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Research Into Action Projects


Recently RIA’s work on the non-auditory health effects of noise was used to amend the noise ordinances in the City of Houston regarding noise pollution.

RIA staff, after becoming interested in the growing problem of noise pollution, conducted an extensive research review from literature published around the world and used the results to develop both a technical
paper summarizing the research, and a one-page handout suitable for both lay audiences and those specifically concerned with noise effects.
Meanwhile, the team also developed a list of area organizations and government entities that had shown interest in the effects of noise pollution. These included local environmental groups, legal organizations, neighborhood committees and the City of Houston regulatory affairs department.
Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States, is unique for being the only city in the United States with no formal zoning code. This has created a fascinating patchwork of multi-use neighborhoods, with churches, homes, businesses, industry and schools often sharing the same streets. However, this anything-goes approach has created a not-so-desirable problem: bothersome noise that residents living next to businesses find objectionable. Most of the noise complaints are about entertainment venues, which often feature loud music until very late at night – which can be a problem for people who live next door.
RIA, upon talking to contacts at the City of Houston’s regulatory affairs department, learned that in response to these complaints the mayor of Houston had recently asked the department to propose new rules governing noise. RIA provided the department with information about the dangers of noise pollution, including how it can adversely affect health. The information was used in a presentation before the Houston City Council in October 2011.
As a result, the city council amended the noise ordinances, doubling the fine on noise violators and giving police greater leeway in issuing noise citations. Nightclub owners in the city have since founded a political action committee to try and fight the new ordinances, which they say are ambiguous. The debate continues between the city, the public, and business owners, and RIA continues to monitor the situation and will offer its expertise whenever appropriate.

History of PASS & CATCH

One of RIA’s first research projects was PASS & CATCH, which draws a correlation between physical activity and improved academic achievement. Dr. Nancy Murray, the principal investigator, has gone further than other researchers by focusing on how teachers can use physical activity in the classroom as a teaching aid and demonstrating the benefits of physical activity for poorly adapting students.
The RIA staff, with input from Dr. Murray, developed a variety of collateral materials for PASS & CATCH. These are used at conferences, public meetings, and other gatherings to spread the word about PASS & CATCH. The staff has also worked to schedule presentations by Dr. Murray about PASS & CATCH for area organizations interested in elementary education.
The implications of successful KT of this research are manifold. Dr. Murray’s research indicates that poorly adapting children, in particular, benefit from increased physical activity. Her PASS & CATCH study, along with the rapidly accumulating supporting evidence, all point to improved academic, social, classroom management, and productivity outcomes from increased physical activity. While this KT project focused on academic outcomes, the results have the side benefit of lending further support to the battle against childhood obesity, a burgeoning epidemic in the United States.

To see a PowerPoint presentation the RIA developed on PASS & CATCH, please visit


History of SBIRT

The second research project for RIA’s initial year was Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), a program mandated for use in all level I trauma centers. Doctors and other medical personnel are required to screen accident patients for signs of substance abuse. If the patients are found to be under the influence, the issue is discussed with them and the medical professionals will either conduct a brief intervention or refer them to facilities where they can receive treatment.
RIA decided to focus its efforts on Houston-area level III and level IV trauma centers, which are not required to provide SBIRT services, to translate the existing evidence on program effectiveness, provide resource links and options to assist in the adoption decision.
RIA, working with external expert Dr. Larry Gentilello, developed a survey for Houston-area trauma centers regarding the barriers to the adoption of SBIRT. The survey was administered online and was completed by either trauma program managers or coordinators.
Only three trauma centers reported providing patients with alcohol/drug abuse counseling. However, a majority of respondents thought that between 15-30 percent of their patients would be positive for alcohol and drug use if tested, and that more than 10 percent would be re-admitted for re-injury in the next five years (most centers admit between 500-3,000 patients annually).
Also, a majority of respondents believed that alcohol/drug abuse was a significant burden, and that their patients would benefit from having an alcohol intervention. More than half of the respondents were interested in a presentation of the effectiveness and cost savings of the SBIRT program, providing the RIA an opportunity to improve the care provided to patients in level III and level IV trauma centers in Houston.
Using the information gathered in the survey and its own environmental assessment, RIA staff will present the results to an upcoming meeting of the Harris County Regional Advisory Council on Trauma. The staff will also develop a portfolio of communications materials identifying the most likely obstacles in developing an SBIRT program and how they can be overcome – an expansive “toolkit” that will provide these hospitals with the information and strategies necessary to implement their own SBIRT protocol. The RIA also plans to release the survey results to the media and actively pursue media coverage of the issue.

To see a primer the RIA developed on how to implement an SBIRT program in any health care facility, see
this link.