Malika Roman Isler

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States

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Publications (35)33.84 Total impact


  • No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · AIDS Care
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of the current study is to describe the demographic, behavioral, and psychosocial characteristics of adolescent and caregiver lay health advisers (LHAs) participating in an intervention designed to reduce risk behaviors among rural African-American adolescents. Teach One, Reach One integrates constructs from the Theory of Planned Behavior and Social Cognitive Theory. It acknowledges that changing the sexual behaviors of African-American adolescents requires changing one's knowledge, attitudes, normative beliefs about the behavior of peers, and self-efficacy regarding adolescent sexual behavior, parent-teen communication about sex, and healthy dating relations among adolescents. Study participants completed baseline questionnaires assessing demographics and psychosocial determinants (knowledge, attitudes, perceived social norms, and self-efficacy) of sexual behaviors. Sixty-two adolescent and caregiver dyads participated. Caregivers included biological parents, legal guardians, or other parental figures. Strengths and areas in need of improvement were determined using median splits. Few adolescents had initiated sex. Their strengths included high levels of open parent-teen communication; positive attitudes and normative beliefs regarding both sex communication and healthy dating relationships; and high knowledge and self-efficacy for healthy dating behaviors. Areas needing improvement included low knowledge, unfavorable attitudes, poor normative beliefs, and low self-efficacy regarding condom use. Caregiver strengths included positive attitudes, normative beliefs, and self-efficacy for sex communication; positive attitudes and self-efficacy for condom use; and low acceptance of couple violence. Areas needing improvement included low levels of actual communication about sex and low knowledge about effective communication strategies and condom use. The current study highlights the value of assessing baseline characteristics of LHAs prior to intervention implementation, as it enables a better understanding of the key characteristics necessary for planning and implementing interventions, as well as engaging in targeted training activities.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · AIDS Care
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Social media, including mobile technologies and social networking sites, are being used increasingly as part of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention and treatment efforts. As an important avenue for communication about HIV, social media use may continue to increase and become more widespread. Objective: The objective of this paper is to present a comprehensive systematic review of the current published literature on the design, users, benefits, and limitations of using social media to communicate about HIV prevention and treatment. Methods: This review paper used a systematic approach to survey all literature published before February 2014 using 7 electronic databases and a manual search. The inclusion criteria were (1) primary focus on communication/interaction about HIV/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), (2) discusses the use of social media to facilitate communication, (3) communication on the social media platform is between individuals or a group of individuals rather than the use of preset, automated responses from a platform, (4) published before February 19, 2014, and (5) all study designs. Results: The search identified 35 original research studies. Thirty studies had low or unclear risk of at least one of the bias items in the methodological quality assessment. Among the 8 social media platform types described, short message service text messaging was most commonly used. Platforms served multiple purposes including disseminating health information, conducting health promotion, sharing experiences, providing social support, and promoting medication adherence. Social media users were diverse in geographic location and race/ethnicity; studies commonly reported users aged 18-40 years and users with lower income. Although most studies did not specify whether use was anonymous, studies reported the importance of anonymity in social media use to communicate about HIV largely due to the stigma associated with HIV. The ability to share and receive information about HIV was the most commonly reported benefit of social media use and the most common challenges were related to technology. Measures of frequency of use, satisfaction, and effects of use varied across studies. Conclusions: Using social media to bridge communication among a diverse range of users, in various geographic and social contexts, may be leveraged through pre-existing platforms and with attention to the roles of anonymity and confidentiality in communication about HIV prevention and treatment. More robust research is needed to determine the effects of social media use on various health and social outcomes related to HIV.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Journal of Medical Internet Research
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Project Education and Access to Services and Testing (EAST) worked with a community advisory board (CAB) to (1) identify individual-level, provider-level, and community-level factors influencing attitudes about human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and HIV/acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome (AIDS) research and (2) develop and test a community-based HIV clinical trials educational intervention in six rural counties in the Southeast. Objectives: We describe the processes and impact of forming and collaborating with a rural, multicommunity CAB. Methods: CAB members included community leaders, providers, and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). CAB engagement emphasized respect and confidentiality. Tape-recorded meeting minutes and debriefing notes were used in analysis. Results: The CAB identified physical and social parameters of the communities, built community trust, informed research design and implementation, and helped to navigate the impact of stigma. Major barriers to engagement were distance and geographic dispersion. Conclusions: CABs can make a critical difference in conducting culturally appropriate and successful research in rural communities.
