Research Briefs

In 2007, KDHRC launched its Informing Public Health research brief series to disseminate innovative, objective, and timely information to solve public health and other social issues.

Boosting students’ knowledge of and attitudes about science

Eric C. Twombly, Nicole I. Wanty, & Kristen D. Holtz, KDH Research & Communication                                                   January 2016: Number 13                                                                                                                                                             (Download PDF)

Science literacy and academic achievement on science topics empower youth to think critically and understand and apply scientific findings in their daily lives. However, students in the United States perform lower on science achievement tests than many of their international peers. Only 68 percent of fourth grade students perform at or above a basic achievement level. This rate drops to 59 percent by eighth grade and 54 percent by twelfth grade. KDH Research & Communication developed Attitude Boost (AB), a multimedia curriculum, to build elementary and middle school students’ positive attitudes toward science and increase science literacy and achievement. This research brief presents the findings of the AB outcome evaluation among fifth and eighth grade students.

Evaluating an effort to improve parents' ability to obtain educational services for their chronically ill children: Lessons from Project PENCIL

Rosa M. Steen, Eric C. Twombly, Louise C. Palmer, & Kristen D. Holtz, KDH Research & Communication         December 2014: Number 12
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Parents are instrumental in obtaining and managing educational services for a student with a chronic illness, but may lack the knowledge to do so. Project PENCIL's parent component contains information for parents to address the academic and social needs of their student with a chronic illness and aims to significantly increase parents’ knowledge about the educational services available for their student with a chronic illness. This research brief presents the evaluation findings of Project PENCIL's parent component.

Assessing a program to improve teachers' ability to effectively implement educational accommodations for chronically ill learners: Lessons from Project PENCIL

Louise C. Palmer, Rosa M. Steen, Eric C. Twombly, & Kristen D. Holtz, KDH Research & Communication         October 2014: Number 11
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Children with chronic illness comprise roughly 20 percent of school-aged students in the United States. Due to their illnesses, these students miss an average of 16 school days annually, compared with three days for typically healthy children. The combination of chronic illness and school absences negatively impacts such children’s academic and social experience. KDH Research & Communication developed Project PENCIL (Protecting the Educational Needs of Chronically Ill Learners), a training program to improve the ability of Kindergarten through fifth grade teachers to provide educational accommodations in their classrooms for children with chronic illnesses. This research brief presents the evaluation findings of Project PENCIL Teachers’ Guide prototype.

Building knowledge and positive attitudes as a basis for social acceptance for children with cochlear implants

Nicole I. Wanty, Eric C. Twombly, Kristen D. Holtz, & Louise C. Palmer, KDH Research & Communication
April 2013: Number 10
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Children with differences, such a cochlear implants (CIs), are at greater risk for low social acceptance than typical children. Social acceptance is the extent to which a child can successfully initiate and maintain reciprocal relationships with his or her peers. Low social acceptance early in life often relates to lasting poor self-esteem and social isolation. KDH Research & Communication developed a peer education intervention entitled Making Sense of Your Senses, which consists of an 8-minute DVD and structured classroom lesson implemented by the classroom teacher that defines and describes a CI and hearing loss and inclusive ways encourages typical peers to act in socially inclusive ways. This research brief examines the effectiveness of the peer education intervention to build typical peers’ knowledge and positive attitudes to support the social acceptance of children with CIs.

The evaluation results of a public health tool to help teachers effectively accommodate and teach children with cochlear implants in mainstream classrooms

Louise C. Palmer, Jana Eisensten, Eric C.Twombly, Kristen D. Holtz, & Nicole I. Wanty, KDH Research & Communication
November 2011: Number 9
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Over 28,400 deaf or hard of hearing children in the United States wear cochlear implants, which bypass the damaged or nonfunctioning parts of the ear to create a representation of sound for the wearer (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2011). Increasingly, children who wear cochlear implants enter mainstream schools, where they attend classes with typically-abled peers. KDH Research & Communication developed The Cochlear Implant School Toolkit to help elementary school students with cochlear implants and their teachers, parents, and peers overcome the challenges that may accompany their entrance into a mainstream school. This research brief reports on the evaluation of the Teachers' Guide and DVD components of the Cochlear Implant School Toolkit.  

