Video: Peace and development indicators in Liberia youth through sport for development programming.

Here is a video I made about a recently published research article.

The article is titled Peace and development indicators in Liberia youth through sport for development programming.

It was published in 2020 by researchers at Ball State University and Claremont Graduate University.

The purpose of the study was to explore if and how aspects of positive youth development (specifically social responsibility, personal relationships, peace, and purpose) were cultivated through the sport and character activities of a sport-for-development program, called Life and Change Experienced Through Sport (LACES).

LACES is a 40-week sport-for-development program, established for marginalized youth of Liberia in 2007. LACES uses mentor-based soccer and kickball leagues to teach children life skills.

The goal of LACES is to develop positive role models and leaders with a sense of purpose and direction. LACES hopes to serve as a buffer against recruitment into negative groups. A long-term goal of LACES is to ultimately help safeguard Liberia from another civil war.

The program includes 32 weeks of full programming and 8 weeks of modified programming. Full programming entails designated coaches working with teams and holding two practices and one game per week. LACES staff visit the youth monthly. Meals are served at each practice and game. At practices, coaches teach life lessons based on the LACES curriculum, as well as sport skill development.

The study did not have a research hypothesis, but was instead guided by three research questions, which are listed below:

  • Can participation in a sport-for-development program increase social responsibility, close personal relationships, peace, and purpose among Liberian youth?
  • How did participation in a sport-for-development program cultivate these important indicators of positive youth development?
  • What experiences, relationships, and conditions cultivated and stymied healthy development among Liberian youth?

Mixed-methods data collection allowed the researchers to triangulate data obtained from surveys, interviews, and photovoice data.

The researchers found that LACES did indeed contribute to small decreases in attitudes toward violence and increases social responsibility, purpose, and relationship with coaches.

Sport, in combination with character-development components, was meaningful for positive youth development.

Original Research Citation:

Blom, L. C., Bronk, K. C., Sullivan, M., McConchie, J., Ballesteros, J., & Farello, A. (2020). Peace and development indicators in Liberia youth through sport for development programming. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology. Advance online publication.

WHO’s “Conceptual Framework for Action on the Social Determinants of Health” – A Synopsis

In 2007, the World Health Organization released a seminal paper entitled, “A Conceptual Framework for Action on the Social Determinants of Health.” The original 79 page document can be viewed at this link. My own synopsis of the paper follows.

The previous paradigm of improving health was a strictly biomedical health model. Stakeholders and medical leaders erroneously believed that improvements in medical care alone would generate major gains in population. This paradigm assumed, for example, that scientific improvements in surgeries or medicine would make all of a population healthier. However, this strictly biomedical health paradigm has been debunked.

Instead, the World Health Organization (WHO) presented A Conceptual Framework for Action on the Social Determinants of Health. As presented by the framework, various social, economic, and political mechanisms give rise to individuals’ socioeconomic positions. In other words, populations of people are divided by income, education, gender, and ethnicity. These hierarchical socioeconomic positions in turn directly affect people’s specific determinants of health status (also known as the intermediary determinants of health). Social determinants of health can be defined as the structural social stratification mechanisms, institutions, and processes – which are in turn embedded in socioeconomic and political context.

An individual can be more exposed and vulnerable to health-compromising conditions as a direct result of his or her socioeconomic position. For example, a migrant farm worker from Mexico can potentially be more exposed to the harmful effects of pesticides. Or perhaps a Vietnamese American woman who provides manicures and pedicures is more exposed to the hazardous chemicals found in glues, nail polishes, and nail polish removers.

The guiding principle of the WHO Social Determinants of Health framework is health equity. The term health equity can be defined as the absence of unfair and avoidable differences in health among groups of people. The first element of the WHO Social Determinants of Health framework is the socioeconomic political context; this refers to a spectrum of societal factors that are immeasurable at the individual level. These are the broader structural, cultural, and functional aspects of a social system. They have powerful influences on one’s hierarchical position in society and, as a result of this position, one’s health. 