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · Progress in Community Health Partnerships Research Education and Action
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    ABSTRACT: African Americans are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic inclusive of men who have sex with men, heterosexual men, and women. As part of a community-based participatory research study we assessed HIV testing experience among sexually active 18-30 year old Black men and women in Durham, NC. Of 508 participants, 173 (74 %) men and 236 (86 %; p = 0.0008) women reported ever being tested. Barriers to testing (e.g., perceived risk and stigma) were the same for men and women, but men fell behind mainly because a primary facilitator of testing-routine screening in clinical settings-was more effective at reaching women. Structural and behavioral risk factors associated with HIV infection were prevalent but did not predict HIV testing experience. Reduced access to health care services for low income Black young adults may exacerbate HIV testing barriers that already exist for men and undermine previous success rates in reaching women.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · American Journal of Community Psychology
  • M Roman Isler · C Golin · J Wang · J Hughes · J Justman · D Haley · I Kuo · A Adimora · W Chege · S Hodder
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    ABSTRACT: Identifying venues where women meet sexual partners, particular partners who increase women's risk of acquiring HIV, could inform prevention efforts. We categorized venues where women enrolled in HPTN 064 reported meeting their last three sex partners as: (1) Formal, (2) Public, (3) Private, and (4) Virtual spaces. We used multinomial logistic regression to assess the association between these venues and women's individual characteristics and reports of their partners' HIV risk characteristics. The 2099 women reported meeting 3991 partners, 51 % at Public, 30 % Private, 17 % Formal and 3 % at Virtual venues. Women meeting partners at Formal venues reported more education and condom use than women meeting partners at other venues. Fewer partners met through Formal venues had "high" risk characteristics for HIV than through other venues and hence may pose less risk of HIV transmission. HIV prevention interventions can help women choose partners with fewer risk characteristics across all venue types.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · AIDS and Behavior
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Minority engagement in HIV prevention research can improve the process and products of research. Using community-based participatory research (CBPR) to develop capacity-building tools can promote community awareness of HIV prevention, clinical research, and community roles in research. Objectives: We sought to describe a CBPR approach to curriculum development to increase HIV prevention research literacy among Blacks ages 18 to 30. Methods: Community members and researchers documented the iterative and participatory nature of curriculum development and lessons learned. Results/Lessons Learned: We used specific strategies to support and verify multi-stakeholder engagement, team building, capacity building, and shared decision making. Objective or formal assessments of baseline capacity, ongoing stakeholder engagement, and reinforcing the value of multiple perspectives can promote further equity in curriculum development between researchers and community members. Conclusions: The iterative process of shared discussion, development, and consensus building strengthened collaboration between stakeholder groups and produced a stronger, more culturally appropriate curriculum to promote HIV prevention research engagement among young Blacks.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Progress in community health partnerships: research, education, and action
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    ABSTRACT: Innovative models to facilitate more rapid uptake of research findings into practice are urgently needed. Community members who engage in research can accelerate this process by acting as adoption agents. We implemented an Evidence Academy conference model bringing together researchers, health care professionals, advocates, and policy makers across North Carolina to discuss high-impact, life-saving study results. The overall goal is to develop dissemination and implementation strategies for translating evidence into practice and policy. Each 1-day, single-theme, regional meeting focuses on a leading community-identified health priority. The model capitalizes on the power of diverse local networks to encourage broad, common awareness of new research findings. Furthermore, it emphasizes critical reflection and active group discussion on how to incorporate new evidence within and across organizations, health care systems, and communities. During the concluding session, participants are asked to articulate action plans relevant to their individual interests, work setting, or area of expertise.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Journal of public health management and practice: JPHMP
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    ABSTRACT: Cancer clinical trial (CCT) accrual and retention rates remain disproportionately low among African Americans. Awarenesss and access to trials are crucial facilitators of trial participation. Strategies developed within a community-based participatory framework (CBPR) are potential solutions to increase awareness and access to CCTs. In this study, we describe the pilot phase of three innovative community-centered modules to improve basic CCT knowledge, awareness of locations to access CCT information, and opportunities to participate in CCTs. Four community organizations completed Community Bridges to CCT training-of-the-trainer and recruited adult African American volunteers to participate in one of three CCT education modules: a workshop about CCTs, a role play describing one person’s experience with CCTs, or a call and response session reviewing myths and facts about CCTs. Pre- and post-test surveys were collected and analyzed using McNemar agreement statistic to evaluate changes in knowledge and attitudes regarding trials. Trainers enrolled 125 participants in the call and response (n = 22), role play (n = 60), and workshop (n = 43) modules. Module participants were mostly African American, female, and with a mean age of 53 years. Comparison of pre- and post-test responses demonstrates favorable changes in awareness of CCTs and where to access CCTs across the sample. Analysis by module type indicates significant increases for participants in the call and response (p p CBPR framework is a promising innovation to increase knowledge about CCTs and favorable attitudes about participation that are known precursors to trial enrollment.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Journal of Cancer Education
