April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014


National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect Draws Westat Research

Westat staff will be attending and participating at the 19th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect (external site) [*] in New Orleans, Louisiana, April 30-May 2, 2014. This year's theme is Making Meaningful Connections. The conference will also celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

The conference provides opportunities to forge new partnerships, exchange cutting-edge information on research and practice, review model programs, and learn innovative techniques and strategies in the field of child welfare.

Westat will be hosting an exhibit booth in the Strand Foyer, Booth 18. Westat staff will be available to discuss our experience in studying issues affecting children, youth, and families.

Westat staff (name in bold) will contribute the following presentation.

Tamara Fuller, Raquel Ellis, Julie Murphy, and Marc Winokur.
Examining Outcomes of Differential Response: Results from Three Randomized Controlled Trials in Colorado, Illinois, and Ohio

For more information: Contact Westat


NHLBI-UnitedHealth Global Health Meeting Draws Westat

Westat staff will join National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)-UnitedHealth Global Health Program members at the 9th and Final Semi-Annual Steering Committee meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, April 13-16, 2014.

The meeting’s focus is to

  • Share final results from the 11 Centers of Excellence (COEs) on their research initiatives directed at combating noncommunicable cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases (CVPD)
  • Discuss the network’s research efforts in combating chronic disease
  • Examine the progress made in the program in the last 5 years

The NHLBI-UnitedHealth Global Health Program’s goal is to reduce the burden of noncommunicable CVPD by building research and training capacities at 11 emerging COEs in developing countries (Argentina, Bangladesh, China, Guatemala, India [2 centers], Kenya, Peru, South Africa, Tunisia, and Northern Mexico).

All of the COEs are located within institutions that also serve as Fogarty International Clinical Research Fellow or Scholar sites, which are top-ranked National Institutes of Health-funded research centers in developing countries.

Each COE is supported by an academic institution, known as a developed country partner (DCP), that serves as a mentor to the COE staff. DCPs assist with developing new clinical infrastructure to combat these debilitating diseases through a global approach.

Westat serves as the administrative coordinating center to provide oversight for the network and manage day-to-day project logistics to allow NHLBI, the COEs, and the DCPs focus on research and training activities.

Westat has supported efforts to

  • Develop a performance monitoring plan and collect data to track program achievements
  • Develop a Manual of General Operations and network standard operating procedures
  • Manage network-wide training
  • Identify and implement communication options suited to each country’s technological capacity
  • Facilitate domestic and international semi-annual network meetings
  • Manage regulatory documents
  • Maintain network web site and discussion forums

For more information: Contact Westat


Westat, BJS, and Collaborators Recognized with 2014 AAPOR Policy Impact Award

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Westat, and other collaborators will receive the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) 2014 Policy Impact Award for their work on measuring sexual assault among prisoners in the United States. The award presentation will take place at the AAPOR Annual Conference in Anaheim, California, on May 15-18, 2014.

The award recognizes the BJS team for their work in measuring sexual assault within juvenile and adult correctional facilities, its impact on increasing awareness of the problem, and shaping policies to prevent assaults. In addition to Westat, collaborators include RTI International, National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

The research was funded under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which included the requirement that BJS conduct surveys and use other statistical studies of current and former inmates from a representative sample of Federal, state, county, and municipal prisons.

At the time PREA was passed, very little data existed on the prevalence and circumstances surrounding sexual assault in correctional settings. To meet the Act's requirements, BJS developed a new national data collection on the incidence and prevalence of sexual assault within correctional facilities. The program includes four separate, yet complimentary, data collection efforts.

Westat implemented the survey of youth in juvenile correctional facilities by completing two separate waves of data collection in 2008-09 and 2012. The National Survey of Youth in Custody (NSYC) collected information on assaults against youth perpetrated by youth or by facility staff. The award recognizes the significant challenges posed by such a survey.

With respect to Human Subject issues, the survey required special procedures to address emotional trauma, protection against retaliation, and submitting mandatory reports of abuse. To maximize the credibility of the information, the procedures addressed both the tendency of youth to underreport because of the sensitivity of the topic, as well as overreporting incidents to reflect badly on the staff.

