Healthy Gist Messaging Through Social Media

Worksite Location
Tompkins County/CCE Tompkins office
Project Dates
May 16, 2019 - August 15, 2019
Faculty Sponsor
Valerie Reyna
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Lara Parrilla, CCE-Tompkins
Wages Up To
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

Growth in raw milk consumption has increased foodborne illnesses in NYS. Raw milk poses a serious health risk to pregnant women, infants, and the elderly. According to the CDC, from 1993 to 2012, there were 127 outbreaks linked to raw milk and caused 1,909 illnesses and 144 hospitalizations. Many raw milk outbreaks affect children – 59% of outbreaks from 2007 to 2012 involved a child under the age of 5. The CDC recently reported that 81% of all raw milk-related illnesses are due to campylobacter bacteria. Further, campylobacter is increasingly resistant to antibiotics - in 2015, 50% of campylobacter samples tested in NYS were antibiotic-resistant. Cooperative Extension educates the public more about food safety than other organizations, including public health (35% vs. 21%). Educating the public about raw milk risks addresses both pathogens and antibiotic resistance that impact the health of New Yorkers. Pro- and anti-raw milk groups use social media to promote their views. We will analyze these tweets to better understand why people engage in risky behavior (drinking raw milk) and why social media messages about it propagate (influencing others to drink or not drink raw milk). Understanding the reasoning for engaging in this risky behavior will result in the ability to create more effective prevention materials and techniques. The intern will help us develop a survey, recruit community groups and give them a survey measuring memory for presented information and other knowledge and attitude tests, plus fuzzy trace theory concepts. Also, the intern will work with our CCE partner to identify social media platforms and community engagement strategies for our outreach goals.

Roles and Responsibilities

The intern will work closely with Dr. Reyna’s research team as well as with CCE partners. Responsibilities will include, but are not limited to: planning, research on interventions, research on survey design and delivery methodology, and pilot teaching the intervention. 

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

The preferred candidate will demonstrate a high level of enthusiasm for Dr. Reyna’s research in memory across the life span and adolescent risky decision making, as well as for applying this research in outreach and educational settings, including working with youth. The candidate will also have completed general coursework in at least one of the following: Human Development; Psychology; Human Biology, Health and Society; Neurobiology; or related fields. The candidate should be in excellent academic standing.

Benefits and Skills

The intern will have the opportunity to gain skills in program development, translation and application of research to real-world problems, working with and through others, and translating research into outreach and educational materials, and youth development programming. They will also have the opportunity to gain knowledge of psychology and related behavioral sciences, public health and issues in education.