EDC’s Health and Human Development Programs (HHD) has just launched the Connecting Across Cultures Web site, which focuses on issues of immigrant and refugee populations and substance abuse. The Web site is the result of three years of work by HHD’s Deborah McLean Leow.
McLean Leow recently completed a three-year fellowship with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in which she developed her skills as a leader in substance abuse prevention. With the fellowship funding, McLean Leow developed the Connecting Across Cultures project to study substance abuse among immigrant populations in the U.S.
Connecting Across Cultures is dedicated to understanding the needs and strengths of underserved immigrant and refugee families as they adjust to life in the U.S., and to exploring the effects of acculturation on substance use and related health and safety issues. Specifically, the project:
- Examines the impact of acculturation on alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use, and access to ATOD and related health and human services
- Explores strategies to reduce the negative health outcomes associated with the acculturative change process
- Takes into account the rapid growth of children in immigrant families in nearly every state in the country, which is predicted to significantly change the demographic make up of the country
“Connecting Across Cultures improves our capacity to serve diverse populations by focusing on the importance of and responding to the unique needs of new immigrants to our country,” says Judy Schector, Director of Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse at RWJF.
The project has two components: the Web site that is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of immigrant populations in the U.S., and a research study on acculturation, parenting, and ATOD service access and utilization.
The first component, the Connecting Across Cultures Web site, is designed to give service providers and policy-makers ready access to state-of-the-art information in key areas including:
- Current research on immigrants, acculturation, parenting, ATOD use and related health behaviors
- Products and informational materials, including webinars and presentations, that offer practical guidance about service delivery to immigrants and other racial/ethnic “minority” populations
- Links to funders, professional associations, and other national organizations that focus on issues of culture, cultural diversity, and immigrant health
The Web site is the go-to location for anyone interested in how acculturation affects substance use among immigrant and refugee populations. The site also provides information on reducing negative health outcomes among immigrant populations and provides various resources for more information on the topic.
The second component, the New Jersey Immigrant Health Promotion Project, is a community-based research project conducted among five counties in New Jersey with 100 parents from Latin America and the Caribbean. Through interviews and participant surveys, McLean Leow is examining how levels of acculturation affect parenting skills and participants’ access and utilization of ATOD services. The results will be used to inform the development and enhancement of culturally-relevant ATOD and related services for immigrant families and their children.
RWJF provided the fellowship through its Developing Leadership in Reducing Substance Abuse program, which aims to nurture public health professionals in the substance abuse field. “We need leaders in the substance abuse field who mirror the population of our country. A key goal of this RWJF Developing Leadership program is to increase the reach of a more diverse group of leaders because we know that this will increase our ability to serve the needs of the diverse populations,” says RWJF’s Schector.
McLean Leow, Associate Director of HHD’s Northeast Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies (NECAPT), has dedicated her professional life to preventing health risk behaviors such as substance abuse and HIV and AIDS. The Developing Leadership program further developed her capacity in the field by providing opportunities to work with colleagues, mentors, and community members on understanding how living in the U.S. affects substance abuse among immigrants, an issue of great importance to McLean Leow. Throughout the process of developing and implementing the program components, McLean Leow relied on colleagues and mentors from the Developing Leadership program to provide feedback and leadership assessments on her work.
“The Developing Leadership process allowed me to perform passion-driven work that is connected to my own experience and to the communities that I know well. Connecting to community—to my culture and to my experience as an immigrant—is what fuels me and will drive my work for some time to come,” says McLean Leow, who plans to continue her work on health risk behaviors affecting immigrants and minorities.
Originally published on February 1, 2007