Developing new pathways to care

Dr. Catherine Striley. Photo by Jesse S. Jones

Catherine Striley, Ph.D., M.S.W., M.S.E., is investigating ways to remove barriers to care and provide people with resources to empower themselves and improve their health and quality of life.

In a recent project funded by the Tourette Syndrome Association, Striley and a colleague at Washington University created a video screening tool that can be taken into the community to help minority members recognize the signs of involuntary tics, a possible symptom of Tourette syndrome, and offer them resources for care. Feasibility tests of distributing the video door to door in a St. Louis neighborhood showed that people were receptive to watching the video and taking the screening.

“I really think video enhanced screenings are going to be a good way to offer screening tools. If it’s on the Internet or accessible through a phone app, that’s where we’re going to be headed,” said Striley, an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology who joined the UF faculty last year from Washington University in St. Louis.

Striley’s research has also focused on helping immigrant refugees receive assistance in domestic violence situations through a recent project for the National Immigrant Family Violence Institute. Striley developed an intervention to help staff at agencies that provide services for refugees screen for domestic violence among their clients and intervene appropriately. She worked with agencies in San Francisco, Kansas City, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Boston and throughout New Jersey.

“Refugees have a number of immediate needs: housing, income, school for their children, they may have medical problems caused by being housed in refugee camps, and they may have physical or emotional trauma from war or dislocation,” Striley said. “If once they’re resettled they’re experiencing violence in their homes that might seem really low on their list and refugee providers have not had a lot of options in terms of identifying and referring in those cases.”

In another ongoing research project, Striley collaborates with Linda Cottler, Ph.D., chair of the department of epidemiology, who leads a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that examines barriers to participating in research studies. In the first phase of the study the team surveyed principal investigators, research coordinators, Institutional Review Board members and IRB staff to determine their attitudes toward different kinds of diverse populations and what perceptions or attitudinal barriers might keep people from getting into research studies. The team is now conducting a randomized trial to test the use of care ambassadors for improving people’s ability to participate in research studies.

“We want to see if it’s easier for people to get into studies and get retained in studies if they have an ambassador, a paraprofessional who will come with them to study visits, help them understand how to get in the service system, make sure they have a medical care home and help them get any kind of services they need,” said Striley, who serves as the study’s co-investigator.

Connecting researchers with community members is also a goal of HealthStreet, a program founded and directed by Cottler and first developed in St. Louis. Located at UF’s Eastside Campus, HealthStreet’s mission is to reduce disparities in health care and improve access to research studies among people who are medically underserved by linking them to services and research opportunities. Community health workers meet with residents outside grocery stores, parks, libraries, bus stops, churches and other locations throughout the county. HealthStreet has served more than 800 Alachua County residents since the program launched locally last November.

“I’ve really been thrilled with the spirit of volunteerism here at UF among students, faculty, administration and staff,” said Striley, a member of the HealthStreet team. “There’s an openness here to extend work out into the community, which is exactly what we want and exactly what HealthStreet offers: two-way communication between the university and the community and then closing that feedback cycle and making that information from the community come back to the university to really inform our work.”

Striley is an important part of the UF epidemiology team, Cottler said.

“Trained in social work, Dr. Striley is a great doer, thinker, teacher and colleague,” Cottler said. “In addition to the efforts she mentioned, she is also spearheading our master of science in epidemiology program, developing the master in psychiatric epidemiology program and working tirelessly on the responsible conduct of research.”