or-walk-in-the-classroom-youll-see-the-difference-2#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 19:08:34 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23978 Are standing desks the solution to the childhood obesity epidemic? Ergonomic engineer and Associate Professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health Mark Benden, Ph.D., weighs in on the topic in an editorial piece. ]]>

The question of “is sitting the next smoking” has been raised by many health experts in the past few months. Many ailments, including diabetes and heart disease, are known to be connected to an inactive lifestyle.

However, most of this attention has been focused on adult office workers and the negative health impact of sitting at work all day.Young children in a classroom using standing desks.

But, if our waistlines and even our longevity are connected to how active we are each day, is it not important to teach our children how to be more active, from an early age?

During the past few years, many researchers around the world have been evaluating the use of standing height desks instead of the more traditional seated desks in school classrooms.

As director of the Ergonomics Center at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, I am constantly in corporate offices, K–12 classrooms and graduate classrooms where I teach. I also research better methods of classroom management and academic performance via health interventions. Ten years ago, while focusing primarily on adult office workers and the loss of non-exercise, physical movement in a work day, I wrote a book on the topic, Could You Stand to Lose?

Standing in classrooms

The idea came as we explored younger office workers’ health and noticed a lack of important postural habits, poor core strength and larger waistlines than what the older generations displayed when they entered the workforce.

It was at that time that we realized if we were going to affect the health of office workers, we would need to start much younger. Standing became a simple proxy for what we really need – more low-intensity, whole-body movement!

We asked, could we perform the same work while standing at a desk rather than always sitting at it? And we realized this type of change was possible.

We then turned our attention to adolescent health in classroom settings.

My team’s research in schools began in 2008, when we first looked at classroom movement as a way to deal with the growing number of obese children. In the past 30 years, obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents.

So, in 2008 we began installing and testing stand-biased desks for K–4 students to allow upright movement during instruction and self-work.

We started this work in College Station, Texas with elementary students to avoid the difficulty of measuring the Body Mass Index (BMI) in children experiencing puberty. During those years, the BMI fluctuates so rapidly that it is tough to follow an intervention.

Encouraging movement

From a few classrooms in one school to dozens of classrooms spread over many schools, we continuously upgraded our sample size and research methods. Over the past seven years, we have placed several thousand students at standing desks for our studies in both elementary and high school.

Stand-biased desks allow students to sit (on a stool) or stand at will.

However, these products were a nonexistent category for mainstream school furniture vendors. So, we had to create our own designs based on teacher and student feedback. The market is now beginning to evolve worldwide as others weigh in with creative approaches such as standing tables for multiple students.

Classrooms with stand-biased desks are part of what we began to call an Activity Permissive Learning Environment (APLE), which means that teachers don’t tell children to “sit down,“ “sit still,” or “don’t move around” during class.

Instead, they encourage movement such as standing, rocking, fidgeting and walking. Most traditional classrooms are lecture-style, with an instructor up front and students dealing with poorly fitting, hard plastic chairs for 80%–90% of their day.

Impact of a standing desk

Research shows that our bodies are so connected to our minds that our ability to focus on difficult cognitive tasks is directly linked to adequate physical activity.

In short, an active mind requires an active body.

Children become more restless and distracted with prolonged sitting. Active workstations reduce disruptive behavior problems and increase students’ attention by providing them with a different method for completing academic tasks and breaking up the monotony of seated work. Students were less distracted while working at a standing desk.

This was not all: the activity also led to more burned calories. After two years of exposure to activity-permissive learning environments, students showed decreases in Body Mass Index percentiles.

Our own research shows that students K–12 given a stand-biased desk burned 15%–25% more calories than their peers in traditional seated desks.

As a result of these encouraging health numbers, we turned our attention to student comfort and posture. Again, we observed improvements on both measures over traditional seated furniture.

In addition to increasing energy expenditure, we now see that activity-permissive learning environments help to reduce disruptive behavior and increase students’ academic potential. Based on the number of parents contacting us for help with students doing homework, it appears the process can work as well at home as in school.

