OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of public health and human sciences

Two OSU buildings selected for 2013 DeMuro Award

CORVALLIS, Ore.— The Hallie Ford Center and Joyce Collin Furman Hall at Oregon State University have been selected to receive the 2013 DeMuro Award for Excellence in Preservation, Reuse and Community Revitalization by Restore Oregon.

The Hallie Ford Center is being recognized as an outstanding example of compatible infill development within a historic district. Furman Hall is being recognized for the extraordinary complexity, creativity, design and craftsmanship of its historic rehabilitation.

They are among seven Oregon buildings to be honored with the award this year. The awards were presented at a banquet Wednesday in Portland, which included a guest presentation by Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

The DeMuro Award honors extraordinary historic rehabilitation projects and compatible infill development across Oregon – residential and commercial, urban and rural, private and public. The award is named in honor of Art DeMuro whose redevelopment of historic properties such as the White Stag Block set the standard for quality, creativity, persistence, and business acumen.

“Hallie Ford wanted to inspire people to use the resources they have to make the world a better place,” said Richard Settersten, Hallie E. Ford endowed director. “This principle not only drives the work we do, but is also reflected in the intentional design and beauty of the building we now call home."

According to Restore Oregon, the Hallie Ford Center is an outstanding example of compatible infill development that harmonizes beautifully with its neighbors. “It makes a distinct statement that’s of its time, yet is complementary in scale, massing, proportion, and materials, enhancing the story of the historic district,” Restore Oregon staff noted.

The Hallie Ford building houses the Hallie E. Ford Center for Children and Families. Made possible by a gift from late Oregon philanthropist Hallie Ford, the center opened Sept. 8, 2011, and is home to interdisciplinary, collaborative research from the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Furman Hall, which was originally built in 1902 and recently restored, was honored by Restore Oregon for being rescued from a deteriorating and dangerous state. Seismically unsound and wrapped in netting to protect pedestrians from crumbling sandstone, Furman Hall was structurally rebuilt, its interior redesigned, and sandstone façade replaced in kind.

"Furman Hall is destined to become one of the icons of the OSU campus,” said Larry Flick, dean of the College of Education. “Descriptions of the mapping of the original stone shapes to the newly quarried stone, delights visitors, parents, and students.  It is not unusual to look out my window and see a passerby photographing the building. The DeMuro Award is an honor for FFA and OSU in a highly successful collaboration to restore a proud part of OSU heritage."

Education Hall, originally built in 1902, re-opened as Joyce Collin Furman Hall in January 2012, following a complete renovation. An iconic structure at the campus’ east entrance, the renovated building blends historic charm with high-tech touches. The exterior seismic upgrades were funded by the state, and the interior renovations were made possible by private donors, including a $2 million gift from William A. Furman through the Joyce N. Furman Memorial Trust.

 

For more information: http://restoreoregon.org/demuro-award/

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Larry Flick
541-737-3664;

Richard Settersten
541-737-8902

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Climate report: Wildfires, snowmelt, coastal issues top Northwest risks

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Northwest is facing increased risks from the decline of forest health, earlier snowmelt leading to low summer stream flows, and an array of issues facing the coastal region, according to a new climate assessment report.

Written by a team of scientists coordinated by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI) at Oregon State University, the report is the first regional climate assessment released since 1999. Both the 1999 report and the 2013 version were produced as part of the U.S. National Climate Assessment; both Washington and Oregon produced state-level reports in 2009 and 2010.

OSU’s Philip Mote, director of the institute and one of three editors of the 270-page report (as well as the 1999 report), said the document incorporates a lot of new science as well as some additional dimensions – including the impact of climate change on human health and tribal issues. A summary of the report is available online at: http://occri.net/reports

Amy Snover, director of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, said there are a number of issues facing the Northwest as a result of climate change.

“As we looked across both economic and ecological dimensions, the three that stood out were less snow, more wildfires and challenges to the coastal environment and infrastructure,” said Snover, who is one of the editors on the report.

The report outlines how these three issues are affected by climate change.

“Studies are showing that snowmelt is occurring earlier and earlier and that is leading to a decline in stream flows in summer,” Mote said. “Northwest forests are facing a huge increase in wildfires, disease and other disturbances that are both direct and indirect results of climate change. And coastal issues are mounting and varied, from sea level rise and inundation, to ocean acidification. Increased wave heights in recent decades also threaten coastal dwellings, roads and other infrastructure.”

OCCRI’s Meghan Dalton, lead editor on the report, notes that 2,800 miles of coastal roads are in the 100-year floodplain and some highways may face inundation with just two feet of sea level rise. Sea levels are expected to rise as much as 56 inches, or nearly five feet, by the year 2100.

