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Center for Adolescent Health

Center for Adolescent Health Blog

Keyword: public health

Our goal with the Project POWER (Promoting Options for Wellness and Emotion Regulation) school-based intervention is to evaluate the potential benefits of a trauma-informed coping skills program called RAP (Relax, be Aware, and do a Personal Rating) Club for the emotional health and academic success of eighth grade students.

We compared RAP Club with a health education program called Healthy Topics, which we expect will have different kinds of benefits. Over the past four years, our team partnered with 29 Baltimore City Public Schools. We worked with each school for one year to deliver the programs. We trained school personnel in how to continue offering the programs in the future if they wish. This is a brief update and summary of our work so far. We are starting to analyze data on how the programs impacted students and look forward to sharing outcomes with schools, families, and other audiences.

See our latest report to our partner schools below:

RAP Club infographicpg1

RAP Club infographicpg2

Study funders: Institute of Education Sciences (R305A160082; PI: Mendelson); Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (1R01HD090022; PI: Mendelson)

Bloomberg American Health Initiative Researchers meet with the US Surgeon General

Dr. Tamar Mendelson, Director of the Center for Adolescent Health (CAH), and Dr. Kristin Mmari, CAH evaluation lead, recently published a report on opportunity youth as part of a supplement issue of the journal Public Health Reports entitled, “From Local Action to National Progress on 5 Major Health Challenges: The Bloomberg American Health Initiative” (November/December, 2018).

As members of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Mendelson and Mmari lead a work group on risks to adolescent health, which has a core focus on addressing the issue of opportunity youth, adolescents 16-24 who are not working or in school.

Earlier in January, Mendelson, Mmari, and other members of the Bloomberg Initiative, met with the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams. As Surgeon General, Dr. Adams develops reports on critical public health issues, and his office publishes Public Health Reports to inform the American public how to live safer and healthier lives.

While all focal areas of the Bloomberg Initiative were discussed at the meeting, two key topics were highlighted: opportunity youth and the opioid epidemic. Mendelson and Mmari discussed applying a public health approach to reduce the number of opportunity youth in the U.S. by improving coordinated data systems, consolidated services and funding, and scaling up interventions.

Opportunity youth are at higher risk than their more connected peers for health problems, criminal behaviors, incarceration, chronic unemployment, and early death. Mendelson and Mmari say opportunity youth are deserving of more attention by public health practitioners because there are serious societal economic and health costs if the young people continue to struggle with unemployment and financial hardship as they age.

“He was really engaging. He really cares about health equity, and community health and wellness,” Mendelson said. One of Adams’ top priorities is community health and economic prosperity, so Mendelson and Mmari particularly emphasized in their presentation how opportunity youth are linked to the economy.

In particular, Mendelson and Mmari highlighted that opportunity youth have been estimated to cost $55 billion per year in lost tax revenues alone. They also discussed how opportunity youth are less likely to own a home, have lower earnings, report worse physical and mental health, and are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system compared to their more connected peers. By investing in opportunity youth, it is possible not only to reduce these economic costs but also to benefit entire communities and contribute to the reduction of health inequities.

In an interview with The Hub, Mmari called for early intervention, “If kids aren’t showing basic language acquisition… or if we know parents are in jail or abusing substances, these are clear signs they need extra support,” she said. By adolescence, kids may already be on a path to disconnection.

Mendelson and Mmari are excited to further develop a relationship with the Surgeon General’s Office and increase awareness of opportunity youth as a public health issue. “It was really encouraging. The whole group left feeling enthusiastic,” Mendelson said.

 Phil LeafTamar Mendelson Beth Marshall Terri Powell Kristin Mmari

From top (left to right):  Phil Leaf, Tamar Mendelson, Beth Marshall, Terri Powell, Kristin Mmari

Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health faculty, staff and trainees are thrilled to present their work at the upcoming American Public Health Association Annual Conference in sunny San Diego, California (Nov. 10-14, 2018). We are excited to connect with our Prevention Research Center program colleagues and other public health professionals! 

Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health APHA 2018 Presentations

Monday, November 12, 2018

  1.  1:20 pm-1:40 pm | 3273.0 Patient and provider perspectives on group-based obstetrics care to reduce perinatal mood and anxiety disorders | CAH author: Tamar Mendelson 
  2. 2:00 pm-2:20 pm | 3273.0 Addressing Perinatal Depression Among Medicaid Recipients: An Analysis of Policy Opportunities | CAH author: Tamar Mendelson 

Tuesday, November 13

  1. 8:50 am-9:10 am | 4022.0 Exploring the Influence of Food Insecurity on Risky Behaviors among Opportunity Youth | CAH authors: Asari Offiong (trainee), Kristin Mmari, Tamar Mendelson
  2. 9:30 am-9:45 am | 4065.0 "We learn about sex after we get pregnant": Adolescent perspectives of sexual health education across Baltimore, MD | CAH authors: Terri Powell, Courtney Turner (former research assistant), McKane Sharff (trainee), Beth Marshall 
  3. 5:40 pm-6:00 pm | 4448.0 A multi-informant qualitative analysis of implementing an evidence-based intervention in Baltimore City Public Middle Schools | CAH authors: Terri Powell, Meghan Jo, Julian Owens (former trainee), Beth Marshall, Anne Smith (trainee), Asari Offiong (trainee), Phil Leaf 

Wednesday, November 14

  1. 9:30 am-9:50 am | 5047.0 Size Matters: Addressing Social Determinants of Health through Black Churches | CAH authors: Terri Powell, Keiana West (former intern), Courtney Turner

               rosario intern

This past summer, I was given the amazing opportunity to intern at the Center for Adolescent health under the mentorship of Drs. Beth Marshall and Terri Powell. This experience was both personally and professionally rewarding because of the relationships I made at Johns Hopkins as well as for the skills I developed as a researcher.

