Campus: Dominguez Hills -- October 31, 2007

Psychology Professor Receives Competitive Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Research Grant

Carl Sneed, assistant professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, has been awarded a Minority HIV/AIDS Research Initiative (MARI) grant from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct research in the area of HIV and STD (sexually transmitted diseases) education and prevention strategies targeting African American and Hispanic youth. The four-year grant has an estimated total value of close to $1 million. Only six research areas were slated for funding from this particular CDC funding opportunity, making it a highly competitive grant.

“It feels really good,” said Sneed, who specializes in adolescent health behaviors and has been with the university for three years. “The probability of getting something like this was pretty small, and we got the award for adolescent research in the western region of the United States.”

According to CDC statistics, African Americans and Hispanics account for a disproportionate number of HIV/AIDS cases, a gap that has been growing over the years. Yet little research is focused on this shift. One aim of the MARI program is to address this disparity by supporting HIV epidemiologic and prevention research in these ethnic groups, and one area of research the program encourages is in “effective STD and HIV education and prevention activities” among adolescents, given that education at an early age is key to prevention.

Over the four years of the grant, Sneed, along with co-investigators Ricky Bluthenthal and Sohaila Shakib, professors in the Department of Sociology, will conduct a two-phased study on the methods African American and Hispanic parents use to communicate with their children about sex, paying particular attention to unique cultural factors employed. Prior research shows that parent-child communication has an impact in the reduction of HIV/STD risk, yet, according to Sneed, little is known about the strategies African American and Hispanic parents use when talking to their children about sex, STDs and/or HIV/AIDS.

“The information gleaned from this study will be used to develop innovative and culturally relevant intervention materials targeting STD and HIV risk reduction through parent-adolescent communication,” Sneed writes in his grant proposal. “The proposed study seeks to reduce the rates of STDs and HIV through understanding and the development of strategies to improve parent-adolescent communication about sex among African Americans and Latinos….The proposed study will fill a very important gap in the literature.”

The university is very committed to working closely with the surrounding community, and this grant supports those efforts. Sneed, Bluthenthal and Shakib will be collaborating with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach and the city of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services in carrying out the study. The organizations will work with the professors on identifying 48 focus groups who will take part in the first phase of the study and 400 families (the mother and one child per family) who will take part in the second phase. The first phase will focus on identifying the strategies parents use to communicate with their children about sex, and the second phase will use questionnaires to examine the role of family and culture on STD and HIV risk among the two racial groups.

Mothers are the focus of the study, Sneed said, because research shows mothers are more likely to talk to their children about these topics, and vice versa. However, he doesn’t plan to dismiss the fathers’ role completely.

“We’re still looking for money to work with mothers and fathers,” Sneed said, adding that he also plans to seek funding for a longitudinal study that follows the parent and child through the communication process. “There area a number of funding opportunities in this area, and this CDC grant opens the door for future funding of similar projects.”


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