CTSI’s Community Research Van

Minnesota legislator and staff members tour CTSI's Community Research Van

August 20, 2015

Minnesota House Representative Joe Schomacker and several staff members from the Minnesota House of Representatives’ Higher Education and Health and Human Services Committees toured CTSI’s Community Research Van at the University of Minnesota campus last week. 

“I was impressed with the University’s efforts to engage the community in research that aims to create a healthier future for everyone,” said Rep. Schomacker, Chair of the House Aging and Long-Term Care Committee. “CTSI’s Community Research Van is one exciting way the University is conducting health studies out in the community and advancing research that can add real value to the lives of Minnesotans.”

The Community Research Van is used to conduct health research studies in the community and can be used by University-community research collaboration studies. It is equipped with instruments and tools to measure weight, height, cholesterol, heart rate, body composition, blood sugar, and blood pressure, and includes internet connectivity and space for private interviews. 

Earlier this year, the van was brought into the CTSI umbrella of services and offered at no charge to community and University collaboration health research projects happening in the five-state area. Previously, it was jointly funded by the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic. 

Mobile research

University of Minnesota researcher Mark Pereira, PhD, Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Community Health, has twice used the Community Research Van for community-based health research studies over the last several years. 

The first project, supported by the University of Minnesota Obesity Prevention Center and a grant from the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, evaluated a one-month intervention to decrease sitting, sedentary time, and increase light physical activity in 28 sedentary office workers, employing a randomized cross-over experimental design using sit-stand workstations. 

“The van, which was located in the Minneapolis Warehouse District for this study, was used for private interviews and DXA scans for body composition,” Pereira said. “The study produced two papers in peer review journals.”

The second study, supported by the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic CTSA Summa Award, was a six-month randomized trial that studied the longer-term impact of the sit-stand workstation to decrease sedentary time in office workers and to evaluate cardiometabolic risk factors in addition to changes in sedentary time. The study included 267 subjects and took place at four worksites in the Twin Cities metro area. The manuscript is under peer review and two presentations were given at national meetings. 

Research studies best suited for using the van include those that:

  • Interact with the public and require collecting data through surveys, focus groups, biospecimens, anthropometric measurements, or other similar means.
  • Have the potential to significantly impact individual and population health in concrete and tangible ways.
  • Hold the promise of securing external grant support in order to develop long-term research and evaluation projects.