Youth Task Force

Project Description

The Youth Task Force (YTF) is a group of high school students who conduct research projects that inform the work of the Harvard Prevention Research Center and its community partners. The YTF was created in 2002 to: 1) enhance the center’s research capability by providing access to information and perspectives that youth may be more likely to share with peers than adult professionals; 2) provide a participatory role for youth in the research process; and 3) allow youth to build research and leadership skills.

The Youth Task Force is composed of 6 to 12 students who are 15 to 18 years of age recruited from high schools and recreation centers to reflect community diversity and the HPRC study population. Youth are introduced to the mission of the HPRC and educated in the center’s core research areas of obesity, nutrition, physical activity, and the public health approach. Youth and staff, with guidance from the senior research team, choose a project that aligns with the overall mission of the HPRC and the available time and competencies of YTF members. They are then trained in the necessary research methods, which may include focus group questionnaire creation, observational methods, survey creation, and human subjects research considerations. A few months are spent on data collection and analysis. Finally, students present their research to community partners and in appropriate venues such as local conferences. Previous YTF research project presentations can be found below.

Funder: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
For more information, contact Angie Cradock.


2011 Members

Annie Zhang, Boston Latin School
Genaro Justiniano, Boston Collegiate Charter School
James Cutts, John D. O’Bryant High School
Jermaine Simpson, John D. O’Bryant High School
Joanna Chen, John D. O’Bryant High School
Kimberly Mendoza, East Boston High School
Laura Wohn, Boston Latin School
Michelle John, Boston Latin Academy
Nevaeh Johnson, Bunker Hill Community College
Richard Moussignac, Boston Latin School


Youth Task Force Student Literature Reviews

Youth/Adult Partnership Models

Research Methods Used by Youth

Youth Task Force Student Projects 

2010-2011: In addition to conducting a research project, the Youth Task Force competed in and won the 2nd place prize of $500 in the Boston Public Health Commission’s “Drink Responsibly: Be Sugar Free” video contest. The youth contest was created to raise awareness of the harmful health effects of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. Check out the Youth Task Force’s video, Use Some Water!

Summer 2010: “Around the Water Cooler”  Conducted focus groups with children and youth across Boston to gather information on young people’s perceptions of the quality and safety of water from different sources and their drinking water preferences.

2008–2009: “There’s Always After School…” Used Food & Fun observation and interview tools to learn more about the physical space, physical activity practices, food and nutrition, and staff at 6 afterschool programs in Boston.

2007–2008: “What You Do Starts in the Middle” Created and administered a survey on physical activity, eating and drinking, sleeping, and screen time habits to gather information on health related behaviors of middle school students.

2006–2007: “Food on Wheels” (1) Observed product prices and availability and student purchasing behavior at canteen trucks at 5 Boston high schools; conducted a focus group with high school girls regarding canteen trucks and their school breakfast program; observed foods available in school breakfast programs and at school stores.  (2) Examined prices and locations of healthy and unhealthy drinks in corner stores near middle schools to examine how schools and corner stores can promote healthy drinks such as milk and water.

2005–2006: “Livin’ Fit” Created a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Rendon Group’s Livin’ Fit grant application, including RFP content and selection criteria. After developing a selection process YTF members reviewed the proposals and chose winners.

2004–2005: “Hey, How Do You Feel about Physical Education?” Surveyed high schools students in 15 Boston public and private high schools about their experiences with physical education in school.

2003–2004: “Where and Why Are Youth Eating Fast Food?” Surveyed high school students regarding their fast food eating habits and created a map of the locations of fast food restaurants near 14 Boston public high schools.

2002–2003: Taught Planet Health lessons to middle school students

Other Resources

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Adolescent Health has a Youth Advisory Committee, which served as the model in creating the HPRC Youth Task Force.

The Harvard Prevention Research Center is a member of the Prevention Research Centers Program, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cooperative agreement number 1-U48-DP-001946.

The Harvard School of Public Health Prevention Research Center is a member of the Prevention Research Centers Program, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cooperative agreement number 1-U48-DP-001946.