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Long-term Center Grant

Posted on November 23, 2011

C. Hendricks Brown (bio) describes his experience as a multiple-year Center Grant recipient.

 

This grant was one that I think it was highly innovative at that time. It was... I had great partners to work with at Johns Hopkins University and it was a really primary focus around the kinds of unsolved methologic problems that would be coming from a prevention model with long-term developmental course as the primary factor that we were looking at in here.

And we didn't have methods around that. We didn't know what to do when you lost 10 to 20 percent of the data each year and over a period of time, how do you analyze data like that? Missing data was a fundamental piece of what we had originally started to look at there.

So, we didn't quite know how to design the other studies with all of these complex classroom/school/neighborhood factors involved in it as well. So, we sort of worked out design issues as well on this one. And as time went on we were able to solve a number of those problems and apply those into the settings for that particular center, but also across other places.

It became something that was very useful for other centers to do. So I started to take these kinds of ideas on the road and talked with the other prevention centers, both at NIMH and NIDA, and came through that experience with a set of seminal questions... scientific questions, which did not yet have research... did not have methods available for that.

So, each time, each five year cycle, we would come up with some different questions and extend the kinds of methods we had. So one area that we got very interested in here was what we call low base rate outcomes. What happens in lots of research studies is we... the precision that you can answer a question really depends upon how frequent the outcomes are. So, if there's some very small frequencies of outcomes, it's a very infrequent, long-term outcome, you may have to have a very large study.

So the example we used was suicide prevention and the number of suicides that are occurring here, even though they're devastating to a number of people -- that if it happens to people, one of the families, it is very devastating -- is relatively small compared to outcomes such as drug use or abuse in adolescence. Most of the studies we had been working with had been taking a couple hundred to a thousand people or so and that would be about what we would need for evaluating an intervention.

Then, the question is, is when we're looking at very low risk, low frequency outcomes, such as suicide, how can you design these studies in here? So we started working on how do you do much larger scale studies than we had before and trying to use the information we could on that. So that became one of the next stages of work that we did.

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Excerpted from an interview with the researcher conducted at the 2011 NHSN Conference held in Miami, FL.

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