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Partnerships between academic and community-based organizations (CBOs) can richly inform the research process and speed translation of findings. Although immense potential exists to co-conduct research, a better understanding of how to create and sustain equitable relationships between entities with different organizational goals, structures, resources, and expectations is needed. Objective: We sought to engage community leaders in the development of an instrument to assess CBOs’ interest and capacity to engage with academia in translational research partnerships. Methods: Leaders from CBOs partnered with our research team in the design of a 50-item instrument to assess organizational experience with applying for federal funding and conducting research studies. Respondents completed a self-administered, paper/pencil survey and a follow-up structured cognitive interview (n = 11). A community advisory board (CAB; n = 8) provided further feedback on the survey through guided discussion. Thematic analysis of the cognitive interviews and a summary of the CAB discussion informed survey revisions. Results: Cognitive interviews and discussion with community leaders identified language and measurement issues for revision. Importantly, they also revealed an unconscious bias on the part of researchers and offered an opportunity, at an early research stage, to address imbalances in the survey perspective and to develop a more collaborative, equitable approach. Conclusions: Engaging community leaders enhanced face and content validity and served as a means to form relationships with potential community co-investigators in the future. Cognitive interviewing can enable a bidirectional approach to partnerships, starting with instrument development.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Progress in Community Health Partnerships Research Education and Action
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    ABSTRACT: Spoken word, a form of performance poetry, is a promising approach to HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, as it has the potential to encourage dialogue among and within communities and address concerns regarding the social stigma present in rural communities. The purpose of this study is to describe the development and implementation of the Spoken Word Project (SWP), an HIV/AIDS pilot intervention in rural North Carolina designed to improve HIV-related attitudes and self-efficacy and decrease stigma through the use of performance poetry. Spoken word is a collaborative effort between residents of two rural counties in North Carolina and Project GRACE (Growing, Reaching, Advocating for Change and Empowerment), a community-based participatory research collaboration aimed at reducing health disparities in African American communities. The project included 15 adult and youth participants. Results indicated that spoken word has the ability to build upon local resources, generate community reflection, and engage a broad spectrum of performers and audiences. Our findings also showed that the effect of stigma and limited community conversations about HIV in rural communities can be abated through the use of spoken word.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015
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    ABSTRACT: Background: The challenge of identifying and recruiting U.S. women at elevated risk for HIV acquisition impedes prevention studies and services. HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 064 was a U.S. multisite, longitudinal cohort study designed to estimate HIV incidence among women living in communities with prevalent HIV and poverty. Venue-based sampling (VBS) methodologies and participant and venue characteristics are described. Methods: Eligible women were recruited from 10 U.S. communities with prevalent HIV and poverty using VBS. Participant eligibility criteria included age 18-44 years, residing in a designated census tract/zip code, and self-report of at least one high-risk personal and/or male sexual partner characteristic associated with HIV acquisition (e.g., incarceration history). Ethnography was conducted to finalize recruitment areas and venues. Results: Eight thousand twenty-nine women were screened and 2,099 women were enrolled (88% black, median age 29 years) over 14 months. The majority of participants were recruited from outdoor venues (58%), retail spaces (18%), and social service organizations (13%). The proportion of women recruited per venue category varied by site. Most participants (73%) had both individual and partner characteristics that qualified them for the study; 14% were eligible based on partner risk only. Conclusion: VBS is a feasible and effective approach to rapidly recruit a population of women at enhanced risk for HIV in the United States. Such a recruitment approach is needed in order to engage women most at risk and requires strong community engagement.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · Journal of Women's Health
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    Malika Roman Isler · Eugenia Eng · Susanne Maman · Adaora Adimora · Bryan Weiner
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    ABSTRACT: The black church is influential in shaping health behaviors within African-American communities, yet few use evidence-based strategies for HIV prevention (abstinence, monogamy, condoms, voluntary counseling and testing, and prevention with positives). Using principles of grounded theory and interpretive description, we explored the social construction of HIV prevention within black Baptist churches in North Carolina. Data collection included interviews with church leaders (n = 12) and focus groups with congregants (n = 7; 36 participants). Analytic tools included open coding and case-level comparisons. Social constructions of HIV/AIDS prevention were influenced by two worldviews: public health and church-based. Areas of compatibility and incompatibility exist between the two worldviews that inform acceptability and adaptability of current evidence-based strategies. These findings offer insight into ways to increase the compatibility of evidence-based HIV prevention strategies within the black Baptist church context.
