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Completed Research

Violence Prevention Project


Client(s): Anna Song & Sidra Goldman Mellor 

Community Organization(s) Involved: Merced County Dsitrict Attorney's Office

Description: Based on feedback from community advisory group members, representatives from UC Merced, law enforcement and local education are examining violence prevention efforts in Merced County. As of early 2017, they are preparing to analyze crime data to best inform proposed interventions. 

Restorative Justice and Health Project


Researchers Involved: Paul Carroll, graduate student in Dr.Cameron's Health Communications and Interventions lab. 

Community Organization(s) Involved: Merced County Office of Education, Career and Alternative Education, Valley Community Schools, Building Healthy Communities,Merced (Funder)

Process: Starting in 2012, Valley Community Schools implemented restorative justive, an alternative to traditional discipline policies. Subsequent research aims to explore the effects of such programs on students' well-being, including social and emotional, as well as the effects of exclusionary discipline (suspensions and in-school suspensions). Research collaborations with the school have led to staff training, the implementation of several trauma-informed programs, notable policy changes, and improvements in several tracked outcomes for students and staff members. 

Pediatric Valley Fever Study 


Researcher(s) Involved: Erin Gaab, Jan Wallendar, Jitske Tiemensma, & Health Science Research Institute's Research Assistants

Community Organization(s) Involved: Valley Children's Hospital: Jim McCarty, M.D. and Fouzia Naeem, M.D. 

Process: Research investigating the effects of valley fever (coccidioidomycosis) on children and the psychosocial implications of this disease in general is lacking. This study reviews what is known about pediatric valley fever patients. It documents the psychological functioning, quality of life and illness perceptions of a sample of valley fever patient families. Primary caregivers of pediatric patients and patients from a major hospital in the San Joaquin Valley were interviewed regarding their perceptions of disease detection, access to care and the patient/family experience. 

Results: The findings were published in an open-acces journal: Gaab, E. M., & Naeem, F. (2015,August). Pediatric Coccidioidomycosis Patients: Perceptions, Quality of Life and Psychosocial Factors. In Healthcare (Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 775-795). Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute.

Microbes and Biology Projects 


Researcher(s) Involved: Larry Johnson, Erin M. Gaab, Javier Sanchez, Phuong Q. Bui, Clarissa J. Nobile, Katrina K. Hoyer, David M. Ojcius

Community Organization(s) Involved: UCSF-Fresno, Michael W. Peterson, M.D.

Process: Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii contribute to the development of valley fever. The ability of these fungal pathogens to evade the host immune system creates difficulty in recognition and treatment of this debilitating infection. In this review, a biology Ph.D. student, a health psychologist, two undergraduate biology students, three professors of different biological disciplinary backgrounds and a medical doctor work together to describe the current knowledge of valley fever and approaches to improve prevention, detection and treatment. (Valley Fever Advocacy: For network meetings, press releases, etc., visit our valley fever website.)

Air Quality Study 


Researcher(s) Involved: Paul Brown, Anna Song, Mariaelena Gonzalez, Linda Cameron, Ricardo Cisneros, Carol Sipan, Erin Gaab, and student research assistants

Community Organization(s) Involved: Great Valley Center, United Way, Language classes, Riverbank Women’s Club, Boys and Girls Club

Process:  Industrial and geographic features contribute to the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) having some of the worst air quality (AQ) in the United States. This, combined with high levels of persistent poverty, contributes to environmental health disparities in the region. This study uses a community sample of SJV residents to examine reports of AQ-related health problems, behaviors and attitudes. Student research assistants surveyed more than 500 SJV residents, using surveys and interviews in both English and Spanish. Participant groups and the locations at which they were approached were selected by community reference groups in Merced and Modesto to ensure often-underrepresented group involvement.

Results: Professors Paul Brown and Ricardo Cisneros and Lecturer Erin Gaab will be presenting their results at the Central California Asthma Collaborative's Asthma, Air Quality and Health Symposium on November 30th. Findings were published in an open-acces journal: Latino and Non-Latino Perceptions of the Air Quality in California's San Joaquin Valley.

Community Needs Assessments


Researcher(s) Involved: Paul Brown, Erin M. Gaab, & Health Science Research Institute's Research Assistants

Community Organization(s) Involved: Madera Public Health Department

Process: To be accredited, local health departments (LHD) must assess the health needs of their communities. There is considerable debate in LHDs across the country about how best to perform this assessment, with some counties opting to merely compile epidemiological data (e.g., rates of disease), and others choosing more resource-intensive data collection techniques such as surveys of the population. Yet the value of these population-level surveys is being questioned as potentially not being appropriate to the health needs of particular communities and not reflecting factors that might be under the control of the LHDs. One such tool is the CDC's Community Health Survey. LHDs in California are being urged by the state Department of Public Health to use this survey. But this survey was never pilot tested in California, much less with the diverse communities that reside in the San Joaquin Valley, such as Hmong and new immigrant communities. The study aimed to understand the health issues that individuals in Merced feel are important, to understand what role people see the LHDs as playing in contributing to the health of their communities, and to assess whether community members believe the current CDC survey includes the areas they feel are relevant to their communities and, if not, whether there are other areas that should be included.

Results: The end result of this study contributed to our understanding of the factors that should be considered by LHDs when developing their needs assessment approaches and the extent to which the CDC's Community Health Survey reflects those important aspects. The Health Sciences research assistants at UC Merced participated in translating and preparing the research plan and focus group documents (through language and layman translation) and entering data collected for faculty members to review and analyze. They also assisted with the recruitment and consent process (in the Hmong community).

Oral Health 


Researcher(s) Involved: Mariaelena Gonzalez

Process: Flossing and brushing prevents periodontal disease, but less than 50 percent of adults floss daily, with low income and minority individuals being particularly at risk. Aiming to improve oral health in Merced County, Professor Gonzalez is collecting data on residents' brushing and flossing habits. This data will be used to develop and implement education and outreach campaigns, as well as test interventions that improve preventive care.

Health Economics Workshops 


With support from the California Department of Public Health and the San Joaquin Valley Public Health Consortium, HSRI director Paul Brown recently led a two day workshop for local health departments on April 21 to 22nd, 2016. They were trained on the use of economics evaluation methods, analysis of the return on public health investments and how to use cost information in local decision making. Attendees included directors, epidemiologists and health educators from across the Central Valley. Professor Brown will be continuing his return on investment work with the Merced County Department of Public Health, through the support of the Community Partner's California Accountable Communities for Health Initiatives.