The award recognizes the significant impact the results have had on correctional policies. The findings have received widespread attention in numerous articles and editorials, as evidenced by a series of four articles in the New York Review of Books. The most recent article pointed to the fact that

“As recently as five years ago, American corrections officials almost uniformly denied that rape in prison was a widespread problem…What we have now that we didn't then is good data…The more closely one looks at these studies, the more persuasive their findings become. Very few corrections professionals now publicly dispute them.” (New York Review of Books, October 24, 2013(external site) [*])

The reports have had a direct impact on policies in a number of states. The most recent NSYC report triggered special investigations by governors and state legislatures in Ohio and Illinois and immediate changes in policies and plans of action in Georgia. The results of the studies have served as a basis for the U.S. Department of Justice to set standards related to preventing and reporting sexual assault in correctional settings. These standards are now being implemented across the country.

“It is very gratifying to see the hard work and dedication of all the NSYC staff being recognized for meeting the huge challenges posed by this project and the clear impact these efforts have had on addressing this important issue,” noted David Cantor, Ph.D., the Westat Co-Principal Investigator.

For more information: Contact Westat


Westat Researcher Leads Workshop on Using Google for Communication Campaigns

Amelia Burke-Garcia, Director of Westat’s Center for Digital Strategy & Research, will be co-leading the preconference workshop with a representative from Google at this year’s PRNews’ Measurement Conference. The workshop is titled Google for Communicators: Essential Tools and Tactics(external site) [*].

The half-day workshop will be held April 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and aims to teach PR professionals how to effectively leverage the capabilities that Google has to offer for their communications initiatives.

Westat’s Adam Finch will also be on hand to support the presentation by providing a live demonstration of the company’s work in this area.

“We are pleased to have been invited by PRNews to co-lead this workshop together with Google,” noted Ms. Burke-Garcia. “Google is a vital part of many of our campaigns and studies, and this workshop will highlight the value of these platforms and strategies for other communication professionals through the demonstration of Westat’s work.”

For some immediate tips on how you can improve your brand outreach with various Google tools, read this PRNews interview(external site) [*] with Ms. Burke-Garcia.

For more information: Contact Westat


CSDI 2014 Workshop to Feature Westat Expertise

A contingent of Westat staff will be participating at the Twelfth International Workshop on Comparative Survey Design & Implementation(external site) [*] (CSDI) in Bethesda, Maryland, on March 27-29, 2014.

The main goal of CSDI is to improve comparative survey design, implementation, and related analysis and dissemination. The workshop provides a forum and platform for researchers involved in work related to evaluating and/or developing comparative survey methods and tools. A number of CSDI work groups exist to encourage and facilitate cooperation on different key issues.

The following Westat staff will be chairing sessions or giving presentations at the workshop.

Brad Edwards. (Presentation).
Managing 3MC Surveys: Putting Total Survey Error in the Toolkit.
Brad Edwards. (Session Chair).
Measurement Error.
Jacquie Hogan. (Session Chair).
Response Process.
Jacquie Hogan. (Presentation).
The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies: Data Collection Operational Standards.
Tom Krenzke. (Presentation).
Monitoring Indications of Quality Variation in Sampling Activities in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies.
Leyla Mohadjer. (Presentation).
Approach to Data Quality Evaluation in an International Assessment Survey.

For more information: Contact Westat


Westat to Survey Satisfaction with Reforms in DC Public Schools

Westat will be conducting the District of Columbia Public Schools Surveys to gauge stakeholder satisfaction following education reforms in District public schools.

Surveys will be administered to approximately 50,000 parents of students in the District's public schools, 25,000 students, 4,000 teachers, 200 school administrators, and 2,000 other school staff.

Westat will use scannable forms to conduct censuses of these groups over a few weeks. Using TeleForm, we have designed multipage scannable questionnaires for each audience and are also creating an online version of each survey.

"We are thrilled to again be working with DCPS on these important surveys," noted Brad Chaney, Ph.D., project director of the surveys. "Westat first started doing these surveys in 1999, and the data provide a valuable tool for monitoring DCPS' progress."

For more information: Contact Westat


Lohr Named 2014 Deming Lecturer by the ASA

Sharon Lohr, Ph.D., a Vice President and Associate Director of Westat’s Statistical Staff, has been named the 2014 Deming Lecturer by the American Statistical Association (ASA). She will present her lecture, “Red Beads and Profound Knowledge: Deming and Quality of Education,” at the Joint Statistical Meetings(external site) [*] in Boston to be held August 2-7, 2014.

Dr. Lohr joined Westat in 2012 after a 25-year academic career, most recently as the Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Statistics at Arizona State University. She obtained her doctorate in statistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1987.

The author of the book Sampling: Design and Analysis, Dr. Lohr has also published numerous articles in leading journals on survey sampling, hierarchical models, missing data, design of experiments, and applications of statistics in the social sciences and education.

