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Summary of Experience

As a Research Scholar I have had the great opportunity to work in the Community Health and Health Studies Department. Under the guidance of Dr. Valerie Lewis I was able to participate in two projects, the Adolescent Pregnancy Study and the Pediatric Asthma Program, that are currently being conducted and future projects that the department is planning on implementing, specifically in the City of Allentown.

With the Adolescent Pregnancy study I gained a better understanding about teenage pregnancy that I did not have coming into the program. I appreciated reading literature on adolescent pregnancy and witnessing the risk factors and choices behind maintaining a pregnancy. For example, adolescent pregnancy has been declining since the 1990’s, but disparities do exist in African Americans and Hispanics. What I found surprising was learning that adolescent females are not well educated on different birth control options and that a negative HIV/ STI status was an important factor in choosing not to continue or start a birth control method. Although I learned a great deal about adolescent pregnancy, I valued expanding upon my coding and qualitative research skills.

In the Pediatric Asthma Program study I had a behind the scenes experience. This program sought to improve clinical outcomes and knowledge about asthma among children ages 5-11 years old and their caregivers in the City of Allentown. I was given the task of modifying the Parent Caregiver Survey, which would be administered by the Patient Navigator or the Community Health Worker, to preserve essential questions and omit repetitive ones. During the bimonthly Pediatric Asthma Study meeting I was able to view firsthand the education materials that would be implemented in the Pediatric Clinic. I was also able to see that the program had positive outcomes dues to the increased enrollment and usage of the program.

Overall I believe Research Scholar program has validated that I chose the right academic majors of Community Health Education and Hispanic Studies because there is a need for more health education in underserved populations. This program has been a great supplement to my education and has motivated me to continue my education in the health profession.

Summary of Research

Although I was involved in the two projects my main focus was on the Adolescent Pregnancy Study. During my time I reviewed the literature used for this study about adolescent pregnancy. Through the literature I have gained a better understanding about adolescent pregnancy and the associated risks and resilience factors.

I contacted different local agencies and distributed flyers to the various locations that serve pregnant and parenting adolescents in order to increase knowledge of and enrollment in the study. I participated in an interview with an adolescent mother and performed the debriefing at the end of the interview. Additionally, I learned the skill of coding and analyzing qualitative data. Although this study had a small sample size, the emergent themes were consistent with the themes from similar studies such as the lack of sex education, lack of awareness of birth control methods, transformed relationships, and others.

This research is vital to Lehigh Valley Health Network because adolescent pregnancy affects not only the pregnant adolescent mom and her family, but there is also an impact on the community. Based on data from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Counting It Up: The Public Costs of Teen Childbearing, teen pregnancy costs over 11 billion dollars per year in costs to U.S. taxpayers for due to factors such as increased health care and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers. Children of adolescent mothers are more likely to have lower birth rates, have lower school achievement and drop out of high school, have more health problems, be incarcerated at some time during adolescence, give birth as a teenager, and face unemployment as a young adult.

In 2007, of all the births in the City of Allentown, 16.33% were to mothers 19 years of age or under compared to 9.32% in Pennsylvania as a whole. 21.44% of the births were to Hispanics in Allentown as compared to 18.19% for PA. These statistics demonstrate that adolescent pregnancy is prevalent in the City of Allentown. This study will ultimately identify the needs of the community and help implement programs to ensure that the adolescent population of the City of Allentown can have a healthy, safe, and successful future.


Mentor: Valerie Lewis


Research Scholars, Research Scholars - Posters

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