The second element of the WHO Social Determinants of Health framework are the structural determinants and the resulting socioeconomic positions. Socioeconomic positions can be measured at three levels: the individual level, the household level, and the neighborhood level. Structural determinants generate or reinforce social hierarchies in the society. They can also define individual socio-economic position. These include elements such as income, education, occupation, social class, gender, and ethnicity.

Finally, the third element of the framework recognizes that these structural determinants operate through intermediary social factors – also known as the social determinants of health. The WHO purposefully chose the vocabulary of “structural determinants” and “intermediary determinants,” because they wish to underscore the causal effects of the structural factors. In other words, if the model only focused on the intermediary determinants, then it would fail to consider the root causes. These root causes are the structural determinants. According to WHO, intermediary determinants can be material, psychosocial, or behavioral and biological. Examples of these material determinants are housing, neighborhood, work environment, as well as money to purchase food and warm clothes. Examples of the psychosocial determinants can include stressful living circumstances or social isolation. Examples of behavioral and biological factors include nutrition, physical activity, alcohol, smoking, and genetics. 

The WHO Social Determinants of Health framework makes it a point to explicitly state that the health care system itself can be considered a social determinant of health. Not everyone has equitable access to healthcare. Moreover, the WHO Social Determinants of Health framework also incorporates a feedback loop. The model recognizes that illness can feedback on, or directly affect, an individual’s social position. For example, if a person becomes very ill, he may lose his job, and as a result lose health insurance. Hence, this directly feedbacks and affects how this person can cope and treat his illness. Another type of feedback involves how pandemics can feedback and change the influence of social, economic, and political institutions.  

According to the WHO Social Determinants of Health framework, there are three key strategic directions to ensure that policy to adequately addresses Social Determinants of Health. These helpful strategies suggests that we (1) address the context, (2) encourage intersectional action, and (3) enable social participation and empowerment. In conclusion, positive changes can be strategically be made to address social determinants of health – including the participation and empowerment of community members.

From Syllabus to Concept Map

I teach KIN 370: Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity within Oregon State University’s Kinesiology Program. This is an upper division kinesiology course.

I created a concept map from the syllabus. The concept map is like a road map to guide students. Ideally, it helps students better see how all course concepts relate.

The KIN 370 curriculum was fully developed by Professor William V. Massey.

Here is my concept map:

Here is part of the KIN 370: Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity syllabus.

The Path to Purpose: A Book Review

Book Cover

The Path to Purpose: Helping Our Children Find Their Calling in Life

Author: Bill Damon, PhD

Bill Damon recognizes purpose in life applies not just to adults — but also to adolescents.

What exactly is meant by purpose?

Purpose is “a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential for the world beyond the self.”

Some young people have a sense of purpose — in that they can express a clear vision of where they want to go, what they want to accomplish in life, and why. But most do not have a sense of purpose or even a sense of direction for their life. Exemplar cases of young people with a sense of purpose are showcased, and the common themes among these exemplars are highlighted. Parents, societies, and communities can help cultivate a sense of purpose in young people.

The strength of The Path to Purpose lies in its description of how parents can help their own children cultivate a sense of purpose.

The book did not adequately address how parents in lower income brackets (whom may be too busy themselves working) can adequately support their children and help them find their purposes in life. This was, in my opinion, a weakness of this book.

Damon shows that cultivating purpose is at the core of how adults can support adolescents and help them thrive. The book is easy to follow, and provides clear, tangible advice.

Overall, this book is highly recommended to parents, educators, coaches, clergy, or anyone with a vested interest in the development of children.


My educational goal is to conduct innovative research that will provide the necessary evidence needed to inform policy changes benefiting underserved communities similar to my own.

My personal life goal is to remain vigilant in advancing equity and minimizing the barriers that continue to compromise the health of children in low income neighborhoods, especially those communities of color. I also hope to one day be a role model to young girls of color.