    Preview · Article · Mar 2014 · Health Education Research
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Although churches are an important partner for improving health within the African American community, it is not known how congregants are best reached by health promotion activities and thus how best to target members in recruitment. This study examined how characteristics of churches and congregants' beliefs and interests in faith-based health promotion related to their willingness to attend church-based health promotion activities. Method: We surveyed adult congregants (n = 1,204) of 11 predominately African American churches in North Carolina. Surveys collected data within four domains: demographics (age, sex, education), behavioral (church attendance, respondent food choices, and physical activity), cognitive (church-based health promotion belief, Bible-based healthy living interest, healthy living resource interest), or environmental (family health, church travel distance, church health ministry activity, church members' food choices). Analyses used a dichotomous outcome, interest in attending programs offered by the health ministry. Domain-specific models were constructed. Logistic generalized estimating equations adjusted for clustering. Results: Of the 1,204 congregants, 72% were female, 57% were 50 years or older, 84% had a high school education or more, and 77% had a chronic health condition. In bivariate analyses and in models adjusting for all four domains, cognitive factors had the highest odds of willingness to attend. Conclusion: Congregants' belief in the church's role in health promotion and their desire to learn about healthy behaviors highlight the role of the African American church as a partner in addressing health disparities and the need to capitalize on this expectation through stronger partnerships between medical and faith communities.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014 · Health Promotion Practice
  • Malika Roman Isler · Karey Sutton · R Jean Cadigan · Giselle Corbie-Smith
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    ABSTRACT: Increasing the engagement of racial and ethnic minorities in genomic research may help alleviate health disparities. This paper examines community perceptions of the relationships between race, genes, environment, and health disparities, and it discusses how such perceptions may influence participation in genomic research. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 91 African American, Latino, and white lay community members and community leaders in North Carolina. Using constant comparison methods, we identified, compared, and developed linkages between conceptual categories and respondent groups. Participants described gene-environment interactions as contributing to group differences in health outcomes, expressed the belief that genetic predisposition to disease differs across groups, and said that social conditions trigger group-level genetic differences and create poorer health outcomes among African Americans. Given the regional presence of major research institutions and the relatively high education level of many participants, this sample may not reflect the perspectives of those most disparately affected by health disparities. Members from multiple community sectors share perceptions and may respond to similar approaches when attempts are made to increase participation in genomic research. Researchers may inadvertently fuel the perception that health disparities experienced by minorities are rooted in the shared genomes of a particular group as distinct from those of other groups. The way researchers use race and ethnicity in recruitment, analysis, and communication of research findings inaccurately implies that there are genetic differences between races, when categories of social experience or ancestry may more accurately characterize health differences. Understanding these issues is crucial to designing effective community engagement strategies, recruitment plans, and messages about genomic research, which could ultimately help to lessen health disparities.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2013 · North Carolina medical journal
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    ABSTRACT: Background: The Southeast remains the U.S. region hit hardest by HIV/AIDS. As elsewhere, African-Americans are disproportionately affected. Discussions of HIV risk in African-American communities often overlook the diversity of knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors within those communities. As part of a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project, we surveyed Black young adults in Durham, NC to understand the range of factors that place them at risk for, or protect them from HIV. Methods: We employed respondent-driven sampling to recruit sexually active, Black residents of Durham age 18-30 (n=508). Using an Audio Computer-Assisted Self Interview (ACASI), participants answered questions regarding sexual behaviors across 4 types of partners: steady, casual, one-night stands, and child's mother/father. This presentation describes sexual behaviors among women reporting sex with men (WSM), women reporting sex with men and women (WSMW), and men reporting sex with women (MSW). Results: Mean number of partners in the previous 6 months was 3.0 (WSM), 3.6 (WSMW), and 6.1 (MSW). The proportion engaging in concurrent relationships in the previous 6 months was 24% (WSM), 32% (WSMW), and 38.3% (MSW). Sexual risk behaviors (inconsistent condom use and alcohol use before/during sex) were common across partner types, although less common with casual partners and one-night stands than with steady partners and child's father/mother. Participants who had concurrent relationships reported risk behaviors at rates similar to those who did not. Conclusions: Concurrent relationships and risk behaviors across partner types place a substantial proportion of this sample of southern Black young adults at risk for HIV.
