Fall 2016 Newsletter - Researcher Spotlight


Yok Fong Paat, Ph.D (center) and BTI Thrust Lead for Transnational Flows of People (Policy) Luis R. Torres, Ph.D (right)

Yok Fong Paat, Ph.D (center) and BTI Thrust Lead for Transnational Flows of People (Policy) Luis R. Torres, Ph.D (right)

The dynamics of disease transmission across borders are critical factors to understand when it comes to the public health aspects of homeland security. These dynamics are not easy to measure, especially given many transmissions are the results of sexually-risky behaviors. Travelers can encounter sexual health hazards while abroad, and diseases can often breach U.S. borders more easily than other health issues. With international travelers composing such a large portion of the U.S. population, there is considerable concern over the role sexually transmitted diseases play in threatening public health.

To tackle this problem as it relates to homeland security, Yok Fong Paat, Ph.D., and her team, participated in a DHS Summer Research Team Program at BTI Institute in the summer of 2016. As part of the research, the team recruited 45 frequent international travelers through purposive sampling to participate in confidential interviews and surveys. To accommodate the language of preference for all of these international travelers recruited through Houston-based community agencies and institutions, the research team offered individual interviews and surveys in English, Spanish and Chinese.

The project examined the dynamics of disease transmissions and travelers’ pathway to sexually-risky behaviors during international contact. Data collected over the summer is expected to result in manuscripts as preliminary studies for a larger grant proposal submission. The data could also refine research instruments used to assess ecological and life course factors that critically impact sexually-risky behaviors and disease transmission during international travel.

Luis R. Torres, Ph.D, BTI Thrust Lead for transnational flows of people (policy), acted as Paat’s primary research mentor, and Maria Burns, BTI Thrust Lead for education and workforce development, worked with Paat on logistics and program requirements. 

Paat earned her Ph.D. in Sociology and Masters in Social Work from the University of Oklahoma and now works for the University of Texas at El Paso Department of Social Work.