Earlier snowmelt is a significant concern in the Northwest, where reservoir systems are utilized to maximize water storage. But, Dalton said, the Columbia River basin has a storage capacity that is smaller than its annual flow volume and is “ill-equipped to handle the projected shift to earlier snowmelt…and will likely be forced to pass much of these earlier flows out of the system.”

The earlier peak stream flow may significantly reduce summer hydroelectric power production, and slightly increase winter power production.

The report was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, through the Oregon Legislature’s support of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at OSU, and by in-kind contributions from the authors’ institutions.

Mote said new research has led to improved climate models, which suggest that the Northwest will warm by a range of three to 14 degrees (Fahrenheit) by the year 2100. “The lower range will only be possible if greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.” In contrast, the Northwest warmed by 1.3 degrees from the period of 1895 to 2011.

Future precipitation is harder to project, the report notes, with models forecasting a range from a 10 percent decrease to an 18 percent increase by 2100. Most models do suggest that more precipitation will fall as rain and earlier snowmelt will change river flow patterns.

That could be an issue for agriculture in the future as the “Northwest’s diverse crops depend on adequate water supplies and temperature ranges, which are projected to change during the 21st century,” the report notes. Pinpointing the impacts on agriculture will be difficult, said Sanford Eigenbrode of the University of Idaho, another co-author.

“As carbon dioxide levels rise, yields will increase for some plants, and more rainfall in winter could mean wetter soils in the spring, benefitting some crops,” Eigenbrode pointed out. “Those same conditions could adversely affect other crops. It is very difficult to say how changing climate will affect agriculture overall in the Northwest, but we can say that the availability of summer water will be a concern.”

Mote said there may be additional variables affecting agriculture, such what impacts the changing climate has on pests, diseases and invasive species.

“However, the agricultural sector is resilient and can respond more quickly to new conditions than some other sectors like forestry, where it takes 40 years or longer for trees to reach a harvestable age,” noted Mote, who is a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

The Northwest has not to date been vulnerable to many climate-related health risks, the report notes, but impacts of climate change in the future are more likely to be negative than positive. Concerns include increased morbidity and mortality from heat-related illness, air pollution and allergenic disease, and the emergence of infectious diseases.

“In Oregon, one study showed that each 10-degree (F) increase in daily maximum temperature was associated with a nearly three-fold increase of heat-related illness,” said Jeff Bethel, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and one of the co-authors of the report. “The threshold for triggering heat-related illness – especially among the elderly – isn’t much.”

Northwest tribes may face a greater impact from climate change because of their reliance on natural resources. Fish, shellfish, game and plant species could be adversely affected by a warming climate, resulting in a multitude of impacts.

“When tribes ceded their lands and were restricted to small areas, it resulted in a loss of access to many species that lived there,” said Kathy Lynn, coordinator of the Tribal Climate Change Project at the University of Oregon and a co-author of the report. “Climate change may further reduce the abundance of resources. That carries a profound cultural significance far beyond what we can document from an economic standpoint.”

Snover said that the climate changes projected for the coming decades mean that many of the assumptions “inherent in decisions, infrastructure and policies – where to build, what to grow where, and how to manage variable water sources to meet multiple needs – will become increasingly incorrect.

“Whether the ultimate consequences of the climate impacts outlined in this report are severe or mild depends in part on how well we prepare our communities, economies and natural systems for the changes we know are coming,” Snover said.

Other lead co-authors on the report are Rick Raymondi, Idaho Department of Water Resources; W. Spencer Reeder, Cascadia Consulting Group; Patty Glick, National Wildlife Federation; Susan Capalbo, OSU; and Jeremy Littell, U.S. Geological Survey.

Media Contact: 
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Philip Mote, 541-737-5694; pmote@coas.oregonstate.edu; Amy Snover, 206-221-0222; aksnover@uw.edu

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Major storm Coastal issues

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Excess omega-3 fatty acids could lead to negative health effects

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new review suggests that omega-3 fatty acids taken in excess could have unintended health consequences in certain situations, and that dietary standards based on the best available evidence need to be established.

“What looked like a slam dunk a few years ago may not be as clear cut as we thought,” said Norman Hord, associate professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and a coauthor on the paper.

“We are seeing the potential for negative effects at really high levels of omega-3 fatty acid consumption. Because we lack valid biomarkers for exposure and knowledge of who might be at risk if consuming excessive amounts, it isn’t possible to determine an upper limit at this time.”

Previous research led by Michigan State University’s Jenifer Fenton and her collaborators found that feeding mice large amounts of dietary omega-3 fatty acids led to increased risk of colitis and immune alteration. Those results were published in Cancer Research in 2010.

