Jennifer Leeman and Colleagues Receive NC TraCS Award

Assistant professor Jennifer Leeman, DrPH, MDIV, along with UNC co-investigators Kelly Evenson, PhD, and Bryan Weiner, PhD, received a $50,000 award from the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute to fund their proposal “Developing a tool to assess practitioner capacity to change policies and environments.”

Policy and environmental (P&E) changes can encourage healthy behaviors. For example, constructing sidewalks or limiting access to unhealthy foods could support behavior that prevents obesity. Yet community-based practitioners, such as local or state health officials, often have limited experience and training in how to change policies and environments. In other words, said Dr. Leeman, they lack capacity.

In this study, Dr. Leeman and her team plan to create and test a survey-based measure to assess capacity. The survey will be developed from a literature review and interviews with a small pool of experienced practitioners. Then the survey will be tested in the field with at least 150 practitioners who are currently working on P&E change interventions. Jean Wiecha, PhD, (Co-Principal Investigator) and Jonathan Blitstein, PhD, from RTI International will help execute the field study.

The reason an accurate measure of capacity needs to be developed is that little is known about how effective different strategies are for building practitioners’ capacity. Strategies include training, technical assistance, and the provision of tools and resources. An accurate measure of capacity, said Dr. Leeman, could give researchers the ability to compare those strategies and determine which ones would work best in specific contexts.