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Research shows that when parents practice positive parenting while their children are young, they can protect them from a host of emotional and behavioral issues down the road.

For families who already experience social and economic disadvantages, access to information and resources that can teach them about these practices and provide guidance are often unavailable until children enter the school system when they are five or six years old.

This lack of access to resources during the critical early years for a child’s behavioral development can leave families vulnerable to future behavior issues such as delinquency and substance abuse.

Photo of Abby Bailin and Sarah Kate Bearman

Abby Bailin (left) and Sarah Kate Bearman (right)

Sarah Kate Bearman, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, and Abby Bailin, a doctoral candidate in the school psychology program have created and are testing e-health intervention that can fill this gap in primary and pediatric care settings. It’s part of “Promoting Positive Parenting for Families in Pediatric Primary Care,” a project through the Leveraging Evidence and Advancing Practice for Youth Mental Health Services (LEAP) Lab.

The intervention is a seven-minute video, which is available in both English and Spanish. It is shown to parents and children while they wait in the exam room before seeing their pediatrician for a well-child visit.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans are required to cover well-child visits to primary and pediatric care facilities within the first few years of the child’s life, making clinics the perfect place to provide additional resources for families with the greatest need.

“We believe that pediatric primary care is a natural place to meet families in a setting they already trust. By creating an e-health intervention, we were able to take advantage of the time that families spend waiting in these clinics without requiring more from care providers in these clinics,” says Bearman.

Parents are shown examples of positive attending and brief mild ignoring – known as differential attention parenting strategies – that demonstrate how to encourage desirable behaviors with praise and discourage undesirable ones by removing attention. The video focuses on practices that prevent disruptive behaviors like child noncompliance and mild aggressive behaviors, which increase the likelihood of child maltreatment.

After watching the video, families are able to ask questions of their care provider about the techniques in the video and receive additional information that could benefit them after viewing the video or during their next appointment.

The intervention is currently being tested at four pediatric clinics in the Austin area where 63 percent of participating families are at or below the poverty line: CommUnity Care East, People’s Community Clinic, Seton McCarthy Community Clinic, and Del Valle Children’s Wellness Center.

Early results suggest decreases in parenting stress, an important predictor of family well-being.

“One of the key outcomes we’re focusing on is reducing parenting stress. When parents are given support in the important job of parenting, they may feel less overwhelmed and more able to connect with and enjoy their children—which is good for everyone in the family,” says Bearman.

Funding for the project was secured through the Seton Family Healthcare Partners, UT Center for Health and Social Policy, and the UT Office of the Vice President for Research.

Medical schools have a long history of using race-conscious admissions practices as a starting point in addressing racial health inequities that are present in the United States. When compared to their white peers, racially and ethnically diverse medical school students are more likely to go on to serve in communities of color or be sought out by patients of color, thus improving access to and quality of medical care for underrepresented populations. For example, a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that black males received more effective care when they were treated by a black doctor.

However, race-conscious admissions policies have recently come under fire, leading to policymakers banning them in eight states – including Texas from 1996 to 2003.

Liliana Garces

Liliana Garces

Liliana Garces, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, has researched how these bans are diminishing the proportion of students of color who are enrolling in medical schools.

In this study, Garces and her co-author examine whether the enrollment drop can be attributed to a decline in the proportion of applications received or a drop in the admission rates of students of color.

The study, Addressing Racial Health Inequities: Understanding the Impact of Affirmative Action Bans on Applications and Admissions in Medical Schools, found that the enrollment drop was driven by admissions, not applications, showing that the bans influenced changes in behavior on an institutional level, not the student level.

Admission rates of underrepresented students of color faced a larger rate of decline than the proportion of applications received from these students, showing that the changes in behavior were on an institutional level, not the student level.

“Prohibiting race-conscious admissions hurts efforts in the field of medicine to become more racially and ethnically diverse and that, in turn, has very negative consequences for the field of medicine’s ability to address health disparities in our society, to improve quality of care, to provide better treatment, and to have healthier populations,” says Garces.

While some universities have attempted to minimize the effects of these bans by expanding outreach efforts for students of color, Garces explains that medical schools could increase consideration of race-related factors such as socioeconomic status or demonstrations that a student has overcome adversity. They could also decrease emphasis on factors that don’t fully predict academic success, such as MCAT scores, to counteract the impact of these bans.

Liliana Garces’s extensive work related to race-conscious admissions policies also includes an op-ed in Science Magazine, a co-authored amicus curiae brief supporting Harvard University’s use of race-conscious admissions, a co-authored report on the recent challenges to affirmative action policies, and co-authoring of an article that examines policy guidance given from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights during the Obama Administration.