Researchers Awarded $3.8 Million for Online Hispanic Family Intervention in Primary Care Settings

A multidisciplinary team of Miller School of Medicine researchers has received a $3.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a study of Familias Unidas, a well-established, family-based intervention program for Hispanic families with children aged 12 to 17, in primary care settings.

Familias Unidas was first developed at the Miller School 15 years ago. The program was fine-tuned in Miami through rigorous clinical trials and introduced into 24 Miami-Dade County middle schools in 2010. It has since been adopted in other locations in the U.S., and it is currently being implemented and evaluated in Chile and Ecuador.

“Familias Unidas was designed to prevent conduct disorders, risky sexual behaviors, and the use of illicit drugs, alcohol and cigarettes by increasing parental involvement, improving parent-adolescent communication and promoting positive parenting,” said Guillermo J. “Willy” Prado, Ph.D., Miller Professor of Public Health Sciences, Director of the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health, Dean of the Graduate School, and the research team leader. “The culturally sensitive program is built on the theory that adolescent problems can be fixed at home by capitalizing on the strong ties for which Hispanic families are known.”

To date, the program has been tested for effectiveness only in schools. The new study, which began July 1, will focus on the effectiveness of the program when integrated into primary care settings.

“The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council’s Forum on Promoting Children’s Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Health have indicated that rigorous evidence is necessary for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to make recommendations on integrating family-based prevention programs into primary care,” said Prado. “The new study will contribute to this much-needed evidence and consequently has the potential to transform the way prevention programs are delivered in primary care.”

The study is set up specifically to evaluate a new online adaptation, called eHealth Familias Unidas Primary Care.

“Primary care is a natural point of entry for prevention services,” said Prado. “Our health care system is moving more toward a model focused on prevention and well-care, instead of sick-care. This study is interdisciplinary in that it aims to bridge public health/prevention science and primary care. The team is multidisciplinary and includes public health/prevention scientists, pediatricians, a health economist and an infectious disease physician.”

The study will also measure the cost-effectiveness of eHealth Familias Unidas Primary Care against standard services provided in primary care among a universal sample of Hispanic youth. The first online session will be delivered through the Internet in primary care, and all subsequent sessions will be delivered online and facilitated by a primary care staff member.

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