In recognition of their new health communication work in the Mississippi Delta, Kristie Swain, of the University of Mississippi School of Journalism, and Angela Green, of the Writing and Rhetoric Department, will each receive a Community Engagement Honor Roll certificate at the university’s 2019 Celebration of Service on April 10.
Their competition submission, “Team Safe Sex Learning through Safe Reflection and Storytelling,” is also funded by a 2018-2019 Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation research grant.
In the fall, Swain’s research methods class conducted a focus group study of African American women in collaboration with Catherine Moring, executive director of wellness for the James Kennedy Wellness Center in Charleston, Mississippi. They asked the women to talk about what puts local teens at risk for STDs and teen pregnancy and what might prevent these outcomes.
This semester, Swain’s IMC 585-Health Communication class is conducting a focus group study and pilot intervention of African American youth in Charleston to explore their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors related to safe sex, Swain said.
Health Communication students recently designed a community health campaign, as well as roleplay and reflective writing games for a pilot intervention, she said. In one game called “Origami Fortune Teller,” teens will discuss different hypothetical safe-sex situations, she said. Small groups of teens will each pick a number and one of four colors.
“A moderator will move the four-corner, origami fortuneteller back and forth the number of times they pick, and then pose a question or scenario that corresponds to a number between 1 and 8 next to the color they selected,” Swain said. “Then the teens will read the scenario and work though the decision making process.”
A follow-up activity will involve matching different colors of Starburst candies with different hypothetical situations, she said. After each teen group selects a Starburst, a moderator will challenge them to write and act out a skit to show how kids might react to the situation. Then, UM students will create informal videos of the skits to use in social media outreach.
Cade Smith, UM’s assistant vice chancellor for community engagement, cited the significance of the project as one of its strengths in the community engagement competition.
“The scope and impact of the submitted projects were tremendous,” he said. “We look forward to sharing and learning about the life- and community-changing work that UM and UMMC scholars are co-leading with their community partners.”
By the end of this year, Swain, Green and Moring hope to use their findings to identify barriers and inroads in preventing HIV, STDs and unplanned pregnancies among African American adolescents in the Mississippi Delta, Swain said. The results will inform a NIH grant proposal, in collaboration with UMCC researchers, to support behavior change research in rural faith communities.