Texas A&M Nursing, Public Health Experts Secure $7.4 Million to Improve Adolescent Health Behavior

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago part of HHS grant

September 19, 2023

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION — The Texas A&M University schools of nursing and public health have jointly been awarded a five-year, $7.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to promote positive adolescent health behavior in one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas. The project is a collaboration with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Partnerships and Opportunities for Adolescent Health Preparation, Support and Services (POPPS) will focus on implementing evidence-based adolescent health programs for youth in greater Chicago. The programs will address unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, healthy relationships, substance use, mental health, violence prevention and more.

Kelly Wilson, PhD, MCHES, associate dean for research at the School of Nursing, and Whitney Garney, PhD, an associate professor in the School of Public Health, serve as co-principal investigators.

The team will work with community organizations serving youth at-risk for experiencing homelessness, Chicago Public Schools and Lurie Children’s clinics to provide health services and education to adolescents and their families. Trained educators from Lurie Children’s will deliver approved evidence-based programs through the system’s network of clinics, Chicago Public Schools and participating partners.

“By meeting adolescents and their families where they live, learn and seek care, we hope to address real and persistent health inequalities that exist among this group,” Wilson said. “The evidence-based programs we plan to implement contain diverse and proven approaches to promote healthy adolescent behaviors and establish a foundation for a lifetime of beneficial development.”

“Adolescence is a deeply formative stage of life, offering an important window to positively influence this population with public health efforts,” Garney said. “Chicago is the country’s third largest city and provides our research team an opportunity to make maximum impact while expanding Texas A&M’s national reach.”

“Educators from our Community Programs team have begun our seventh school year serving Chicago Public Schools (CPS) with a focus on 4th-8th student and caregiver spaces with high quality, comprehensive, medically accurate health education. We are so grateful for this opportunity to expand the trust and partnership we have built to high schools and residential spaces,” said Dawn Ravine, Manager of Sexuality Education, Potocsnak Family Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine. “The sheer number of requests for sexual and reproductive health education support from CPS high schools inspired the proposal for this project. We will meet young people in clinics, schools and community spaces with this vital POPPS programming.”

“As a division of specialists in adolescent health, part of our mandate is to teach others how to effectively and efficiently provide adolescent- and youth-friendly health services (AYFHS) in a wide range of clinical settings. POPPS gives us an opportunity to work with community clinicians, discuss the opportunities and constraints to confidential adolescent health care, and learn how we can — systematically — improve the care we provide. Empowering adolescents and their clinicians is at the core of AYFHS,” said Gregg J. Montalto, MD, Associate Division Head for Clinical Practice, Potocsnak Family Division of Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine.

POPPS is the latest collaboration between Texas A&M and Lurie Children’s. The university has partnered with the organization’s adolescent community programs on several health projects related to unplanned pregnancy prevention, caregiver support and more over the past several years.

HHS selected POPPS for funding as part of its evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program. TPP is a national, competitive grant program that provides funding to replicate and scale evidence-based TPP programs and develop and evaluate new and innovative approaches to improve adolescent sexual health outcomes and promote positive youth development in communities across the United States.

The research team is using the first six months of the project to identify appropriate evidence-based programs for implementation. This process includes soliciting input from greater Chicago youth, parents and community stakeholders. POPPS programming is expected to launch early next year.

About Texas A&M School of Nursing

The Texas A&M University School of Nursing is committed to preparing the next generation of nurses through exceptional education programs, progressive research, strategic partnerships and innovative outreach initiatives. Visit nursing.tamu.edu for more information.

About Texas A&M School of Public Health

The Texas A&M University School of Public Health is committed to transforming health through interdisciplinary inquiry, innovative solutions, and development of leaders. Anchored by state-of-the-art campuses in College Station and McAllen, we offer undergraduate and graduate education opportunities in person and online. Our practicum sites and community outreach programs span the state, impacting all 254 counties in Texas. Learn more at public-health.tamu.edu.