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Hofstra Professor Promotes Health Equity Across Long Island

Dr. Martine Hackett, assistant professor in Hofstra’s master of public health and community health programs, recently received the 2015 Grant Seeker of the Year award from the Office of the Provost and the Office for Research and Sponsored Programs for her excellence in grant development and her groundbreaking research on suburban health equity.

Most recently, Dr. Hackett received a $20,000 grant from the Long Island Community Foundation (LICF) to fund her project “Creating Health Equity on Long Island: A Digital Storytelling Approach.”

“Digital storytelling is a newer method that people are using [to do research],” she said. “Facts and figures are good, but people’s stories communicate facts and figures in a different way.”

Dr. Hackett was inspired to apply for this grant after completing a pilot version of the digital storytelling she conducted in 2013, which was funded by the Office of the Provost’s Faculty Diversity Research and Curriculum Development Grant. “The project started with my interest in the health disparities on Long Island, specifically the poor health outcomes of blacks and Latinos in Nassau and Suffolk counties compared to whites,” she said. “These health disparities are influenced by the high levels of residential segregation on Long Island and the lack of attention in public health to suburban populations.”

Dr. Hackett uses the digital storytelling approach to explore real-life experiences of health inequity on Long Island. Participants will write personal stories in a group setting and then read it to the group. The participants will edit video recordings of their stories to create two- to three-minute digital stories, which will also include photos and music, and will be embedded into a digital map.

Participants include graduates of the Parent Leadership Initiative in Nassau, members of the Hempstead Senior Center, a volunteer at STRONG Youth (a Long Island-based youth, family and community development organization that specializes in youth and gang violence prevention and intervention), and local college students. “It is a mixed group racially and by age, so it should be interesting to see the different stories that develop,” Dr. Hackett said.

She plans to develop a discussion guide to be used in public screenings, which will be held through the fall and winter, and will conduct surveys with participants to assess how creating a digital story changed their knowledge and attitudes toward health equity and advocacy as well as to assess how community forum participants reacted to screening and discussing the videos.

The project is well under way. Dr. Hackett has hired a Master of Public Health student, who has helped her with everything from recruiting participants, to administrative work and budget, to data collection. She also recruited an undergraduate student to participate in the digital storytelling workshop, which will take place on August 3, 4 and 5 in C.V. Starr Hall. Preliminary work on the project can be found on Dr. Hackett’s Public Health Exchange.

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