Undergrad Research Fellowships 17

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Undergraduate Summer Research Fellows

Students make strides with global research this summer


Noelle Pooler, 2017 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow

‌Undergraduate Researcher: Noelle Pooler
Mentor:  Joann T. Richardson, Ph.D., College of Humanities and Sciences
Research Topic:  'A Continuation Study: Impacting knowledge, attitudes and behaviors for the prevention and control of hypertension and diabetes among rural, medically underserved Jamaican women of childbearing age'

Noelle Pooler, a rising junior in the exercise science concentration in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences has a tremendous heart for helping others. After hearing Joann Richardson, Ph.D., associate professor and VCU Globe Faculty Fellow, use the study as an example during a lecture on global community health promotion, Pooler’s interest was piqued and she considered this potential research project to be an opportunity that she could not let pass her by.

Pooler will be accompanied by Richardson as her faculty mentor to Negril, Jamaica to resume the study began last summer. The study is based on research findings reporting hypertension and diabetes as top causes of maternal mortality in medically underserved, rural areas of Jamaica. The study will focus on the two diseases in an effort to pinpoint the determining factors among at-risk Jamaican women of childbearing age, to increase their knowledge and to positively change attitudes and behaviors regarding the prevention and control of the diseases.

The research project will be conducted over two weeks in Negril and will include a community-engaged study comprised of two surveys (pre- and post-), focus groups, baseline physiological measurements including checks of blood pressure, glucose levels and body mass index (BMI) and educational interventions.

The enthusiasm Pooler witnessed in Richardson is well matched by her own, fueled by affinity for assisting others. This gives her an excitement to continue the study.

“I just have a really intense desire to help people...So I'm looking forward to going into this community and doing whatever I can to assist where I can.”

Richardson is pleased to be able to continue the study and to be working with Porter. She recommended Porter after noticing how intrigued and enthusiastic she was about the study. "I look forward to working with Noelle as we strive to build on the lessons learned last year and to enhance recruitment to reach more women. In turn, the work will empower more women as voices for health promotion in their communities," Richardson said.

Although the project is a continuation of last summer’s research, a new aspect that will be brought to the table is the promotion of community social capital. Pooler states that by introducing this facet to the rural community, the study seeks to better inform the population about the “seriousness, risks and ways to prevent and control hypertension and diabetes and can help their society/communities function optimally.”

“The tweak that I will be adding is an emphasis on increasing social capital by introducing these educational components,” Pooler explained. “Social capital is one's inclusivity within a community; the awareness of one’s place in the community as well as being empowered to voice needs and concerns about things that can benefit society,” she said.

This added component will provide the participating women an opportunity to become more invested in obtaining knowledge about their own health. For Pooler, the road to changed behavior and knowledge begins with basic conversations about the matter.

“I think it starts with having these interventions and conversations because often just the lack of education alone can have a huge impact,” said Pooler. “If you don't know that you have unhealthy eating habits, you will not see a need to change them. But when you know more, you’re able to advocate for a change within yourself and the people around you,” she said.

The interaction with the women will provide more data to the research already begun and hopefully offer more answers to solve the issues. “We'll be able to hear their perspectives and stories and see lifestyle patterns and behaviors that may be associated with hypertension and diabetes that we can take into consideration in future research,” Pooler said.

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