Jennifer C. Robinson

University of Mississippi Medical Center, USA

Title: Learning through research: Involving students to increase understanding of the role neighborhoods play in health


Jennifer C. Robinson's research involves physical activity (PA) and neighborhood context, as well as health disparities associated with geographic location and socioeconomic status. She is involved in a trial on diet and PA interventions, a study to develop a neighborhood asset mapping instrument, and has previously researched the neighborhood effect on PA in African Americans in Detroit and Jackson. She has expertise with geographic information systems (GIS) and experience with large epidemiological studies. Her dissertation focused on neighborhood social and contextual determinants of individual PA. Dr. Robinson has experience teaching at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels.


Physical inactivity is prevalent in the US and is more prevalent in the South and in minorities. Addressing health disparities in African Americans (AA) and geographic location requires an understanding of behavioral risk factors, including physical activity (PA). Despite national eff orts, most Americans still have insuffi cient activity for optimal health, leading many researchers to adopt a macro-level or socioecological approach to investigate the role that neighborhood environments have on shaping health and health behavior. Th e purpose of this ongoing experience is to involve students in a program of research of physical activity and neighborhood context to help them better understand the role of neighborhood social, economic, and built environment on community health. Nursing and health related professional students at the undergraduate, masters, and Ph.D. levels were integrated into an ongoing program of research. Students collected community level data using geographic information systems (GIS) generated maps and a newly designed community asset tool, created data fi les, entered data, pilot tested in the fi eld real-time data collection, and conducted some preliminary data analysis. Students gained research experience, served as mentors to each other, gained confi dence and became more independent, played an important role in the research team, and gained an appreciation of how neighborhood factors help to shape individual health and health behavior. Students reported that they previously were unaware of many of the barriers and supports within communities that aff ect health. Integrating students into an ongoing program of research provided them with multiple opportunities to learn about communities and research.

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