Highlights from some of our undergraduate students

Recently, Kate Vinita Fitch, a non-traditional transfer student from Community College of Denver majoring in Public Health won the Data to Policy contest at the annual Research and Creative Activities Symposium (RCAS). As a person living with a mental health condition, she is a strong advocate for community-based research that considers what this stigmatized population wants and needs from academia while validating their lived expertise. She has several years of experience in mental health advocacy in groups such as the Colorado Mental Wellness Network and National Alliance on Mental Illness and has served as council coordinator for the Colorado Behavioral Health Planning and Advisory Council. She is transitioning to full-time education and research at CU Denver as a MARC Scholar and wishes to continue her advocacy work by performing epidemiologic, access to care, and outcomes research that can inform behavioral health policy that is both effective for and acceptable to the people served by the behavioral health system.

Kate, as well as several others, presented at RCAS, including 5-Year student, Dennis Wright II. His work covered Cesarean section deliveries are correlated with increased risks to health and recovery for mothers and their newborns than vaginal deliveries. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified a national trend of increasing medically unnecessary (low-risk) cesarean rates1.  In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) produced a statement asserting, among other conclusions, a disassociation of maternal and newborn mortality rate reductions for cesarean deliveries above 10% at the population level2. Both the CDC and the WHO highlight limited access to care as a barrier to maternal health and associated with higher rates of cesarean deliveries.

Undergraduate Lisette Martinez, also presented her findings on School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) at RCAS and how they are comprehensive health clinics located within school settings that provide services to students regardless of their ability to pay. Poor health is a significant barrier to educational outcomes, and insufficient access to health care services during adolescence can impair development and academic success. By removing major barriers to health care, SBHCs have the potential to increase the likelihood that a student remains in high school and continues to graduation. Although Colorado’s first SBHC opened in 1989, the last decade has been marked by a sizeable expansion of SBHCs within high schools across the state, including many in rural areas where access to other forms of care is more limited. In both rural and urban areas, SBHCs in Colorado serve a disproportionate percentage of Medicaid enrollees and uninsured patients. In this study, she and her peers examined the relationship between within-school access to a SBHC and high school graduation rates between 2006 and 2017. Using a combination of analytic techniques to account for selection in the schools that get SBHCs, early findings indicate that on average, there is a small increase in graduation rates following the introduction of a SBHC. This evidence points to the potential for SBHCs to improve student educational success. Her findings build on other research in this area to show the benefits of SBHC adoption in more school districts, and will support public health professionals in determining the most effective interventions to advance educational and health equity in Colorado.

Other students include Molly Burns, Ariana Talaie, and Safa Mechergui that recently participated in RCAS.

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Trends in Low-risk Cesarean Delivery in the United States. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr63/nvsr63_06.pdf

[2] World Health Organization: WHO Statement on Caesarean Section Rates. April 2015



Kate Fitch next to posterDennis Wright II with Jean Scandlyn Lisette Martinez next to her poster

Molly Burns with Jen Boylan Ariana Talaie next to posterSafa Mechergui next to poster