My career aspiration is to become a faculty member, help diversify the American professoriate, and conduct inclusive research.

Through my PhD program, I hope to gain the leadership skills needed to inform policy and institutions that will effect positive paradigm shifts and overcome systemic barriers.

Community = Strength

Si, se puede! Growing up I saw photos of my grandparents marching with César Chávez in support of United Farm Workers. We have buttons, flags, and paraphernalia from their days of marching in the 1960s for the health and well-being of farm workers. Because of this grassroots activism, farm workers had access to clean water and toilets in the fields, lunch breaks, and other legal protections. My family instilled in me the drive to fight for equity and stand up for issues that affect the most vulnerable.

The fight for health equity is not over, and I aim to follow in the steps of my grandparents. As a Mexican-American first-generation college student, my own lived experience provides a unique perspective I will bring into my work as an OSU PhD student. I grew up in a bilingual household in a low-income neighborhood. I understand the struggles in similar communities. Nevertheless, I also understand the sources of strength in my community, such as the resilience of our immigrant family members, our bilingual churches, and our vibrant community centers.

My family taught me that strength comes from the community.

They showed me how to connect with others and work toward a common good. I have learned from them the value of listening to others, working together, and mobilizing resources. These major personal strengths will help me overcome barriers and successfully complete my PhD program. I ultimately hope to continue to build up and work for my community. It is the least I can do for the community that built me.

My personal background motivates me

Pic of Corvallis, OR

So, I recently lost my grandmother to breast cancer. She is my inspiration. She overcame systemic barriers and became our family’s steadfast matriarch. She emigrated from Guadalajara, Mexico with a 7th grade education. Upon first moving to the USA, she saw storefront signs that read “No Dogs, No Negros, No Mexicans.” She worked hard to put her family first. When my mother became pregnant with me at age 20, she stepped up and helped raise me. My grandmother’s home had 3 generations under one roof.

With such tight living quarters, I used the backyard as my escape.

Free play was my outlet. I had the space and time to be my energetic self.

This was also apparent during school recess. My confidence on the playground translated into confidence in the classroom.

My closest friendships, love for the outdoors, and current research interests stem from these early experiences.

To this day, physical activity grounds me and helps me think more clearly. The physical, social, and cognitive benefits from physical activity cannot be understated.

All children have a right to play and reap these developmental benefits.

Yet, the reality is that children of color and children from low income neighborhoods do not always have access to this fundamental right.

My background has helped me see the need for equity in schools and society. I see the potential physical activity can have on children’s and adolescents’ development. It has helped me see work is needed to make accessible recess, outdoor play, and youth sports for all young people a reality.

I will continue on my academic and career path to produce innovative research, inform equitable policy, and work for my community.

Geocode into US Census Geographies


If you have a spreadsheet of addresses, you may want to extrapolate relevant US 2010 Census information.

I had ~475 addresses and was not sure about the best way go about it.

Luckily, I stumbled upon a really helpful website created by Jack Dougherty and Ilya Ilyankou. In it, they talk about how to bulk Geocode your addresses using data from the 2010 US Census. Ilya’s GitHub page also houses this information.

Essentially, they wrote a script for GoogleSheets. The script can geocode your US addresses into latitude, longitude, GeoID, and census tract – so helpful!

If you would like to use this feature, you need to first make a copy of their Google Sheet template. Go to ‘File’ > ‘Make a Copy to your Google Drive.’

Second, you will copy and paste your US addresses into column A.

Third, you will select columns A-H and select the Geocoder menu: US Census 2010 Geographies.

Next, the script may ask for your permission to run. Wait a bit for the script to run; this could take a while depending on how many addresses you have. Then….

Voilà! Now, your spreadsheet has addresses in column A, and GeoID and Census tract in columns G and H.

P.S. The other option is run a batch of addresses through the official US Census Geocoder website. That website can be found here. You do need to clean up your data first. The website usually worked for me, but sometimes did not.