Future of classroom design

The success of stand-biased desks is nothing new.

Benjamin Franklin had a patent on a standing school desk over 200 years ago, and Thomas Jefferson worked at one that he designed himself. Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Napoleon Bonaparte and even Donald Rumsfeld have all worked at standing desks to create some of their most memorable work.

Although research and history have shown that stand-biased desks have many favorable effects, most Western workers and students are still engaged in seated desk work for the majority of their day.

Our work in schools with thousands of K–12 students has included looking at stand-biased desks, exercise balls, several types of wobble stools and even swinging footrests and treadmills.

Many other researchers around the world have also been examining the use of classroom design to alter physical activity patterns, with leadership coming from Australia, New Zealand and England.

Teachers around the globe want better classroom management, better student engagement and, ultimately, improved learning.

New approaches for addressing physical inactivity that are in harmony with children’s natural habits, tendencies and engagement could be the way to go.

Benden is an ergonomic engineer and associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health.  He also serves as Director of the Ergonomics Center at the Texas A&M Health Science Center. 

This op-ed originally appeared in The Conversation

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Mobile technology increasing physical activity among senior cancer survivors http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=mobile-technology-increasing-physical-activity-among-senior-cancer-survivors http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=mobile-technology-increasing-physical-activity-among-senior-cancer-survivors#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 16:20:58 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23960 Mobile technology may hold the key to increasing physical activity among older adults according to a new study by researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health. ]]>
Older Adults Exercising

Study results indicate iCanFit helped senior cancer survivors improve their quality of life and increase their physical activity.

The benefit of regular physical activity in cancer survivorship is well documented, though few older cancer survivors actually are exercising. Mobile technology may hold the key to increasing physical activity among older adults according to a new study by researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health.

The results of a pilot test of iCanFit, a mobile-enabled, web application among cancer survivors between the ages of 60-78 years of age showed improvement in the quality of life and engagement in regular physical activity. Findings of the study led by Yan Alicia Hong, Ph.D., associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, are published in the latest edition of the JMIR Cancer.

Participants completed a baseline survey and then began use of the iCanFit interactive website, where they could set physical activity goals, receive personalized feedback, and track progress. In a follow-up survey 2-3 months later, study participants indicated a general affinity towards the key function “Goals” in the program, which motivated continued activity. They also provided suggestions to further improve the application including adding a reminder functionality and easier or alternative ways of entering activities.

“Mobile tools have been widely used by younger individuals, but few such programs have been designed specifically for seniors, especially older cancer survivors,” Hong said. “iCanFit is one such initiatives and we are working on more mHealth projects benefiting older adults.”

Additional Texas A&M researchers were Daniel Goldberg, Ph.D., Marcia Ory, Ph.D., Samuel Towne, Jr., Ph.D., Debra Kellstedt, M.P.H., Suojin Wang, Ph.D., and Samuel Forjuoh, M.D., Dr.PH of Baylor Scott and White.

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Meeting the demand for patient-centered care with $5.4 million in grant funding http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=meeting-the-demand-for-patient-centered-care-with-5-4-million-in-grant-funding http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=meeting-the-demand-for-patient-centered-care-with-5-4-million-in-grant-funding#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 17:47:42 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23946 More than 5 million Texans live in dentally underserved areas, according to 2014 numbers from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Of those individuals, more than 1.5 million did not receive dental services the same year. What makes those figures even more staggering is that the needs of these vulnerable, underserved populations are not limited to dental care. Where oral health is lacking, there also may be unmet medical or psychosocial needs. ]]>
Fourth-year dental student Ethan Yang treats a patient at North Dallas Shared Ministries in June 2014.

Fourth-year dental student Ethan Yang treats a patient at North Dallas Shared Ministries in June 2014.

