Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • The Role of Advocates in State-Level Competitive Food Legislation Formation: A Comparative Case Study

    Author:
    Lauren Dinour
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Public Health
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Freudenberg
    Abstract:

    In the absence of strong federal oversight over competitive foods--those items available in school vending machines, à la carte lines, school stores, and fundraisers--many states have enacted legislation to limit the availability and accessibility of unhealthy competitive foods. Evaluations of these policies show their promise in improving the healthfulness of school food environments, considered an important strategy for reducing childhood obesity. Yet little is known about the decision-making processes by which such legislation is formed and adopted. Using a comparative case study design, this study describes and analyzes how and why state-level competitive food legislation adopted in 2010 changed during the legislative process, as well as identifies and characterizes the primary stakeholders in support and opposition of these bills and their relative effectiveness in influencing bill language and content. Five retrospective case studies were conducted, analyzed, and written independently using a standard protocol. Primary data from semi-structured key informant interviews were complemented with secondary data obtained through document review. Upon completion of the individual case studies, comprehensive summary tables were compiled and analyzed for recurring and unique themes, enabling conclusions to be drawn across cases. Cross-case analysis yielded 10 key findings related to the dynamics of the legislative process and the roles played by various stakeholders. Of note, fiscal concerns regarding increased expenditures--but not lost revenues--are influential in the weakening of bill language and content. In addition, strong support from a large and diverse coalition may increase political influence, yet lead to weakened bill language in efforts to appease multiple interests. Examination of decision-making constructs revealed that advocates situated in highly cohesive and minimally constrained policy subsystems are more effective at influencing bill language and content than advocates in less cohesive and highly constrained policy subsystems. Likewise, advocates situated in coalitions characterized by high lobbying activity are not necessarily more effective in influencing bill language and content than advocates in coalitions with low lobbying activity. These and other findings can assist advocates, policymakers, and researchers in identifying potential strategies, barriers, collaborators, and opponents when seeking to create more healthful school food environments within their state.

  • Food Purchasing Decisions in a Grocery Store Setting

    Author:
    Hayley Figueroa
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Public Health
    Advisor:
    Betty Wolder Levin
    Abstract:

    The items that find their way into our shopping carts and subsequently, into our homes are selected for a variety of reasons. A great deal of research has been conducted on consumer habits around fast-food consumption and take-out, and the role of each in the obesity epidemic, but little is known about how grocery-shopping decisions are made or the extent to which health is a part of that decision-making process. Using participant observation techniques and semi-structured interview, the investigator accompanied 31 residents of Brooklyn, NY while they shopped. The participants, who came from two neighborhoods of contrasting socioeconomic status, Downtown Brooklyn and East New York, spoke of the importance of a number of factors including cost/value, health, quality, taste, location/access, class and culture; and how these factors affect decision-making. Two interesting themes emerged from the data that are reflective of historical and social influences on the foodscapes of two generations of shoppers. Older study participants, held to a certain set of values, beliefs, and attitudes regarding food, which differed substantially from those of their younger counterparts in the sample. Among the youngest of participants, the data revealed that they fell into two groups; shoppers for whom time and convenience were of primary importance and shoppers for whom food purchases were a reflection of their social and political identities. Also emerging from the data was evidence that, in general, participants' knowledge of food is shallow and the decisions they make in the grocery store are largely based on inauthentic knowledge. Based on this sample, a depth of knowledge around the food system produced more authentic knowledge that led to healthier purchases.

  • Malaria in NYC Residents: Examining the determinants of chemoprophylaxis use and adherence among immigrants who travel abroad to visit friends and relatives (VFR)

    Author:
    Lucretia Jones
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Public Health
    Advisor:
    Luisa Borrell
    Abstract:

