Valerie Reyna is PI on a new three-year federal formula funds project called Reducing Risk Taking in Adolescence Using Gist-Based Curricula. Reyna’s research team will partner with Cornell University Cooperative Extension in New York City to refine and test interventions to reduce unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and the incidence of obesity among youth in New York State. Three interdependent lines of research form the basis for the project: research on human judgment and decision making, on adolescent risky decision making, and on sexual risk interventions for youth. Most recently, Reyna and colleagues completed a 5- year grant funded by from the National Institutes of Health to implement fuzzy-trace theory’s principles of representation and retrieval in a randomized trial with high school students designed to reduce premature pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. This research will directly inform the current project.
The project will further refine and test the Gist-Enhanced Reducing the Risk (RTR+) curriculum, a successful sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy prevention curriculum based on Dr. Reyna’s research on adolescent decision making. A recent randomized control trial has shown the RTR+ curriculum to be effective. The purpose of this study is to further increase the magnitude and duration of these effects and develop a teaching guide to facilitate implementation in New York State.
The project will also develop and test a “gist-enhanced” healthy lifestyles curriculum by applying Dr. Reyna’s research to another critical risk domain – obesity. The thrust of this effort will be to enhance an existing evidence-based healthy lifestyles curriculum to incorporate new ways of “framing” healthy lifestyle decisions for youth. Research indicates this will increase the effectiveness of interventions. Data will be collected in preparation for a larger funding proposal. Finally, through an online professional development presentation, the project will seek to share the research and lessons learned with extension educators and others.
Through this research-community partnership, the project will combine empirical research from Reyna’s work, with practical knowledge gained through implementation of the two curricula, and use this knowledge to inform and facilitate future replications of the programs in New York and elsewhere.