Dr. Lohr is a Fellow of ASA, an elected member of the International Statistical Institute, the 2009 recipient of the Morris Hansen Lecture Award, and the inaugural 2003 recipient of the Gertrude M. Cox Statistics Award for contributions to the practice of statistics.

The Deming Lecturer Award was established in 1995 to honor the accomplishments of Dr. Deming, recognize the accomplishments of the awardee, and enhance the awareness among the statistical community of the scope and importance of Dr. Deming’s contributions.

For more information: Contact Westat


FedCASIC 2014 Draws Westat's Range of Expertise

Westat staff will be addressing many topics of interest at the 2014 Federal CASIC(external site) [*] (Computer-Assisted Survey Information Collection) Workshops in Washington, DC, on March 18-20, 2014. Westat Vice Presidents Jane Shepherd and Brad Edwards are the Westat coordinators for this annual workshop series. The series is sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The following Westat staff will be chairing sessions or giving presentations on a variety of current issues.

Laura Branden. (Presentation.)
Use of eLearning to Support Training for CAI Data Collectors.
Amelia Burke-Garcia. (Presentation.)
Using Digital Media to Target Potential Focus Group Respondents.
David Cantor. (Session Chair).
Incorporating New Technologies on the Consumer Expenditure Survey.
Brad Edwards. (Session Chair).
Administrative and Linked Records.
Peter Ha, Bruce Allen, and Paul Segel. (Presentation.)
Predictive Dialing for CATI Surveys.
Tom Krenzke. (Presentation.)
Attention to Data Confidentiality in CAI Studies.
Aaron Maitland and Laura Branden. (Presentation.)
Creating a More User-Friendly CARI System.
Dennis Pickett. (Presentation.)
Security for Mobile Devices.
Abie Reifer. (Presentation.)
Lessons Learned Using Open Source Software.
Abie Reifer. (Presentation.)
Recent Innovations.
Jane Shepherd. (Session Co-Chair).
CASIC Survey Management Challenges.
Jerry Wernimont and Kathleen O'Reagan. (Presentation.)
Multimode Survey Management.

For more information: Contact Westat


Westat Researcher Explores Digital Media Trends for Public Health

Amelia Burke-Garcia, Director of Westat’s Center for Digital Strategy & Research, explores future trends in digital media use for public health in a recent paper published by Oxford Journals’ Journal of Public Health(external site) [*].

The paper focuses on a number of trends, including use of buzz monitoring tools, local meet ups, and expanded health information delivery services and their impact on public health issues. The article was also picked up and reviewed by Reuters(external site) [*].

“The opportunities for harnessing the power of digital media are enormous,” noted Ms. Burke-Garcia. “Health care professionals need to consider how to use this media in their own programs to enhance health behavior change outcomes.”

For more information: Contact Westat


State Education Reform Implementation Examined by Westat

Westat researchers co-authored a report, State Implementation of Reforms Promoted Under the Recovery Act(external site) [*], examining state implementation of key education reform strategies funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act). The report summarizes reform implementation during the 2010-11 school year, measures state progress since Recovery Act funds were first available, and outlines state's challenges.

The Institute of Education Sciences, within the U.S. Department of Education (ED), sponsored the research for this report, which was based on surveys completed by all 50 state education agencies (SEAs) and the District of Columbia during spring 2011.

Among the report's findings are the following insights.

  • State implementation varied across the strategies assessed.
  • Almost all SEAs provided guidance for choosing and implementing one of the four school intervention models ED recommended to improve low performing schools. Only two SEAs reported supporting teacher evaluation models that included the complete set of criteria (e.g., use of student achievement gains) that the Recovery Act promoted.
  • The majority of SEAs reported that measuring student growth for teachers of nontested subjects was a challenge.

For more information: Contact Westat


Combining Satellite and Health Data to Learn How Environmental Change Affects Health Outcomes

Westat researcher Kiersten Johnson, Ph.D., co-authored a recent paper(external site) [*] in Population and Environment describing innovative approaches to linking satellite remote sensing data and human population and health data to examine the relationship between environmental change and human health and nutrition outcomes. NASA sponsored the research, with additional support from the University of Utah and Purdue University.

The authors provided a summary review of four published studies that have laid the groundwork for future work in this area.

This research is particularly important given the current global context of climate change and ecosystem services degradation, which may, in turn, threaten the ability of current agricultural systems to keep up with demand for adequate and inexpensive food, and for clean water, waste disposal, and other broader ecosystem services.

