KU News: KU researchers to lead program to improve safe sleep practices for infants, families

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KU researchers to lead program to improve safe sleep practices for infants, families
LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas School of Social Welfare has received a four-year, $248,528 grant from the Missouri Children’s Trust Fund to conduct a program evaluation of safe sleep practices in five communities in Missouri, including in Kansas City. The goal is to reduce infant injuries and deaths through access to safe equipment, knowledge and skills to practice safe sleep, with a focus on racially equitable outcomes.

Social distancing compliance linked to high voter turnout rates, study finds

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas political science professor’s new paper, “Staying Home on the Range: Social Capital and Social Distancing in the Great Plains during COVID-19,” argues that citizens who exhibit higher levels of social capital are more likely to socially distance. The work is published in Great Plains Research.

KU Libraries name Letha Johnson as university archivist
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Libraries have announced that Letha Johnson, assistant librarian, has been selected to serve as university archivist, responsible for curating all items that help preserve the history of KU. Johnson began her new role Nov. 29 after longtime university archivist Becky Schulte began phased retirement earlier this year.

Honeybees represent home to artist
LAWRENCE – The honeybee motif continues to fascinate artist Sunyoung Cheong and those who appreciate her metalwork in the form of jewelry. The University of Kansas lecturer in visual art has made around 65 pieces – including new brooches, earrings and pendants — for the “MAD About Jewelry” show running Dec. 6-11 at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860, [email protected], @MikeKrings
KU researchers to lead program to improve safe sleep practices for infants, families
LAWRENCE — Information on safe sleep practices for infants that could prevent tragic injuries or deaths may not always reach parents or caregivers. The University of Kansas has secured a grant to evaluate several programs that seek to train parents, provide them with safe sleeping equipment and collaborate with community members, agencies and families to provide safe sleep training in a consistent, anti-racist way.
KU’s School of Social Welfare received a four-year, $248,528 grant from the Missouri Children’s Trust Fund to conduct a program evaluation of safe sleep practices in five communities in Missouri.

The goal of the initiative is to reduce infant injuries and deaths through access to safe equipment, knowledge and skills to practice safe sleep.

“There is information on how an infant can sleep safely that doesn’t always get to expecting families, and there is a racial-equity component to consider as well,” said Pegah Naemi Jimenez, research associate in social welfare at KU and principal investigator of the Safe Sleep Grant Program Evaluation for the Missouri Childrens’ Trust. “We know in our country that infant mortality rates are higher for Black infants, and among other infants identified as marginalized than among white infants. We’re seeing those disparities in sleep injuries and deaths as well. We hope that our evaluation will help the awarded grantees toward their goal to reduce those disparities.”

Researchers will evaluate the current trainings provided to hospitals, community organizations and families designed by the grantees on how to ensure safe sleep for an infant. Best practices include having them in a crib or bassinet by themselves, on their back, on a firm mattress, without excess bedding, and in a room with the parents. Grantees will help ensure low-income families have access to cribs and bassinets and wearable blankets to keep infants warm while sleeping.

Researchers will also lead focus groups with families of diverse racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds to determine what information they need, how best to deliver it to them in a useful way and ensure that the messages are consistent, as well as free of cultural biases, either unintended or previously unknown.

“We want to know, from the families’ perspective, how these trainings resonate with them,” Naemi Jimenez said. “Did you receive the message? If so, did it make sense, were you able to use it, or was it something different from your generational practices and teachings?

How can we make these environments as safe as they can be and share information on how to do that without insulting or contradicting how people have raised their children for centuries?”

The focus groups will help determine how trainings are developed and how messages are crafted and delivered to family members and communities. Evaluation during the project will determine messaging consistency, exploring which messages and practices are effective, and how they are delivered to mothers, fathers and secondary caregivers such as grandparents.

”The long-term goal is to reduce infant sleep injuries and deaths, but short- and medium-term goals will determine how to effectively share safe sleep practices in a consistent manner and increase knowledge and awareness of safe sleep practices,” said Jared Barton, assistant research professor and co-investigator.

Successful methods can be shared with other communities and agencies beyond the initial phases of the project to enhance safe sleep practices more broadly. Initial communities in the project include the Kansas City and Saint Louis metropolitan areas and three rural communities in Missouri.

Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is the unexplained death of an infant under 1 year of age most related to infant sleep-related injuries and death. This project will help understand how safe-sleep education, trainings, awareness and knowledge may help parents avoid preventable incidences such as injury or suffocation from excess bedding such as blankets, pillows or bulky sheets, overheating, soft surfaces or bed-sharing. Kaela Byers, associate research professor and co-investigator, added that ensuring parents have the equipment and knowledge delivered in ways that are well-aligned with family culture and history helps ensure their infants are sleeping safely, promotes family and community health, and may help avoid numerous preventable tragedies.
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Contact: Jon Niccum, KU News Service, 785-864-7633, [email protected]
Social distancing compliance linked to high voter turnout rates, study finds
LAWRENCE — “Social capital” refers to connections between citizens that generate trust, reciprocity and participation in social and political life.

But social capital faces enormous challenges when pitted against a pandemic.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, the COVID-19 campaign often centered on the ‘we.’

However, 2020 was an election year, and strong partisan polarization politicized the pandemic, dividing communities, states and regions by support for public health measures,” said Mark Joslyn, professor of political science at the University of Kansas.

His new paper, “Staying Home on the Range: Social Capital and Social Distancing in the Great Plains during COVID-19,” argues that citizens who exhibit higher levels of social capital are more likely to socially distance. It’s published in Great Plains Research.

To prevent and/or curb transmission of the COVID-19 virus, the U.S. government directed individuals to stay home, restrict unnecessary movement and, when in public, keep a six-foot distance from others.

“Our interest in this project focused on observations during the initial months of the pandemic,” said Joslyn of his research co-written with Wichita State University’s Alexandra Middlewood, who earned her doctorate in political science at KU.

“Could social capital – a social science theory that spawned literally thousands of articles and much interest over the past two decades – explain citizens’ level of compliance with social distancing? Would people stay at home? We were skeptical. However, we were also very curious. It turned out the single greatest effect on compliance was voter turnout, which is a conventional proxy for social capital,” he said.

Such turnout is calculated as the number of county residents who voted divided by the number of county-registered voters. Joslyn and Middlewood found that counties with the highest levels of voter turnout produced the best social distancing grades.

To test this hypothesis, they examined county-level data from Kansas (105 counties) and Nebraska (93 counties) and voter turnout from the 2016 presidential election. Social distancing grades were assigned by Unacast, a company specializing in mobility data. The movements of millions of anonymous mobile cell phones captured the distance that people traveled each day, compared to the same period pre-COVID.

The majority of counties across the United States received poor grades for compliance. For example, most Kansas counties (in late April 2020) received a C or below for compliance, and only earned 3 A’s. Nebraska got no A’s, and most counties were rated at D and below.

He said, “The number of COVID-19 cases in the counties did not influence social compliance in either Kansas or Nebraska. We suspected the fear generated from a higher number of cases would spur greater compliance. But we found no evidence of this … at least in late April 2020.”

Surprisingly, population did not prove to be a significant predictor of social distancing. A vast majority of the counties examined were actually rural.

Did they interpret the results of this study as having a positive or negative outcome in regard to cultural cooperation?

“We viewed the results positively,” said Joslyn, who has taught at KU since 1996, where he specializes in public opinion and political behavior.

“They affirmed social capital theory and expanded its application to an entirely new social and political phenomenon. During spring 2020, approval of Donald Trump reached its highest level, as did public approval of Trump’s handling of the pandemic. There was therefore a degree of unity, a willingness of the public to rally around the president and demonstrate support for the country. In this context, we found a solid connection between social capital and social distancing. Much, of course, has transpired since.”

Joslyn believes social capital — which facilitates coordination and cooperation among people — is important because it imparts the capacity to help communities respond to a public health crisis.

“We showed that social capital enhanced compliance with public health measures – lockdowns specifically,” he said. “Future research should examine how social capital interacts with partisan dispositions.”
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Contact: Christy McWard, KU Libraries, [email protected], @KULibraries
KU Libraries name Letha Johnson as university archivist
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Libraries have announced that Letha Johnson, assistant librarian, has been selected to serve as university archivist, responsible for curating all items that help preserve the history of KU. Currently, Johnson works for KU Libraries as curator of the Kansas Collection. She previously served as the associate archivist in University Archives. Johnson steps into her new role after longtime university archivist Becky Schulte began phased retirement earlier this year.