More than 5 million Texans live in dentally underserved areas, according to 2014 numbers from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Of those individuals, more than 1.5 million did not receive dental services the same year. What makes those figures even more staggering is that the needs of these vulnerable, underserved populations are not limited to dental care. Where oral health is lacking, there also may be unmet medical or psychosocial needs.

As part of a focus on patient-centered care, the creation of “health homes,” focusing on the total needs of these patients and their families, has come to the fore. Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry is responding to this trend by expanding its predoctoral and postdoctoral training with $5.4 million in funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Through collaboration among TAMBCD, Texas A&M Health Science Center, Dallas-area health care institutions and community partners, TAMBCD will amp up its interprofessional training to help integrate dentistry into the broader health care delivery system.

The funding is composed of two awards, each lasting five years: $3.7 million for TAMBCD’s postdoctoral training and $1.7 million for the predoctoral component. Of the 38 awards given nationwide, the dental school is one of only five institutions to receive predoctoral and postdoctoral funding.

Predoctoral: expansions to the interprofessional experience

In 2013, volunteer dentists at North Dallas Shared Ministries, a nonprofit that provides social and health services to low-income residents within 20 metroplex zip codes, saw a total of 479 patients. In June 2014, TAMBCD initiated a partnership with the organization, making it the third site in its community-based clinical training program. In the six months to follow, that same clinic saw 1,719 dental patients, thanks to the influx of TAMBCD students providing care.

“We know that the need is huge,” says Judy Rorrie, executive director of North Dallas Shared Ministries, which will be impacted in a big way by the HRSA funding.

The $1.7 million, which is an extension of a previous HRSA grant, will increase interprofessional experiences at the community-training site. Through collaboration with UT Southwestern Medical School, dental students will work closely with nutritionists, family medicine residents, medical students, physician assistant students and social workers. Whereas in the past dental students may have taken a patient’s blood pressure and heart rate during appointments, they’ll now measure body mass index and assist with diabetes and cholesterol screenings.

“Students won’t, strictly speaking, just be doing dentistry when they are out there,” says Daniel Jones, D.D.S., Ph.D., chair of public health sciences at TAMBCD and principal investigator for the predoctoral grant. “The ultimate goal at North Dallas Shared Ministries encompasses the patient-centered medical home: One-stop shopping, where you can see the dentist, the social worker and case managers to connect people with the right resources.”

In order to make a difference with underserved populations, that’s the way it needs to be done, says Paul Hoffmann, administrative director of community clinics at TAMBCD and co-investigator for both grants.

“We are really going to try to impact the social determinants of health,” says Hoffmann. “If a patient comes in for oral health needs, we are going to do a comprehensive assessment. What other needs does the patient have? Are there economic issues; are there behavioral health issues? It’s about looking at more than just a patient’s chief complaint.”

Postdoctoral: a revamped public health graduate program 

For 14 years, TAMBCD has offered a graduate program in dental public health. There’s just one caveat: In addition to a dental degree, a master’s in public health has been a prerequisite. Until now.

As part of collaboration with the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, TAMBCD will now offer a master’s degree in public health, as part of the newly redesigned residency program in dental public health. The new program has one important distinction: an interprofessional emphasis, which negates the need for an existing public health degree to enroll. The new program also will be made available to a select number of pediatric dentistry residents who want to combine the M.P.H. degree with their residencies.

Existing pediatric dentistry residents who opt not to pursue a master’s in public health will benefit from the changes, too. The grant will gradually expand their clinical rotations to all of the college’s community-based training centers, beginning with North Dallas Shared Ministries.

Andreea Voinea-Griffin, D.D.S., M.S.H.A., who is co-principal investigator and research assistant professor in public health sciences at the dental school, says the changes will affect didactic as well as clinical components of the curriculum, with an emphasis on emerging health care technologies such as teledentistry.

“We are training practitioners for the future, bridging the gap between medicine and dentistry, instead of the way dentistry is done today,” says Griffin.