As a follow-up, in the current issue of the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes & Essential Fatty Acids, Fenton and her co-authors, including Hord, reviewed the literature and discuss the potential adverse health outcomes that could result from excess consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.

Studies have shown that omega-3s, also known as long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs), are associated with lower risk of sudden cardiac death and other cardiovascular disease outcomes.

“We were inspired to review the literature based on our findings after recent publications showed increased risk of advanced prostate cancer and atrial fibrillation in those with high blood levels of LCPUFAs,” Fenton said.

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which is one of the reasons they can be beneficial to heart health and inflammatory issues. However, the researchers said excess amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can alter immune function sometimes in ways that may lead to a dysfunctional immune response to a viral or bacterial infection.

“The dysfunctional immune response to excessive omega-3 fatty acid consumption can affect the body’s ability to fight microbial pathogens, like bacteria,” Hord said.

Generally, the researchers point out that the amounts of fish oil used in most studies are typically above what one could consume from foods or usual dosage of a dietary supplement. However, an increasing amount of products, such as eggs, bread, butters, oils and orange juice, are being “fortified” with omega-3s. Hord said this fortified food, coupled with fish oil supplement use, increases the potential for consuming these high levels.

“Overall, we support the dietary recommendations from the American Heart Association to eat fish, particularly fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, lake trout or sardines, at least two times a week, and for those at risk of coronary artery disease to talk to their doctor about supplements,” he said.

“Our main concern here is the hyper-supplemented individual, who may be taking high-dose omega-3 supplements and eating four to five omega-3-enriched foods per day,” Hord added. “This could potentially get someone to an excessive amount. As our paper indicates, there may be subgroups of those who may be at risk from consuming excess amounts of these fatty acids.”

Hord said there are no evidence-based standards for omega-3 intake and no way to tell who might be at health risk if they consume too high a level of these fatty acids.

“We’re not against using fish oil supplements appropriately, but there is a potential for risk,” Hord said. “As is all true with any nutrient, taking too much can have negative effects. We need to establish clear biomarkers through clinical trials. This is necessary in order for us to know who is eating adequate amounts of these nutrients and who may be deficient or eating too much.

“Until we establish valid biomarkers of omega-3 exposure, making good evidence-based dietary recommendations across potential dietary exposure ranges will not be possible.”

Sanjoy Ghosh from University of BC-Okanagan, Canada and Eric Gurzell from Michigan State University also contributed to this study, which was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Diabetes Association.

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Norman Hord, 541-737-5923

California’s new mental health system helps people live independently

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new analysis by Oregon State University researchers of California’s mental health system finds that comprehensive, community-based mental health programs are helping people with serious mental illness transition to independent living.

Published in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health, this study has important implications for the way that states finance and deliver mental health programs, and speaks to the effectiveness of well-funded, comprehensive community programs.

In November of 2004, California voters passed the Mental Health Services Act, which allocated more than $3 billion for comprehensive community mental health programs, known as Full Service Partnerships (FSP). While community-based, these programs are different from usual mental health services programs in most states because they provides a more intensive level of care and a broader range of mental health services and supports, such as medication management, crisis intervention, case management and peer support.

It also provides services such as food, housing, respite care and treatment for co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse.

“We found that these programs promoted independent living in the community among people who had serious mental illness but had not been served or underserved previously,” said Jangho Yoon, an assistant professor of health policy and health economist in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and lead author of the study. “Overall, it reduced their chance of living on the street or being incarcerated in jails and prisons.”

The researchers looked at data from 43 of California’s 53 counties, resulting in a sample of 9,208 adults over the course of four years. They found that participants who stayed enrolled in the program continuously, without interruption, were 13.5 percent more likely to successfully transition to independent living.

However, they found that non-white patients were less likely to live independently, and more likely to end up in jail or homeless.

“Although FSPs represent the most well-funded comprehensive community-based programs in the country, they are still community programs and therefore program participation is voluntary,” Yoon said.  “My guess is that minorities may not benefit fully from these programs in their communities possibly due to greater stigma, and less family/social supports. But it needs further investigation.”

Patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders were also less likely to benefit from the community programs, because of the nature and severity of their mental health issues.

Yoon is an expert on health management policy, specifically policy around the area of mental health. He said other states haven’t followed California’s lead, in part because of the cost of such extensive programming. Yoon said some of the funding made possible by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which includes $460 million for community mental health services for states to use, may help other states to create similar programs.

“Nobody would disagree that the public mental health system has historically been under-funded in the U.S.,” he said. “The message for other states is clear: investment in well-funded, recovery-oriented, comprehensive community mental health programs clearly improves lives of people with serious mental illness, and may also save money from reduced dependency and incarcerations in this population.”