    Malaria in NYC Residents: Examining the determinants of chemoprophylaxis use and adherence among immigrants who travel abroad to visit friends and relatives (VFR) Lucretia E. Jones, MPH Background: Malaria is an infectious disease caused by Plasmodium parasite spread by the bite of an Anopheles mosquito in tropical areas. Though not transmitted in the United States (US), New York City (NYC) reports approximately 200 diagnoses of malaria annually predominantly in immigrants who traveled home to visit friends and relatives (VFR).1 This study aimed to examine the associations between 1) reasons of travel and taking chemoprophylaxis, and 2) type of chemoprophylaxis used and adherence; and to understand the reasons why travelers do not take malaria preventive measures. Methods: Two quantitative methods were used for this research study: 1) secondary data analysis of NYC malaria surveillance data 2004-2010 (n=1335), and 2) an in-depth open ended interview of a sample (n=32) of newly diagnosed malaria cases diagnosed in 2011. Descriptive and chi-square statistics were calculated for selected characteristics. Logistic regression was used to estimate the strength of the association between a) reason for travel and chemoprophylaxis use and b) type of drug taken and adherence before and after controlling for age, gender, race, borough of residence, and travel region. SAS 9.2 was used for statistical analysis. Results: No chemoprophylaxis was taken by, 84% of malaria cases and only 5% took and adhered to the complete regimen. The odds of not taking any chemoprophylaxis was 1.5 (OR: 1.48; 95% CI: 1.09-2.01) greater among VFRs than those that traveled for other reasons. However, after adjusting for age, gender, race, borough of residence, and travel region, this association was no longer significant. When compared to those who reported taking chemoprophylaxis daily, the odds of not adhering to the full regimen was 4.1 times (unadjusted ) greater for travelers who stated chemoprophylaxis use, but the name of drug was unknown. A sub-sample of 2011 malaria cases found 59.4% did not take any chemoprophylaxis and 28.1% adhered. People's knowledge, attitude, and beliefs were more important in influencing chemoprophylaxis use (25% of the sub-sample stated that they did not know about malaria or chemoprophylaxis, and 34.4% knew but still did not take chemoprophylaxis) than having health insurance (84.4% had health insurance). Conclusion: Outreach and education are recommended to travelers, immigrant communities, and healthcare providers on malaria awareness, the importance of pre-travel medical advice for the appropriate chemoprophylaxis and the necessity of taking and adhering to the dosage. To increase chemoprophylaxis use and adherence, malaria prevention programs must focus on individuals' knowledge, attitude, and beliefs regarding malaria risk and disease severity.

  • THE CONTRIBUTION OF SCHOOL-LEVEL FACTORS TO CONTRACEPTIVE USE AMONG ADOLESCENTS IN NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS

    Author:
    Deborah Kaplan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Public Health
    Advisor:
    Diana Romero
    Abstract:

    Every year approximately 17,000 adolescents ages 15-19 become pregnant in New York City. Most of these pregnancies are unintended and only a small percent of adolescents use effective contraception, with wide disparities by race/ethnicity and poverty level. While many studies have identified factors associated with contraceptive use, most research has focused on individual level factors, with little attention to the contribution of the school environment to sexual risk behavior and contraceptive use. This study investigates the effect of school-level factors on contraceptive use among adolescents in NYC public high schools before and after controlling for individual-level factors, and whether this effect varies with race/ethnicity. Using a cross-sectional design, the NYC Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) individual-level datasets for 2007, 2009 and 2011 were linked to a school-level dataset. Variables were selected based on empirical findings on factors associated with sexual behaviors, including contraceptive use, by adolescents. The analytic sample included all YRBS respondents aged 14 or older who reported having sexual intercourse in the past three months and had complete responses to the YRBS questions on contraceptive use at last sex (N=8,054). The chi square test of significance was used to evaluate significant associations between independent variables and contraceptive use in bivariate analyses; variables with a p value < 0.1 were included in the multivariable analyses. Binary and multinomial logistic regression analyses were conducted to estimate the strength of the associations of school-level factors with contraceptive use among sexually active adolescents. Findings included that use of any contraception and/or hormonal contraception at last sexual intercourse was associated with attending schools with a higher six-year graduation rate, higher percent of students strongly agreeing they were safe in their classrooms, higher percent of teachers at the school for over two years, and having a School-Based Health Center (SBHC) in the building. No known study has examined the contribution of school-level effects to contraceptive use in a dataset linking YRBS and school-level datasets. Implications of research findings are that schools providing a supportive, engaging and safe environment can protect students from sexual risk behaviors and increase contraceptive use among sexually active adolescents.  

  • THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK (CUNY) DIABETES RISK STUDY: PERCEPTIONS OF A MULTI-ETHNIC COLLEGE POPULATION

    Author:
    Lorraine Mongiello
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Public Health
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Freudenberg,
    Abstract:

    Background and Problem: College years are the time when many form detrimental health behaviors that increase diabetes risk. An understanding of students' perceptions about their risk is necessary to determine how best to address issues of healthy eating and physical activity at CUNY. Methods and Objectives: Quantitative data from a student health survey (n=1,579) and qualitative analysis of five student focus groups (n=53) were used to achieve the study's objectives which were to determine the prevalence of risk factors for diabetes overall and by selected characteristics and to ascertain perceptions of diabetes risk, the level of diabetes risk knowledge and the presence of self-efficacy. Additionally, this study aimed to identify individual, community and institutional barriers which students face that limit their ability to adapt a healthy lifestyle. Results: Approximately 40% of students were identified as being at high risk for diabetes; these students were significantly more likely to attended a two-year college (p=.002), be older (p=.048) and have a lower income (p<.001). Of the high risk students, 39% did not recognize their risk. These students were more likely to be male (p=.010), be an immigrant (p<.001) and not report a family history of diabetes (p=.029). Blacks had the highest number of risk factors followed by Hispanics and Asians. On average, the students were able to identity only three of 10 well established diabetes risk factors. Few were aware of the increased diabetes risk among non-white populations and Asian students were the least likely to perceive the risk associated with their race. Students born outside the country were less active than their native-born counterparts (p<.001), as were women (p<.001) and Asian students (p=.030). Interpersonal and intrapersonal factors, primarily lack of time, but also lack of motivation and lack of social support were the reasons most students cited for lack of exercise while the campus environment emerged as the primary theme for poor food choices in the focus groups. Conclusions: CUNY administrators and policymakers must make diabetes prevention a priority as the university is an ideal setting to provide the multi-level interventions needed to reduce the future burden of diabetes in NYC.

