Under the leadership of principal investigator Dr. Eric Walsh-Buhi, an associate professor in the San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health, an SDSU research team has been awarded a three-year $1 million grant from the Office of Health Equity, Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address social determinants of health and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among Latino/a youth in the South Bay region of San Diego County, California. The program, entitled Community Approaches to Reducing Sexually Transmitted Diseases (CARS), is founded upon community engagement as the driving force in the development of a culturally appropriate intervention to combat STDs.
[Photo: Dr. Buhi leading a Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR) training.]
“Our project brings together a committed group of organizational partners, which has been working together for a year, to address a critical issue among youth in the South Bay,” Dr. Walsh-Buhi noted. “San Diego County and its South Bay region are unique geographic and sociodemographic contexts for vast health inequities, including STDs and HIV/AIDS. In fact, poor STD-related health outcomes are disproportionately concentrated among Latino/a adolescents and young adults, who also suffer from a range of negative social determinants of health in the South Bay. Thus, it is crucial to address systemic catalysts of STD/HIV outcomes and contributing behaviors in the South Bay through culturally sensitive, community-driven health equity initiatives.”
Recent local and national STD surveillance data indicate an upward trend in STD rates, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, especially among young people and those living in the South Bay. The priority population for the CARS project is comprised of Latino/a youth, ages 15 – 24 years old, living in various neighborhoods of South Bay San Diego that are proximate to the U.S. – Mexico border. A youth advisory board, consisting of approximately 10 young people living in the South Bay, will be the lead decision-making body for the planning and implementation of a novel community intervention combatting rising STD rates.
SDSU will serve as the lead academic partner in collaboration with San Ysidro Health Center, the lead community partner, in spearheading this community based participatory research (CBPR) project. Several other organizational partners will assist on the project, leveraging their organizational resources to improve health equity in the region. These organizations have worked together since 2016 as a part of the South Bay Partnership for Youth Health Equity (or SoBaPYHE), and include Latino and youth serving organizations, STD testing centers, and community health centers.
The first year of the three-year project will entail the recruitment and formation of the Youth Advisory Board, initiating and strengthening new and existing partnerships, and conducting a community-wide needs assessment. Members of the Youth Advisory Board will be trained in various leadership and program planning skills so that they are capable of developing a sustainable community intervention to reduce STDs.
Dr. Jerel Calzo, associate professor at the Graduate School of Public Health, is a co-investigator on the project, bringing his expertise in CBPR, LGBTQI health, and adolescent health to the project. Dr. Mari Zuñiga, another co-investigator and professor in the School of Social Work at SDSU, will contribute her extensive experience with border health and immigrant populations.
Funding for this project was granted through the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention (CDC-RFA-PS11-1114).