For more information: Contact Westat


CMS Hosts Physician Compare Town Hall Meeting

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is hosting a Town Hall meeting(external site) [*] on February 24, 2014, to solicit input on the future of the Physician Compare(external site) [*] website. The Town Hall will give stakeholders the opportunity to provide feedback regarding the future of public reporting on Physician Compare. Westat provides ongoing support to the website.

Physician Compare, launched in 2010 by the Affordable Care Act, helps consumers search for Medicare physicians and other health care professionals. CMS has been working continually to enhance the site and its functionality, improve the information available, and include more and increasingly useful information. This effort, along with the eventual addition of quality measures on the site, helps it serve its two-fold purpose:

  • Provide information for consumers to encourage informed health care decisions
  • Create explicit incentives for physicians to maximize performance

For the Town Hall meeting, Westat will facilitate registration, assist in preparing meeting materials, provide communication and outreach support, as well as supply meeting documentation. Each of these tasks plays an important role in assisting CMS develop its long-term vision of Physician Compare.

For more information: Contact Westat


Esri Federal GIS Conference Draws Westat Researchers

Westat staff members Kathryn Kulbicki and Jordan Frey will be attending the Esri Federal GIS Conference(external site) [*] on February 10-11, 2014, in Washington, DC.

The conference provides training and scientific knowledge of value to Federal Government and industry policymakers and analysts. It will include workshops, immersion summits, exhibits from Esri re-development vendors and plenary sessions highlighting geospatial technology.

For more information: Contact Westat


Transportation Research Board Includes Westat Expertise

Westat expertise was well represented at the 93rd annual conference of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), which was held January12-16, 2014, in Washington, DC. Approximately 12,000 participants attended this year's event. Westat staff contributed as members and friends of committees, focusing on a range of topics from occupant protection to teenage driver safety.

Rick Huey unveiled a speed data measurement collaboration website at TRB's meeting of the Subcommittee on Traffic Speed & Safety. Westat is hosting this site as a service to professionals researching traffic speed.

The intent is to promote networking among the community and provide a location where otherwise obscure information about the challenges of collecting and interpreting these data can be discussed. The site offers opportunities for members to share insights, opinions, and experiences from work in this area. In addition to a discussion board, members can share the products of their efforts and notifications of upcoming events.

Doreen De Leonardis, Ph.D., presented a paper entitled, Threshold Effects of Speed Monitoring Devices on Driver Speeding Behavior. In collaboration with Emanuel Robinson, Ph.D., Randy Atkins (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), and Rick Huey, this paper outlined a preliminary study of the effect that immediate feedback had on chronic speeders. The effort employed a unique feedback device from inthinc™, the tiwiPro™, capable of monitoring, verbalizing, and collecting data on speeding behavior. This research is part of an overall program exploring the effect of electronic devices and applications on driver behavior.

Dr. Robinson also gave two presentations:

  • Improving Decision-Making in Command Centers: Identifying Errors and Mitigation Strategies (part of the workshop: Pathway to Command Performance: Applying Human Factors Principles to Emergency and Operational Command Centers)
  • Human Decision-making and the Psychology of Stressful Environments (part of the workshop: Next Generation Traffic Incident Management Research Workshop: What Are the New Frontiers to Improve How We Manage Traffic Incidents?)

Neil Lerner, Ph.D., served as the TRB Human Factors Workshop Committee liaison for a day-long workshop: Human Factors Issues for Safety of Emergency Responder Vehicles. In this role, he developed the workshop concept, recruited workshop leaders, coordinated the planning activities, and took an active part in the workshop itself.

The workshop addressed many human factors issues that related to safety for police, firefighters, and EMS personnel, that, unfortunately, have not received much research attention. Among the many issues were driver workload and distraction, vehicle conspicuity, occupant protection (particularly in ambulances), risk taking/decision making, coordination with other traffic, and potential benefits of emerging smart technologies.

James Jenness, Ph.D., presided over a podium session, Naturalistic Driving Data and Driver Behavior. He also participated in a human factors workshop, Is the Partially Automated Car Semiautonomous or Semimanual?

For more information: Contact Westat


High Viral Load Levels in HIV-Infected Youth Contribute to High Rates of Sexual Transmission

A recent study of HIV-infected youth newly entering into care, especially young men who have sex with men, show that almost 30 percent have high viral load levels. If left untreated, these levels correlate with high rates of sexual transmission. The study's findings(external site) [*] were published online in AIDS(external site) [*]. Westat researchers participated as co-authors.