  • Organizational Preparedness and Community Readiness for a Public Health Emergency Among Community Service Provider Organizations in East Harlem, New York City

    Author:
    Ann-Gel Palermo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Public Health
    Advisor:
    Luisa Borrell
    Abstract:

    Community service provider organizations operating in vulnerable and minority communities are ill-prepared for a public health emergency and are largely left out of formal preparedness activities. This study had two aims: 1) to examine the association of certain organizational attributes among community service provider organizations operating with levels of organizational preparedness in East Harlem, New York City; and 2) to assess the extent to which this community is ready to engage in public health emergency preparedness activities. Organizational leaders were identified from organizational membership lists of three community groups (n=83). An online cross-sectional survey was administered to 31 organizational leaders over a 5-week period to measure organizational preparedness, individual-level preparedness, organizational confidence, and specific organizational leader and organizational characteristics. Descriptive statistics, linear, and logistic regression analyses were used to address the Aim 1 of the study. For Aim 2, six organizational leaders were randomly selected from the survey sample based on their level of organizational preparedness and participated in an in-depth interview informed by the Community Readiness Model (CRM). The CRM anchored statement rating method was used to determine the stage of overall community readiness. A qualitative analysis of the interviews was conducted using a grounded theory approach to identify themes, barriers, and opportunities for improved public health emergency preparedness. Our findings showed a 1.3 increase in organizational preparedness when associated with the level of individual preparedness and a .99 increase when associated with organizational confidence after controlling for selected characteristics. When the outcome was treated as categorical (high versus low levels of organizational preparedness) the results were nearly identical (1.37, C.I.: 1.02-1.84 for individual preparedness; and 1.33, C.I.1.03-1.72 for organizational confidence). East Harlem is at Stage 2:Denial/Resistance within the stages of community readiness (range from 1 to 9 towards a higher stage of readiness). Four major themes, knowledge, assumptions, and community contextual factors, emerged related to public health emergency preparedness and moving towards a more prepared community. Overall, East Harlem's community service provider organizations remain ill-prepared and the community is at a critically low stage of community readiness to engage in a public health emergency preparedness activities.

  • Effects of 9/11-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder on Problem Alcohol Use Among World Trade Center Health Registry Enrollees

    Author:
    Alice Welch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Public Health
    Advisor:
    Nicholas Freudenberg
    Abstract:

    Advisor: Luisa N. Borrell, D.D.S., Ph.D. As a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, thousands of individuals experienced traumatic events. Although the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after 9/11 is well known, little is known about how those affected have coped with their posttraumatic stress symptoms. Alcohol use has been described as both a coping strategy and a form of self-medication used by individuals to reduce the effects of mental health conditions, such as PTSD. While literature on the consequences of 9/11 terrorist attacks on problem drinking is limited, the existing body of findings to date is consistent with other disasters, showing an association between PTSD and problem drinking. Data from the World Trade Center Health Registry, the largest registry of individuals directly exposed to an urban disaster, were used to examine the association between PSTD and alcohol use. The study found that 16% of enrollees were identified as having probable PTSD on its first survey (2003-04) and 19% on its second survey (2006-07). At the second survey, 29.3% of respondents reported problem drinking, a category combining binge drinking and/or heavy drinking and 48.6% reported non-problem drinking. This study showed that survivors of complex disasters with PTSD are at increased risk for problem drinking. Furthermore, it shows that the association between PTSD and problem drinking varies by age, race/ethnicity and gender and post-disaster experiences. This study also showed that populations living in dense urban areas who are directly exposed to disasters face higher risks of having mental health problems than other studies reported for the general population living in the affected area. Despite the fact that the events of 9/11 were unique, other complex emergencies that expose large numbers of people to a variety of traumatic events are not. As such, it is crucial that public health practitioners, particularly those working in disaster planning and mental health, include screening for increases in alcohol use and problem drinking as part of post-disaster psychological evaluations and ensure that mental health and alcohol treatment services are available in the period following a disaster.