U.Va. Nursing Faculty Receive $1.2 Million in Research Grants

July 7, 2009 — The University of Virginia's School of Nursing has received a pair of grants totaling $1.2 million from the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation aimed at decreasing adolescents' use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

The grants will allow faculty members to study substance abuse risk behaviors in asthmatic adolescents and explore smoking prevention among rural Virginia youths.

Mary O'Laughlen, an assistant professor of nursing and Roberts Scholar, and Patricia Hollen, the Malvina Yuille Boyd Professor of Oncology Nursing, are co-primary investigators in a study, "A Decision Aid to Reduce Substance Use Risk Behaviors in Medically At-Risk Adolescents: Targeting Persistent Asthma." They will receive $200,000 in annual funding for three years.

The study will test a decision aid for adolescents with asthma to influence decisions related to engaging in risky behaviors. Their team's research will be conducted at three different clinical sites around Virginia: the U.Va. Medical Center, Virginia Commonwealth University and Inova Pediatric Center in Falls Church. The study will target approximately 240 adolescents.

The national Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 2005 and 2007 reported that substance use by asthmatic adolescents is higher than in the general population.

Pamela Kulbok, associate professor of nursing, also received a three-year, $600,000 grant. She will lead a research team seeking to increase the number of adolescents who remain substance-free, while helping rural counties develop intervention strategies to prevent substance use.

Youths living in rural tobacco-growing counties have the highest rates of cigarette and smokeless tobacco use in the United States, Kulbok said, and adolescent tobacco use is highly correlated with use of alcohol and other drugs. Thus, it is important to understand how to prevent tobacco use among young adults, she said.

Kulbok and her research team, made up of researchers from U.Va., Virginia Tech and the Carilion Health System, will speak to youth, parents and community leaders to identify ecological, cultural and contextual factors that influence both substance-using and substance-free adolescent lifestyles in south-central Virginia's tobacco-growing areas.

— By Kelsey Schum and Hannah Walker