CHPE Research Interests

Leslie A. Robinson, Ph.D. (Director)
Associate Professor
Psychology Building, Room 334

901.678.1667 (telephone)

901.678.2579 (fax)

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Research Interests

Established in 2002, the Center for Health Promotion and Evaluation (CHPE) is directed at understanding and improving health behaviors, particularly among young people. Most of our research currently focuses on reducing tobacco consumption, but we have also conducted research on a wide range of issues, including school violence, binge eating, dietary restraint, and attitudes toward breastfeeding.

Inherent in our work is a focus on community-based research. Rather than collecting data in a lab, we prefer to work collaboratively with community organizations to conduct studies in the environments in which our participants live and work. Much of our work has been conducted in the large local public school systems, as well as private schools in the surrounding area. Other research settings have included the Memphis Police Department Training Academy, pediatricians' offices, Le Moyne-Owen College, Southwest Tennessee Community College, local cosmetology schools, and area WIC clinics.

Our research on smoking among children, teens, and young adults focuses on a number of programmatic themes, including the following:

1. What causes children of different ethnic groups and genders to start to smoke? There is strong evidence that the variables that prompt smoking initiation differ by gender and ethnicity.

2. Why do certain minorities (African American, LGBT) have greater difficulty quitting on their own and experience more tobacco-related health disparities relative to other ethnic groups and the general population? Much of our work focuses on tailoring smoking prevention and cessation programs for special populations.

3. Why are smoking cessation programs (which are effective with adults) generally not helpful for teens? Are these programs even acceptable to teen smokers?

4. Healthcare providers have been urged to assess and assist their patients in quitting smoking. However, little research has explored physician interventions with teens. We are interested in the effectiveness of healthcare provider interventions against smoking.

5. Surprisingly, teens with chronic illnesses smoke as much or even more than healthy adolescents. What drives these teens to smoke? What kinds of interventions would be best for them?

6. E-cigarettes are a fairly new phenomenon, but their use may have serious consequences. We are currently conducting research on the beliefs of college students about the health effects and potentially addictive nature of e-cigarettes. We are also exploring beliefs that might prompt their use, and whether e-cigarettes are associated with quitting smoking.

7. Not everyone defines what it means to be a "smoker" in the same way. Some think of smokers as consuming tobacco at least daily, whereas others think one is a smoker if one smokes just a few cigarettes. We are exploring the individual characteristics associated with different definitions of smoking. This research will help us develop better measures for investigators.

8. Inherent in our work is a respect for the importance of evaluating the effects of intervention programs. We collaborate with medical professionals and other groups to help them assess the effects of their programs using procedures that work in a "real world" setting.