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Evaluation Core Growing Rapidly
By Stephanie Gillam, Journalism Intern
For years, former IPRC director Dr. Carol Runyan envisioned a formal unit dedicated to evaluating the injury efforts of the center and of other researchers across the state. In 2010, that vision became a reality when the IPRC officially formed the Evaluation and Dissemination Core. This core builds on a long history of strong injury evaluation research by IPRC faculty and provides a coordinating point for the center to expand and enhance its evaluation expertise even further.
Headed by Assistant Director Mariana Garrettson and senior evaluation researcher Dr. Chris Ringwalt
, the core is tasked with developing its own research, providing technical assistance to both injury researchers on campus and practitioners in the larger community, and training others in implementing their own evaluation efforts.
And it has wasted no time in getting to work.
“The field is at a point where there’s a lot of emphasis on evaluation. We’ve built our body of knowledge and we’re ready to move into this new phase,” says Garrettson.
While much of the core’s work has been focused on the process of building relationships with local and state injury researchers, it has also begun a number of formal evaluation projects. And while the core has made a conscious effort to focus its research in the area of prescription drug poisoning
, it has already made headway in a number of other arenas.
Several projects expanding collaboration between IPRC and other UNC entities are being facilitated through the core. For example, the core will be providing evaluation support on a contract through the Institute for the Environment (IE). The IE has over a decade of working on CDC-funded lead poisoning prevention. This year the CDC has expanded its lead work to encompass home safety more broadly, including unintentional injuries. IPRC brings both evaluation and injury expertise to the IE in their newly funded contract.
In addition, the core is providing guidance to an innovative program on the UNC Chapel Hill campus to prevent dating and sexual violence. And IPRC is partnering with the Highway Safety Research Center to support a community based initiative in finding support to evaluate their novel approach to reducing teen driver crashes.
Spotlight: Dr. Chris Ringwalt
Dr. Chris Ringwalt, the Evaluation Core’s Senior Research Scientist, brings 20 years of experience in designing and implementing a wide range of public health evaluation studies at UNC, around the state, and across the country.
Dr. Ringwalt has directed numerous evaluation projects, including those for the Drug Abuse Resistance (D.A.R.E.) Program, Chicago Public Schools’ Project SUCCESS, the South Carolina State Incentive Grant (SIG), and initiatives of the Southeast Center for the Application of Prevention Technology (SECAPT), where he served as the Senior Evaluator.
“I was very pleased to be invited to join IPRC’s evaluation core,” Dr. Ringwalt says, noting that this is an opportunity to expand one of his longstanding research interests - evaluating adolescent drug and alcohol programs – into new content areas.
One of these areas is unintentional poisoning. Dr. Ringwalt says evaluation efforts in this field stand out as highlights in his time with the core thus far, citing his work on a CDC-funded study of prescription practices of emergency department physicians and an evaluation of the state’s Controlled Substance Reporting System.
In addition to his work for the IPRC’s Evaluation Core, Dr. Ringwalt currently serves as a Senior Scientist at the Chapel Hill Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE); previously, he was the Center’s director. He is also currently evaluating projects related to health and economic outcomes in the countries of Swaziland and Kenya.