Vector-Borne Disease Prevention and Education in At-Risk Communities

Worksite Location
CCE of Schuyler County and CCE Hidden Valley Camp
Project Dates
May 28, 2019 – August 10, 2019, or when student returns to Cornell
Faculty Sponsor
Laura Harrington
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Philip Cherry, CCE of Schuyler County; Melissa Schroeder, CCE Hidden Valley Camp
Wages Up To
$4,000
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

CCE of Schuyler County operates the Hidden Valley 4-H Youth Summer Camp (Hidden Valley) in Watkins-Glen, NY, each year, hosting approximately 100 youth at camp each week for a five week period in both residential and day-camper programs. Hidden Valley does not currently provide parents or campers with any guidance on how to mitigate exposure to ticks and mosquitoes of medical importance. This project will be primarily focused on two objectives: (1) development of evidence-based guidance for personal protection measures that will be incorporated into the standard handbook for Hidden Valley for parents and campers, and (2) implementation of a training program for Hidden Valley camp counselors, nurses, and staff on tick and mosquito population control and disease prevention. The primary programmatic outcome of this project will be a sustainable tick- and mosquito-borne disease awareness and prevention protocol to be used during each camp season. Additional targeted outcomes are reduced exposure to and incidence of tick- and mosquito-borne diseases among Hidden Valley campers and staff during the camping season. Additionally, this program may increase awareness and adoption of preventive behaviors beyond the Hidden Valley camper population through the educational materials targeted to parents. 

Roles and Responsibilities

The CCE intern will help design and organize educational content and materials made available to three target audiences: campers, parents of campers, and camp staff, including counselors and nurses. The intern will play a pivotal role in conducting hands-on exercises to educate campers on how to perform appropriate behaviors to avoid tick and mosquito bites. The intern will assist in conducting seminars for camp counselors, staff, and nurses covering up-to-date epidemiological data on tick- and mosquito-borne diseases in Schuyler County, important components of disease prevention, and resources available to address concerns related to tick- or mosquito-borne disease issues among campers; the intern will receive mentorship from Cornell faculty and partners at Schuyler County Public Health in the development of these seminars. Materials from the training events will also be made available to parents of Hidden Valley campers. The intern will gather pre- and post-seminar knowledge assessments to gauge the impact and efficacy of the training program in improving awareness of tick- and mosquito-borne disease, and intentions to adopt prevention behaviors. The intern will also collaborate with Schuyler County Public Health Department in the delivery of seminars for local Schuyler County residents outside of the camp setting. The intern will also have the opportunity to shadow health department staff to learn more about the work public health officials conduct to prevent vector-borne diseases in the community, if time is available. 

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

No prior coursework is necessary, although knowledge of entomology is desirable. The successful candidate will need to meet travel requirements of the internship and be able to observe basic personal safety protections in environments where ticks and mosquitoes are common and sometimes abundant.  

Benefits and Skills

The student intern will gain hands-on experience in health education, with direct mentorship from medical entomologists, public health professionals, and Cornell Extension educators. At the end of this period, the intern will be able to describe the epidemiology of major tick- and mosquito-borne diseases impacting Upstate New York, as well as identify and practice evidence-based prevention measures to avoid exposure to these vectors and the diseases they transmit. The intern will learn how to translate the scientific literature into public outreach materials for a variety of audiences at different levels of reading and comprehension. In addition, the intern will gain experience in conducting outcomes evaluation for public health interventions.