    No preview · Conference Paper · Nov 2013
  • Malika Roman Isler · Giselle Corbie-Smith
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    ABSTRACT: For decades, the dominant research paradigm has included trials conducted in clinical settings with little involvement from communities. The move toward community engaged research (CEnR) necessitates the inclusion of diverse perspectives to address complex problems. Using a relationship paradigm, CEnR reframes the context, considerations, practical steps, and outcomes of research.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2012 · The Journal of Law Medicine & Ethics
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    ABSTRACT: Minorities are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS in the rural Southeast; therefore, it is important to develop targeted, culturally appropriate interventions to support rural minority participation in HIV/AIDS research. Using intervention mapping, we developed a comprehensive multilevel intervention for service providers (SPs) and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). The authors collected data from both groups through 11 focus groups and 35 individual interviews. Resultant data were used to develop matrices of behavioral outcomes, performance objectives, and learning objectives. Each performance objective was mapped with changeable, theory-based determinants to inform components of the intervention. Behavioral outcomes for the intervention included the following: (a) eligible PLWHA will enroll in clinical trials and (2) SPs will refer eligible PLWHA to clinical trials. The ensuing intervention consists of four SPs and six PLWHA educational sessions. Its contents, methods, and strategies were grounded in the theory of reasoned action, social cognitive theory, and the concept of social support. All materials were pretested and refined for content appropriateness and effectiveness.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2012 · Health Education & Behavior
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    ABSTRACT: A disconnect exists between research resources and the health and health care needs of people those resources are designed to serve. While a great deal of research is being produced at academic institutions across the country, the topics investigated are often driven by researchers' interests or by funding announcements focused on specific research areas of interest to the funder. PURPOSE OF THE ARTICLE: The purpose of this article is to describe a process that connects community identified health priorities with research funds as well as capacity building efforts. The North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS) developed a process to identify the health priorities of North Carolina communities through a partnership with the network of county Healthy Carolinians partnerships. The priorities identified were obesity, youth issues, healthcare delivery/access, mental health/ substance abuse, specific chronic diseases, cancer/tobacco, and injury/ violence. NC TraCS then used these research priorities to guide pilot funding and facilitate research capacity building. Tapping into an established community-based network and linking researchers to community-identified priorities ensures that NC TraCS addresses the most pressing health needs of North Carolina's residents.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2012 · Progress in community health partnerships: research, education, and action
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    ABSTRACT: Although racial and ethnic minorities have disproportionately high rates of HIV infection, these groups are underrepresented in HIV-related clinical trials. This illustrates the need for more innovation in attempts to engage underrepresented populations in calls for interdisciplinary and translational research. Eleven focus groups and 35 interviews were conducted with people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) to explore the perspectives of rural community leaders, service providers, and PLWHA about bringing HIV-related research, including clinical trials, into rural communities. Over a period of 3 months in spring 2007, we collected qualitative data from three sources: Community leaders, service providers, and PLWHA. Text data were analyzed using the constant comparative method and content analysis techniques of theme identification. Respondents want an integrated approach to HIV research that builds trust, meets community needs, and respects their values. They conceptualize HIV research as part of a broader spectrum of HIV testing, prevention, and care, and suggest integrating HIV trials with existing community services, organizations, and structures, engaging various segments of the community, and conducting research using a personal approach. These findings support calls for more relevant, translational, and engaged research. An integrated approach may be an important innovation to transform the research enterprise to meet these goals and more directly improve the health of individuals.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2012 · Progress in community health partnerships: research, education, and action