These study findings, of more than 1,400 12- to 24-year-olds referred to the study, further support the need to not only identify HIV-infected youth, emphasizing young men who have sex with men, and link them to medical care as soon as possible.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development sponsored the research, with additional support from the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health.

The study is one of many studies being conducted within the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN)(external site) [*]. Westat serves as the data and operations center for the ATN, providing support for study design, development and conduct, database management, and analysis and reporting.

Westat's ATN Principal Investigator James Korelitz, Ph.D., noted that Westat "provides the infrastructure and organizational support to allow more than a dozen clinical research sites to conduct a broad array of therapeutic, behavioral, and community prevention studies within the network."

For more information: Contact Westat


Westat Staff Attend White House Safety Datapalooza

Westat staff attended the Second Annual White House Safety Datapalooza, an invitation-only event that highlights innovators from the private, nonprofit, and academic sectors who have used freely available government data to build products, services, and apps that advance public safety in creative and powerful ways. The event was held on January 14, 2014, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Sponsored by the White House, hosts included the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Agriculture. Fran Bents, manager of Westat’s Transportation and Safety Research group, attended, as well as senior Federal and state officials, academics, technology innovators, and students.

This conference presented new safety data resources in areas as divergent as transportation, food, and occupational and consumer product safety. Important advances in data availability to improve disaster preparedness and emergency response were also shown.

Federal agencies issue online contests at that describe incentives for entrepreneurs to help government solve safety problems. Examples of apps that are currently available or are coming soon include

  • Keychain Logistics that connects shippers to independent truck drivers who are located through geocoding, and also links to the Federal safety records for these drivers and their vehicles.
  • Lantern will be helpful during weather and other disasters by charting power outages, gas station availability, locations for downed power lines, and other tips and guidance based upon both official data and crowd sourcing from tweets, Facebook postings, and other social media.

For more information: Contact Westat


Westat Researchers Contribute Expertise to New Handbook of Child Maltreatment

Westat Vice President Andrea J. Sedlak, Ph.D., and Senior Study Director Raquel T. Ellis, Ph.D., have contributed their expertise to a new handbook, Handbook of Child Maltreatment: Contemporary Issues in Research Policy(external site) [*], which is the second in a series that examines core issues in the field of child maltreatment. This publication is designed to be used and referenced by all professionals in the field, including students, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

The handbook addresses a range of major challenges in child maltreatment work: what child abuse and neglect is exactly, why maltreatment occurs, what its consequences are, prevention, treatment, and intervention, as well as legal perspectives. Its ultimate goal is to help make progress in helping abused children, their families, and their communities.

Dr. Sedlak and Dr. Ellis authored the handbook's first chapter, “Trends in Child Abuse Reporting.” The chapter examines trends in Child Protective Service (CPS) reporting, considering the existing evidence on how many maltreated children receive CPS attention and why the majority of maltreated children do not.

The findings indicate that many maltreated children are not reported to CPS. After reviewing research on mandated reporters—who do not report and why not—the chapter ends with conclusions and implications for future research.

“Our chapter provides an overview of the history of mandatory reporting laws and of how the Child Protective Service system responds to the reports it receives,” notes Dr. Sedlak. “We presented research showing that, although rates of child abuse are declining, many maltreated children are still not seen by Child Protective Service agencies because they are not reported.

“All states have laws that require reporting of child maltreatment, but many who are mandated to report fail to do so. So, the mandatory reporting system does not work the way many might expect it should,” continues Dr. Sedlak. “To inspire meaningful discussion on this topic, we concluded by offering some thoughts on how much of a problem this is, on how policy might affect compliance with mandatory reporting, on the need for research to improve mandatory reporting, and on what changes might improve the current CPS system to better serve children and families that need intervention.”

For more information: Contact Westat


New Eagle Books Novel Published by CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published the second in a series of books for middle school children that combines mystery with health promotion messages about preventing type 2 diabetes. Readers have called the novels “amazing,” “cool,” and “the best stories I have ever read!”

Hummingbird’s Squash builds on the storytelling traditions honored in the original Eagle Books(external site) [*] series for younger children. Written by retired Westat health communications expert, Terry Lofton, PhD; illustrated by Native American artist Patrick Rolo; and designed by Westat’s Graphics Department, this young adult novel continues the story of the characters in the first novel, Coyote and The Turtle’s Dream.

For more information: Contact Westat

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