Health Education Student Awarded OPR Research Fellowship
Christel Hyden, recently awarded the 2009-2010 OPR Research Fellowship from the Teachers College Office of Policy and Research shares her research with us.
| ||Christel Hyden, Program in Health Education, HIV Testing Locations in New York City: An Adolescent Consumer Level Evaluation |
It was through my work at the Harlem Health Promotion Center -- a CDC funded prevention research site affiliated with the Mailman School of Public Health – that I came across a study run several years ago in Los Angeles in which researchers contacted HIV testing locations and found that half the testing locations couldn’t be reached by phone, meaning the average consumer had a 50/50 chance of connecting with this essential service on their first try.
This type of study immediately intrigued me since nothing of its kind had ever been conducted in New York City. It also seemed like an interesting project because it was of a scale that could be completed with limited resources. However, I wanted to look at more detailed information about each organization, specifically whether the organizations provide services that would appeal to adolescents who may be interested in getting tested. Adolescent HIV/AIDS has increased over the past decade but fewer than 25% of adolescents have been HIV tested, and therefore I felt there was a need to understand testing locations in terms of characteristics that are known to appeal to adolescents: free, confidential rapid tests, offered at a convenient setting with nontraditional hours.
Using the NYS directory of HIV testing sites as my sample, I wrote a study protocol that was subsequently approved by the Columbia IRB. Presenting as adolescents, trained callers use a semi-structured interview to establish whether the testing site can be reached by telephone and meets the criteria most cited by adolescents as influential on testing behaviors.
We have since pilot tested the study with 50 of the 187 testing sites and found that 40% were not successfully contacted by phone or did not offer HIV testing. Among the remainder, most offer free rapid testing, although 75% only during traditional business hours. Agency representatives were typically well rated, but often required prompting for information. Further, representatives at the agencies that had the most adolescent friendly services (e.g. the NYC Department of Health) were rated the lowest in terms of service and communication skills, suggesting that while they may offer superior access to testing they’re not doing a very good job making that clear to consumers.
I plan to defend this dissertation proposal in the early spring of 2009, submit to the TC IRB, and have data collection on the remaining agencies completed by the end of summer 2009.