University of Nebraska Medical Center

Melissa Tibbits, PhD: Research to Promote Health Among Children and Adolescents

Spotlight on Research at COPH – The goal of Dr. Tibbits’ research is to promote health among children and adolescents. Much of her research falls into the category of public health practice and focuses on providing information that enables community organizations to choose effective intervention strategies. Additionally, she works extensively with local organizations on evaluation projects aimed at providing information that can be used to build upon intervention strengths, recognize challenges, and encourage sustainability.

Most recently Dr. Tibbits has collaborated with the Douglas County Health Department and Building Healthy Futures on evaluation projects. The Douglas County Health Department project was an evaluation of the CDC-funded Community Transformation Grant. This initiative focused on implementing community-wide environmental and policy change strategies in a variety of settings, such as corner stores, workplaces, churches, health care organizations, and schools, in order to promote healthy eating and physical activity. The evaluation specifically focused on the corner store and workplace strategies. The Building Healthy Futures project was an evaluation of the school-based health clinics within Omaha Public Schools. The evaluation focused on obtaining patient, parent, and staff feedback about the clinics, as well as examining the impact of the clinics on child health and academic outcomes.

Over the past year, Dr. Tibbits also has worked with the Women’s Fund of Omaha and other community stakeholders to gather data about teen pregnancy and STDs to inform the Adolescent Health Project. This work included conducting a literature review to determine national trends and effective prevention strategies, conducting a local environmental scan to determine local trends and prevention practices, and providing recommendations about strategies the Adolescent Health Project could implement to better align local practices with national knowledge about effective strategies. The Adolescent Health Project team is in the process of using this information to develop effective community-wide strategies to address teen pregnancy and STDs among youth in Omaha.

Dr. Tibbits reports that, over time, it has become clear to her that many negative child and adolescent health outcomes have the same underlying risk factors, such as unhealthy community norms, negative family processes, and inadequate community supports. Moving forward, she is especially interested in collaborating with others researching and addressing these common risk factors in order to more holistically promote child and adolescent health.

Melissa Tibbits, PhD, is an assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social & Behavioral Health.

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