case study

Community Approaches to Reducing STDs (CARS)


We supported and evaluated coalition-based efforts to address STDs in Los Angeles County


Client: University of Southern California (USC)

The Issue

Los Angeles County has long been a national epicenter of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

 A sustainable strategy to address this issue was needed, particularly for young African-American and Latinx women in South Los Angeles, who experience disparities in STDs.

The Outcomes

We supported and evaluated a 3-year CDC-funded project to reduce STDs in South Los Angeles.

We used community-based participatory research to engage youth to develop new strategies for STD prevention and helped set up a wellness center in a public housing development.


There’s No Place Like Home: First Year Usage of the “I Know” Home Testing Program for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
Rotblatt H, Montoya JA, Plant A, Guerry S, Kerndt P. American Journal of Public Health. 2013;103(8):1376-1380.



Authentic and Meaningful Community Engagement to Reduce STD Disparities: Lessons Learned from the 4-Site CDC CARS Initiative

Rhodes SD, Daniel-Ulloa J, Montoya JA, Beale D, Cruz-Dillard K, Kerndt P, CARS Workgroup. Presented at: 2014 STD Prevention Conference; June 9-12, 2014; Atlanta, Georgia.


“Spring Into Love:” Impact of a Youth-Led Summit on Sexual Health and Healthy Relationships for High Schools Students in a High-Risk Community in South Los Angeles
Lamb K, Provost J, Cantu M, Gaarde J, Bush-Spurlin J, Jackson MD, Greene B, Kerndt PR. Presented at: 2014 STD Prevention Conference; June 9-12, 2014; Atlanta, Georgia.

Community Partnerships to Reduce STDs

For over a decade, Los Angeles County has been a national epicenter of STDs, with higher rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia among young African-American and Latinx women. While individual organizations had worked to increase awareness and promote routine STD screening, community stakeholders understood that a coordinated, sustainable strategy to reduce these health disparities was needed.

Sentient Research managed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-funded Community Approaches to Reducing Sexually Transmitted Diseases (CARS) initiative, through a subcontract from the University of Southern California from 2011-2014. CARS provided support to community organizations to launch expanded STD screening initiatives in South Los Angeles. This included promotion of the I Know home STD testing program, through highly targeted outreach to young women. I Know provides free chlamydia and gonorrhea testing, with tests kits ordered through the program website and results delivered online.

Through CARS, we also worked with community stakeholders and youth to develop new strategies for STD prevention using community-based participatory research (CBPR). This process resulted in an ongoing, large-scale youth health conference called Spring into Love, and establishing a wellness center in a public housing development in South Los Angeles.

Sentient Research was also responsible for evaluating the impact of the different components of the CARS program and sharing this information with community stakeholders and the CDC. An analysis from the Los Angeles CARS program and three other CARS programs in the U.S. found that, for these programs, successful community engagement included:

  • Broad participation of coalition partners in establishing a vision and mission collectively
  • Unwavering commitment to collaboration
  • Open communication and commitment to transparency
  • Working through conflict
  • True community decision-making power
  • Strong, charismatic leadership that leverages talent and resources
  • Using a stepwise approach to creating effective change

Findings from this evaluation provided insights for health departments, community-based organizations, and research institutions that want to harness community engagement and partnership approaches to reduce STD disparities and increase health equity.