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McMaughan selected as New Investigator of the Year http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=mcmaughan-selected-as-new-investigator-of-the-year http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=mcmaughan-selected-as-new-investigator-of-the-year#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 13:00:13 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23923 Darcy McMaughan, Ph.D., assistant professor of Health Policy and Management at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, has been selected as the 2015 New Investigator of the Year by the Disability Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA)]]>
Darcy McMaughan, Ph.D.

Darcy McMaughan, Ph.D.

Darcy McMaughan, Ph.D., assistant professor of Health Policy and Management at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, has been selected as the 2015 New Investigator of the Year by the Disability Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA).

McMaughan has led projects on measuring care needs for people living with disabilities, on antibiotic stewardship for frail older adults living with disabilities, and chronic pain and quality of health for people living with disabilities including children with intellectual disabilities.

She is currently leading a $2 million dollar project for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to develop the State of Texas Access Reform (STAR) Kids Screening and Assessment Instrument (SK-SAI) for children and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other complex health conditions. As Director of the Program on Disability Research and Community Based Care at the school, McMaughan has created a community-based board comprised of people with disabilities, academics focused on disability research, families of children with disabilities, and professionals from a variety of fields (from nursing to criminal justice) who work towards improving the health and wellness of people living with disabilities.

McMaughan will receive the award at the APHA Annual Meeting Oct. 31-Nov. 2 in Chicago, Illinois.

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Center for Community Health Development awarded federal funding in a nationwide effort to reduce teen pregnancies http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=center-for-community-health-development-awarded-federal-funding-in-a-nationwide-effort-to-reduce-teen-pregnancies http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=center-for-community-health-development-awarded-federal-funding-in-a-nationwide-effort-to-reduce-teen-pregnancies#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23904 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health has awarded 7.5 million to the Center for Community Health Development (CCHD) at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health in an effort to develop new programming to reduce teen pregnancies]]>
Pregnant Teen

The project will support programs that aim to address existing disparities and program gaps in teen pregnancy and adolescent sexual health, including age, race, ethnicity, geography and rurality.

Teen pregnancy is one of the primary causes of increasing U.S. child poverty rates. Research shows many teen mothers among minority and high-risk youth remain on public assistance their entire lives, and children of teen parents are more likely to become teen parents themselves.

In an effort to develop new programming to reduce teen pregnancies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health has awarded 7.5 million to the Center for Community Health Development (CCHD) at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health.

The five-year project is a collaboration between CCHD and the Department of Health and Kinesiology (HLKN) in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University, led by Principal Investigator and Co-Director of CCHD, Kenneth McLeroy, Ph.D. Kelly Wilson, Ph.D., Associate Professor in HLKN and CCHD-affiliate faculty member, will serve as Co-PI on the nationwide project.

The Integrating Teen Pregnancy Prevention Innovation Practices (iTIP) collaborative project will provide infrastructure, capacity building assistance and evaluation services that support the development of innovative teen pregnancy prevention (TPP) programs. The iTIP team will identify and subcontract with 27 organizations across the nation to develop evidence-based TPP programs that are aimed at reducing teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and other sexual risk behaviors.

“One of the critical issues in adolescent pregnancy prevention is addressing the needs of minority and high-risk populations,” McLeroy said. “This project is designed to address innovative strategies for reducing adolescent pregnancy in traditionally underserved populations by strengthening innovations in program design, strategies and delivery.”

The project will support programs that aim to address existing disparities and program gaps in teen pregnancy and adolescent sexual health, including age, race, ethnicity, geography and rurality. Vulnerable populations will be targeted including youth in foster care, parenting teens, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations.

Nationally recognized leaders in TPP will be engaged with the team to provide overall project guidance and assist with project dissemination. Some organizations that will be involved include the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., both the Texas Campaign and the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

“This project provides the incredible opportunity to work with innovative partners across the nation to develop new projects which impact adolescent and teen pregnancy,” Wilson said. “While we recognize the progress we have made understanding evidence-based programs, we need additional resources which will impact underserved populations and look forward to the opportunity to lead these efforts.”

Please see a local CBS affiliate broadcast news segment on this project.

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