In her new leadership role, Johnson will expand her expertise, becoming the campus authority on KU history and traditions, sharing her passion for the university’s history with the campus community, alumni and advocates. Through research and instruction with primary sources, Johnson will share the history of KU and the experiences of generations of Jayhawks.

“We are excited to have Letha begin her new role as the university archivist,” said Beth Whittaker, KU Libraries associate dean and director of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, where the university archives are housed. “She has decades of archival and records management experience and a personal passion for KU history that will help her tell the story of the university in new ways.”

As university archivist, Johnson will oversee the official records of the university that are transferred to university archives, be responsible for collecting the history of the campus overall, raise the profile of the archives and build new relationships with colleagues and other units across campus.

“There are some untold stories of the university that I am hoping I will get a chance to dive into and bring to light, as well as reconnecting with the people I worked with in archives before.” Johnson said.

Johnson has extensive professional training related to this work, including earning certifications from the Academy of Certified Archivists and from the Society of American Archivists as a digital archives specialist. In her time working with the Kansas Collection, she has taught many classes and continued to build relationships with Kansas communities — skills that will help her in her new role.

“Letha brings a tremendous depth of knowledge about the history of Kansas and the University of Kansas,” said Dean of Libraries Kevin L. Smith. “I am really looking forward to having her in this new role, which I think is work that she was born to do.”
Johnson began her new role Nov. 29.

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Don’t miss new episodes of “When Experts Attack!,”
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Contact: Rick Hellman, KU News Service, 785-864-8852, [email protected], @RickHellman
Honeybees represent home to artist
LAWRENCE – The honeybee motif continues to fascinate artist Sunyoung Cheong and those who appreciate her metalwork in the form of jewelry.

She has made around 65 pieces – including new brooches, earrings and pendants — for the “MAD About Jewelry” show running Dec. 6-11 at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.

MAD’s annual curated show and sale of jewelry by the world’s most innovative contemporary jewelers was twice postponed by the pandemic, but its December opening means that Cheong, a lecturer in the University of Kansas Department of Visual Art, can attend during her semester break. She is one of about 40 artists invited to show their work.
“The reason I made so many works in the middle of this chaotic semester is that I wanted to attend this show to see the state of the art and teach my students about the current contemporary jewelry scene,” Cheong said. “This is a weeklong event focusing on contemporary jewelry, which you don’t always get to see so easily. Also, this museum is committed to present jewelry as an art form, and it is the only museum that has a dedicated gallery for contemporary jewelry.

“This could be something students could do as a studio artist in the future. Students do not always know what to do after they graduate with a BFA or MFA. They can work in some commercial areas, but if they pursue art jewelry as an independent artist, this is one of the things they can do.”

The works Cheong has entered in the show were produced using a variety of techniques, from the most modern CAD-CAM design to the most traditional lost-wax casting and Champlevé technique of applying colored enamel.

Cheong said she was inspired by the bee several years ago and continues to work on different iterations of it. For the native of Seoul, it relates to notions of home.

“I moved to Kansas about 15 years ago,” Cheong said, “and at some point, I began to wonder if Korea is my home or Kansas is my home. I wasn’t sure, because I have U.S. citizenship, but still sometimes I feel I don’t belong. … I started thinking about the meaning of home, village, Kansas. And the bee is one of the ideas that I use for creating a home — like a beehive. They develop their own homes, and they work hard, and they create these communities. This all relates to human society, you know?”

The honeybee is the Kansas state insect, as Cheong learned only in 2016 when the retail coordinator for the Kansas Historical Foundation asked to carry her jewelry in its museum stores at the Kansas Museum of History and at the state Capitol in Topeka.

Cheong said the endangered status of the bee as a symbol of environmental degradation was not on her mind when she began working with it, but she now appreciates that it may inspire viewers to relate to the work.

“Maybe I can share some of my concern for the environment with others using the small jewelry pieces,” Cheong said.

Then, too, she is thinking of translating the bee motif into larger-scale pieces, inspired in part by the digital design and fabrication technology that she teaches and uses.

“With this technology, it is easy to manipulate the scale from really tiny to really large, to create whatever you want to create. So I want to explore different ways to use this technology.

“I am planning to create a larger-scale, sculptural work in the future … perhaps using two-dimensional forms,” she said.
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