My research interests are centered in how health communication strategies—both traditional and digital—can best be harnessed to mitigate health disparities in diverse and underserved populations. This has involved investigating health campaigns and health messaging strategies to understand what works with minority individuals and communities, and evaluating individual-, community- and population-level interventions. My work spans cancer prevention and survivorship and HIV prevention.
In the cancer prevention domain, I have conducted several systematic reviews and a meta-analysis on the impact of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs – a health communication strategy that has great promise for disparity populations. In 2017, I published a systematic review of measures used to evaluate studies on pictorial warning labels (in Nicotine & Tobacco Research). I also co-authored two systematic reviews and a meta-analysis (published in Social Science & Medicine, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly and Tobacco Control) evaluating the effectiveness of pictorial warning labels. Currently, I am conducting analyses for a systematic review of the effects of pictorial warnings among adolescent and young adult samples. All studies assess the impact of pictorial warnings on a range of health communication outcomes, including fear, perceived effectiveness, warning label recall, and behavioral intentions. Combined, these projects draw on social and behavioral sciences literature to advance theoretical knowledge of communication processes that can positively impact disparity populations.
I am collaborating with colleagues at LSU School of Medicine to develop and test a video-based intervention to educate a low-income and racially diverse clinic population in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on diet and nutrition via promotion of the federal MyPlate guidelines. My cancer survivorship research involves investigating the impact of playing casual video games on health and psychological well-being. I have authored or co-authored two articles in this area (in Games for Health Research Journal) and working on a third paper from this project.
Regarding HIV prevention, in 2015-2016 I conducted a campus-based health communication intervention targeting African American women at an all-female Historically Black College in North Carolina. For this UNC Center for AIDS Research-funded project I tested the effects of exposure to point-of-access health messages and condom distribution on communication and health behavior outcomes. This theory-based study—guided by the integrative model of behavioral prediction and theory of gender and power—aimed to increase access to condoms and condom use. Perceptions of condom availability and accessibility increased significantly after the intervention. And, young women who obtained condoms through the intervention had higher odds of using condoms with their sexual partners. Through this project, I gained extensive experience with regard to cultural targeting of health messages. I am revising two manuscripts from this study and plan to submit them to a journal in the next few months.
Finally, I have conducted research to advance understanding of the impact of celebrity health announcements on minority individuals. One study (currently under review), evaluated the impact of Charlie Sheen’s HIV disclosure. That study revealed significant demographic differences in engagement with Sheen’s disclosure, with African Americans engaging in higher information seeking and interpersonal communication. Further, interpersonal communication was associated with HIV testing intentions. Another study, currently in progress, examines young African American male’s information seeking behaviors following a mental health diagnosis and disclosure by an African American male musician. Combined, both studies show the potential for advancing theoretical and empirical research on the impact of celebrity health announcements.
I am a native of the Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies. I am also an alumna of the University of the Virgin Islands, London School of Economics & Political Science, and University of Southern California.