Measuring and Improving Rural Food and Physical Activity Environments to Improve Health

Worksite Location
Cornell University; CCE Herkimer; CCE Schuyler; Penn State Extension
Faculty Sponsor
Rebecca A. Seguin, PhD
Other Campus-Based Mentors/Supervisors
Leah Connor, MPH
Field Mentors/Supervisors
L Robbins; P Redihan; K Bracey; C Guffey
Stipend Amount
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

The goal of this project is to measure and improve upon the barriers to healthy eating and active living in underserved rural communities. To accomplish this, we (the project team, including intern) will conduct community audits using the food and physical activity inventories. We aim to gain a further understanding for how improvements can be made to the food and physical activity environment by evaluating the work of current HEART Clubs. HEART Clubs are led by an Extension Educator and consist of community members interested in making local policy and/or structural changes that support healthy eating and active living. HEART Clubs will identify an issue within their community and develop benchmarks and an action plan to guide their work. For example, the Schuyler County HEART Club plans to encourage healthy living through increased physical activity for the community of Montour and surrounding areas by enhancing and improving the physical environment of the Catherine Valley Trail and promoting on-going walking events. All activities are reviewed and approved by the Cornell IRB prior to being implemented.

Roles and Responsibilities

Intern will primarily be based at Cornell University. Travel to Cooperative Extension offices to conduct project activities will be required.

The student will complete CITI human subjects training. The CCE intern will conduct community audits using our food and physical activity tools. He/she will prepare testing instructions/materials and help test these tools with community residents in rural towns. The intern will also help to evaluate the HEART Clubs by attending HEART Club activities and events, conducting focus groups with HEART Club members, and conducting key informant interviews with HEART Club leaders. Recordings of these sessions will be transcribed, coded, and analyzed by the student under the direction and in collaboration with Leah Connor and Dr. Seguin.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

Must be a full-time CHE freshman, sophomore or junior. Graduating seniors are not eligible. Must meet NYS Department of Motor Vehicle requirement, if applicable.

The student should have a strong interest in public health and the promotion of healthy eating and physical activity. Research methods and statistical coursework would be helpful but not required. Prior to beginning any work, the student will need to complete online CITI training for conducting research with human subjects (Social and Behavioral Research module).

Benefits and Skills

The student will gain qualitative research skills, specifically related to conducting focus groups and key informant interviews. He/she will be trained to use NVivo software and develop skills related to coding and analyzing qualitative data. Further learning opportunities related to the protection of human subjects in research, critical thinking, and data analysis skills will be achieved by the student. In addition, the student will gain an understanding about the profession of health education and health promotion as well as the challenges and rewards of implementing this type of work in rural underserved communities.