Reverse GeoCode Google Sheet

Converting the address to latitude and longitude is known as geocoding. Whereas, converting the latitude and longitude to an address is called reverse geocoding.

Because I am probably not the only person who would like to reverse geocode a dataset, I thought it would be helpful to share my own reverse geocoding process.

Ideally, the dataset would first be in a csv file– with latitude was in one column and longitude in another.

I came across a script that could be used with Google Sheets. It’s on Stack Overflow and called “Get City, State, Country from Latitude and Longitude in Google Sheets. Per the instructions provided by Stack Overflow user Gabriel Rotman, I created a Google Sheet template.

Here is a link to an open, public Google Sheet Template that I created. Feel free to make a copy of it, and then edit it to fit your own needs!

This Google Sheet will provide the address when given the latitude and longitude. The following is the formula: “=reverse_geocode(A1,B1).”

Otherwise, you can copy and paste the script yourself into the ‘<> Script editor’ portion of your Google Sheet (under ‘Tools’). Script is below:

function reverse_geocode(lat,lng) {

var response = Maps.newGeocoder().reverseGeocode(lat,lng);
for (var i = 0; i < response.results.length; i++) {
var result = response.results[i];
Logger.log('%s: %s, %s', result.formatted_address,,
return result.formatted_address;

Again, all credit for the script goes to Stack Overflow user Gabriel Rotman — much thanks to Gabriel!


Japanese Tea
Japanese Tea

School Recess + Adults = ?

I recently presented research on how adults can influence school recess.

This year the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Exercise and Physical Activity (NASPSPA) hosted a virtual conference. Instead of the traditional poster presentation, my lab created a short 4 minute video, which was uploaded to YouTube.

Find the YouTube video below:

School Recess + Adults = ?

Often, when we think of recess, we think it’s all fun and games — but, actually, a lot of bullying and teasing can happen during recess too. So, the purpose of our study was to check out problems during school recess and try to figure out why these problems happen.

In order to do this, our lab went to 25 different schools throughout the USA and observed 112 recess periods. We used a guide (called The Great Recess Framework-Observational Tool) to help us observe recess. While we were out on the playground during recess, we also wrote down some notes to help us remember what we were noticing. We jotted down notes about (1) safety, (2) student behaviors, (3) adult behaviors, (4) physical activity, and (5) what happens right before and after the recess bell rings.

After we were all done going to schools, our lab re-read all the notes. We tried to notice any patterns from our notes.

We noticed a few patterns. First, we noticed problems with the schoolyard itself — like holes in a chain link fence, lots of trash, or broken rusty play sets. Problems with the schoolyard seem connected to safety problems; kids could easily run into a busy street or trip over hidden holes in the grass.

Second, we noticed that there were often too many kids in a small schoolyards with not enough things to play with (like jump ropes or balls). When this happened, it seemed like the same kids were usually left out and excluded from playing during recess. We noticed that older boys usually got to play, but others couldn’t. For example, 6th grades boy would play soccer and 5th grade boys would play basketball, but other kids could only just walk around or watch.

We might think that children can handle recess all by themselves, but adults can be a part of recess too. They can help make sure things go well for all the kids. For example, the principal or vice principal can walk around the school yard before recess starts to make sure there are no holes in the fence or rusty, broken play equipment. Teachers or yard monitors can make sure the balls are being shared with everyone — not just the oldest students. If a kid is being bullied or teased, adults can step in and stop this. Even better, adults can play and hang out with kids during recess. For example, teachers can pitch the ball in kickball, be goalie in soccer, or shoot some hoops in basketball.

School Recess + Helpful Nice Adults = Fun Safe Recess for More Kids!

OSU Research Team: Deanna Perez, Janelle Thalken, Alexandra Szarabajko, Laura Neilson, & William V. Massey

Kinesiology Program | School of Biological and Population Health Sciences | College of Public Health and Human Sciences