Study to measure health benefits of Girls Inc. programs

Rebecca Slotkowski, a student in the MD/PhD program at UNMC, received National Institutes of Health funding for a two-year study that will measure the physical and cardiovascular health impact that Girls Inc. has on its young participants.

“The beauty of this project is that it grew from the inspiration of leaders and stakeholders at the organization,” Slotkowski said.

A national organization serving young women ages 5-18, with locations in both North and South Omaha, Girls Inc. equips participants with the life skills they need to lead healthy lives. Evidence-based programs at the non-profit teach participants how to cook nutritious meals using foods grown in Girls Inc.’s in-house garden. The girls and young women also have access to mental health support through mediation, on-site counselors, exercise areas and quiet spaces.

Roberta Wilhelm, Girls Inc. executive director, said the relationship between Girls Inc. and UNMC is built on trust and transparency.

“It’s one thing to believe that Girls Inc. programs help girls live better lives, but it’s another thing to have those beliefs backed up by research,” Wilhelm said. “We are grateful that UNMC is partnering with us to measure the impact of the girls’ experiences at Girls Inc.”

Over two years, Slotkowski will track metrics — such as cortisol levels, blood vessel conditions and survey responses — to assess the health level of the girls in the study. Measurements will be compared between the girls enrolled in the program and those who are not enrolled.

Rebecca Slotkowski, a student in UNMC’s MD/PhD program and researcher on the Girls Inc. study

Ann Anderson Berry, MD, PhD, chief, division of neonatology, UNMC Department of Pediatrics, executive director of the Child Health Research Institute, Girls Inc. board member and Slotkowski’s mentor, assigned her the study because of her passion for the research and population.

“Rebecca is an incredibly talented writer and researcher,” Dr. Anderson Berry said. “She understands that health is impacted by the racism girls and young women of color live with daily, and that programs like Girls Inc. may have the ability to empower them to counteract those stressors.”

Andrea Jones, MD, associate professor in the UNMC Department of Family Medicine and Girls Inc. director of the health clinic center, said the study is built on relationships and collaboration.

“Participants trust that this research will benefit them or those they care about,” she said. “The research team appreciates the values and priorities of the community and that is reflected in the study’s goals.”

The IRB number for the study is IRB#0241-21-FB.

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  1. Laura Bilek says:

    Congratulations, Rebecca! What a valuable study!

  2. Angela Gleason says:

    Girls Inc is an amazing organization! I love seeing all they do for youth in our community, this sounds like an excellent project! Congratulations!

  3. Jen Brady says:

    Great work, Rebecca! The MD-PhD Program is very proud!

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