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APHA Recognizes Professor’s Research on Recently Incarcerated Women

The American Public Health Association has recognized Assistant Professor of Nursing Dr. Alison Colbert for her ongoing research work involving the health care needs of women released from incarceration.

Colbert, whose scholarly projects include work on issues involving community health and health literacy, was honored with the Junior Investigator Award of the Public Health Nursing Section of the American Public Health Association at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 2.

Her current research project aims at developing what she terms “tailored interventions” that can benefit women immediately after their release from a correctional system when they are making the difficult transition back into the community. A successful transition demands effective life skills, Colbert explains, and a key aspect of those life skills is becoming fully engaged in one’s own health care.

Whether on work release, living temporarily under supervision or perhaps in homes of their own, women exiting incarceration are a vulnerable population with unique health care needs, says Colbert.

“Women need more help in specific areas like relationships, with families and raising children,” Colbert says. “That is not to say that women’s needs are more important than men’s, but their needs are fundamentally different. And to be effective, we have to create interventions that address their unique issues.”

Moreover, for these women, who very often have health conditions that require care, uncertainty about how to care for themselves or who to turn to for help immediately after their incarceration complicates the picture.

Colbert’s research project required an initial phase of information gathering, which involved interviewing a group of women in Pittsburgh after they were released from incarceration. In the next phase she will be designing and testing an appropriate and effective model for intervention. Ideally the model would make effective case management interventions possible when they can be most effective.

Prior to coming to Duquesne, Colbert held community-health related positions, including as a corrections nurse and the director of a clinic for people living with HIV/AIDS.  She has received several grants to support her research, including a 2010 Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Faculty Scholars Program grant for her work with incarcerated women.

Colbert resides in Pittsburgh.

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