During my time at the Center, I worked on a project analyzing teen birth rates in Baltimore City. This is part of a larger project involving The Strategic Plan to Reduce Teen Pregnancy in Baltimore City. This plan was created in 2010 as a set of strategies created in collaboration with the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Baltimore City Health Department, and many sectors of the Baltimore community in order to tackle teen pregnancy. It is now in the process of being updated and so my role this summer was to look at where progress had been achieved and to identify possible areas where work still needs to be done. I did this by looking at large data sets from the Baltimore City Health Department, Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the CDC. My responsibilities included analyzing not only trends of teen pregnancy, but also trends of adolescent engagement in sexual risk behaviors, visits to Title X Clinics, and the proportion of high schools in Baltimore which offer sexual and reproductive health education. My goal was to create a detailed story of teen pregnancy in Baltimore. Twice during the summer, I attended meetings with the city health department and was able to see how my work directly affected the conversation among healthcare workers regarding the update of the Strategic Plan.

By the end of the summer, I was expected to produce a PowerPoint presentation, poster, and research paper which represented my work. These assignments challenged me to overcome my fear of speaking in front of crowds as well as pushed my abilities as a writer. From this experience, I also learned not to accept data at face value and to always ask questions about how the information was collected and to consider how it can be interpreted in many different ways.

In addition to my mentors, the members at the Center, only added to my experience with their kindness and patience. Many were willing to provide insight into their own paths to public health which, as undergrad interested in the field, was greatly appreciated. Lastly, I thoroughly enjoyed the project I worked on this summer and now know that I would like to work in the fields of either adolescent health or reproductive health as future professional in public health.

By: Rosario I. Majano

Rosario Majano attends Cornell University. As a participant in the Diversity Summer Internship (DSIP) Program, she worked with and learned from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health.


This summer, I was an intern for the Director for the Center of Adolescent Health, Dr. Phil Leaf. This was my first research experience, so I wanted to take this opportunity to learn more about research from the inside out and see if I wanted to continue doing research after my undergraduate degree. Currently, I am a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying public health and sociology. I was interested in working at the Center of Adolescent Health because I thought that it would be a great opportunity to use my interdisciplinary skills and apply them to the real world. When I came into the office in late May/early June, Dr. Leaf was in the middle of a project regarding the children of incarcerated parents. Throughout the summer, I helped him with a report, assisted in preparing material for the conference hosted by the Family League of Baltimore, and worked on an independent project that ultimately ended in a poster presentation at The Career, Academic, and Research Experiences for Students (C.A.R.E.S.) Network and Symposium by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

When I started interning for Dr. Leaf, he was in the middle of conducting interviews for his report. His report focused on assessing programs and organizations in Baltimore that provide services for children of incarcerated parents and whether or not they were effective. This report served as a way to look into these services and discuss what should be improved in the future. I accompanied him throughout these interviews and took notes on the significant themes and points that were addressed. We interviewed parents, children ages 15-17, faculty from the Baltimore Health Department, and faculty from the headquarters of Baltimore City Public Schools both individually and in focus groups. After we conducted these interviews, I did qualitative data analysis and coded for common themes. I also did research on specific organizations and programs that were brought up by the interviewees so that we were more familiar with the services that they discussed during the interviews.

Moving forward, Dr. Leaf had to submit a report to the Family League of Baltimore so that it could be presented at their conference, which focused on assessing the lives of children and families of incarcerated persons. Throughout the report, I was responsible for working on the appendix, proof reading the report, and assisting Dr. Leaf with anything that he needed for its publication and presentation at the conference. By helping Dr. Leaf with this report, I learned about the many health disparities that existed in Baltimore, the policies behind helping children and families of incarcerated persons, and other statistics and rates regarding incarceration and health inequity in Baltimore. I have never done research on this population before, so it was interesting to learn about this issue and to be a part of a potential solution. For my independent project, I chose to continue doing research on children of incarcerated parents but also having a more specific focus on a public health issue that has always interested me. Mental health has been a topic of interest since I began taking public health courses, so I wanted my research to focus on children of incarcerated parents and whether or not they were more susceptible to mental health disorders, specifically depression, anxiety, and violence-related disorders. For the rest of the summer, I worked on developing my individual project and produced a poster for the C.A.R.E.S. symposium at the end of July.

Ultimately, my project focused on whether or not arrests occur in the neighborhoods with the most issues regarding the social determinants of health and the implications that this relationship has on children, families, and communities. I wanted my project to have a larger focus on mental health, but I learned that there isn’t a lot of research available about children of incarcerated parents and their susceptibility to mental health disorders. Moving forward, I want to continue my research on similar topics and focus more on mental health. I realized that this research and resource is needed in order to improve the lives of children in Baltimore and across the nation, and I want to be a part of the work that lies ahead. I learned so much about myself, public health, and research this summer, and this by far has been one of the best summers of my life!

By: Leticia Salaza

Leticia Salazar attends the University of Pennsylvania. As a participant in the Maternal Child Health Careers/Research Initiatives for Student Enhancement - Undergraduate Program (MCHC/RISE-UP), she worked with and learned from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health.