An intergenerational approach to improve the health literacy skills of Latino families

Louise C. Palmer, Eric C.Twombly, Kristen D. Holtz, & Kimberly Stringer, KDH Research & Communication
October 2011: Number 8
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The need for effective health programming for Latino families is substantial. Not only do Latinos constitute the fastest growing demographic group in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011), but many Latinos also face significant health challenges. The pilot En Familia (ENF) program aims to improve knowledge about key health topics and health literacy skills of Latino families in the U.S. and to reduce the health disparities that many Latino families face. ENF encourages teens, their parents, and their grandparents to support each other in making healthy lifestyle choices. This research brief provides the preliminary evaluation results of a pilot version of the novel health program, ENF, and outlines the ways in which the program will evolve to full content and wide applicability.

Identifying and overcoming challenges to the effective implementation of promotores programs by community-based nonprofit organizations

Eric C.Twombly, Kristen D. Holtz, Kimberly Stringer, & Louise C. Palmer, KDH Research & Communication
September 2011: Number 7
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In today’s fiscally austere climate, community-based nonprofit organizations that are the frontline providers of health services to low-income Latino families are seeking new and innovative approaches to supply services at lower cost. One such approach is to use promotores – or community health workers – to provide client outreach services. But the implementation of promotores programs raises important challenges for nonprofits. Using primary data collected from a national sample of academics and nonprofit executives, this brief describes these implementation challenges and recommends methods for nonprofits to overcome them.

Resonant prescription drug abuse prevention messages for teens

Christine B. Agnew, Eric C.Twombly, & Kristen D. Holtz, KDH Research & Communication
August 2009: Number 6
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Prescription drug abuse, particularly among teens, has become a major public health problem in the United States. In 2003, roughly 2.3 million teens in the U.S. reported lifetime nonmedical use of a prescription drug (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2004). By 2008, the number of teens who reported lifetime nonmedical use of a prescription drug rose to 4.7 million, or one in every five teens in the U.S. (Partnership Attitude Tracking Study [PATS], 2009).

Recommendations to prevent teen misuse of prescription drugs

Kristen D. Holtz, KDH Research & Communication & Eric C. Twombly, Georgia State University
July 2008: Number 5
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Prescription drug misuse by teens is a growing public health problem. Although there is basic information on patterns of misuse among teens, there are few systematic analyses of what influences teens’ knowledge about and attitudes towards prescription drugs — key factors for the creation of effective prevention programs — and even less research on methods to curb these increases. To address this information gap, this brief combines multiple bodies of research to construct recommendations to stem the growing problem of prescription drug misuse by teens.

Using science-based education to prevent drug and alcohol abuse by elementary school students

Eric C. Twombly, Georgia State University & Kristen D. Holtz, KDH Research & Communication
June 2008: Number 4
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The substantial public health problem of illicit drug use among elementary school children requires innovative thinking on methods to combat it. This brief analyzes the development and preliminary evaluation of a school-based science education intervention to reduce illicit drug use among children and youth. Exposure to the curriculum relates to a change in knowledge about alcohol and drugs, but other factors also play a role in knowledge change. Indeed, greater pre-existing positive attitudes toward science predicted greater knowledge change, and students who knew less at the start of the intervention showed a greater change in knowledge.

How attitudes affect student learning about drugs of abuse

Kristen D. Holtz, KDH Research & Communication & Eric C. Twombly, Georgia State University
May 2008: Number 3
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This study, which examines the effectiveness of a middle school science education curriculum on drugs of abuse, suggests that pre-existing student attitudes toward science and drugs play an important role in student performance. The implications of the study are significant in two ways. First, the science-based education curriculum analyzed in this brief — or ones similar in nature — may have value as a drug-prevention tool for students. Second, the study suggests specific methods that may be used to potentiate student outcomes on such curricula. For example, the development of new pedagogical methods to improve science achievement by identifying and intervening with students who report more negative attitudes toward science, prior to the implementation of core content, may have value and should be explored further.

A science education curriculum to curb youth drug use: Implications for practice and public policy

Eric C. Twombly, Georgia State University & Kristen D. Holtz, KDH Research & Communication
November 2007: Number 2
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Science education offers a unique opportunity to infuse persuasive health information into core curricula in a crowded school environment. This brief presents the results of an evaluation of a multimedia science education curriculum on drugs of abuse developed with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Students exposed to the curriculum showed increases in knowledge, providing tentative support for the effectiveness of this approach.

Mandates and recommendations for public health materials to improve health literacy

Kristen D. Holtz, KDH Research & Communication & Eric C. Twombly, Georgia State University
September 2007: Number 1
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This research provides a systematic examination of the linkage between two bodies of theory – behavior change theories and cognitive development theories from the fields of psychology and education – to inform the creation of public health materials for low literacy populations.