Tim Bruckner of the University of California, Irvine, and Timothy Brown of the University of California, Berkeley, contributed to this study, which was jointly funded by the California Department of Mental Health and the California Health Care Foundation.

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Jangho Yoon, 541-737-3839

Autistic children with better motor skills more adept at socializing

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In a new study looking at toddlers and preschoolers with autism, researchers found that children with better motor skills were more adept at socializing and communicating.

Published online today in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, this study adds to the growing evidence of the important link between autism and motor skill deficits.

Lead author Megan MacDonald is an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University. She is an expert on the movement skills of children with autism spectrum disorder.

Researchers tested 233 children ages 14 to 49 months diagnosed with autism.

“Even at this early age, we are already seeing motor skills mapping on to their social and communicative skills,” MacDonald said. “Motor skills are embedded in everything we do, and for too long they have been studied separately from social and communication skills in children with autism.”

Developing motor skills is crucial for children and can also help develop better social skills. MacDonald said in one study, 12-year-olds with autism were performing physically at the same level as a 6-year-old.

“So they do have some motor skills, and they kind of sneak through the system,” she said. “But we have to wonder about the social implications of a 12-year-old who is running like a much younger child. So that quality piece is missing, and the motor skill deficit gets bigger as they age.”

In MacDonald’s study, children who tested higher for motor skills were also better at “daily living skills,” such as talking, playing, walking, and requesting things from their parents.

“We can teach motor skills and intervene at young ages,” MacDonald said. “Motor skills and autism have been separated for too long. This gives us another avenue to consider for early interventions.”

MacDonald said some programs run by experts in adaptive physical education focus on both the motor skill development and communicative side. She said because autism spectrum disorder is a disability that impacts social skills so dramatically, the motor skill deficit tends to be pushed aside.

“We don’t quite understand how this link works, but we know it’s there,” she said. “We know that those children can sit up, walk, play and run seem to also have better communication skills.

This study was coauthored by Catherine Lord of Weill Cornell Medical College and Dale Ulrich of the University of Michigan. It was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Simons Foundation, First Words and Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Michigan.

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Megan MacDonald, 541-737-3273

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Researcher Megan MacDonald practices important motor skills, like throwing a ball, with a child. (photo courtesy of OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences)

People with disabilities experience unrecognized health disparities, new research shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – People with disabilities have unmet medical needs and poorer overall health throughout their lives, and as a result should be recognized as a health disparity group so more attention can be directed to improving their quality of life, a team of policy researchers has found.

“Many of the health concerns of people with disabilities, including diabetes, heart disease and obesity, are largely preventive and unrelated to the disability,” said Gloria Krahn of Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. Krahn is lead author on a new paper advocating the recognition.

“There’s no overt reason, based on the diagnosed condition, that people with disabilities should have higher rates of these diseases,” said Krahn, the Barbara E. Knudson Endowed Chair in Family Policy and a professor of practice in public health at OSU. “There may always be some disparity in health because of a person’s disability, but people can have disabilities and also be healthy.”

The researchers’ findings were published this month in an article in the “American Journal of Public Health.” Co-authors are Deborah Klein Walker of Abt Associates and Rosaly Correa-de-Araujo of the National Institutes of Health. The article was based on research conducted primarily while Krahn was working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People with significant disabilities – defined federally as functional limitations of movement, vision, hearing or problem-solving – make up about 12 percent of the U.S. population. Reducing the incidence of preventable diseases in this population could lead to improved quality of life as well as significant reductions in health care costs, Krahn said.

Race and ethnicity are used to define health disparity populations by state and federal governments. Disability is not recognized as a disparity population, even though people with disabilities are, on average, in poorer health than the rest of the population. Adults with disabilities are 2.5 times more likely to report skipping or delaying health care because of costs and they have higher rates of chronic disease than the general population, for example.

Establishing disability as a health disparity group is a way of bringing attention to a group that clearly has unmet needs, Krahn said.

The researchers suggest that recognizing people with disabilities as a health disparity population could lead to:

  • Improved access to health care and human services for the disabled;
  • Increased data on the disabled population, aiding in policy-making;
  • Added training for health care providers, strengthening the workforce and improving care for the disabled;
  • Improved public health programs that are designed to be inclusive of people with disabilities;
  • Enhanced emergency-preparedness; people with disabilities can be especially vulnerable in emergency or disaster situations.

A focus on the health disparity could lead to creation of health promotion materials that are accessible to people with disabilities; development of weight-loss or smoking cessation programs to serve the disabled; and emergency evacuation and shelter training for people with disabilities, Krahn suggested.

“To say that disability is a health disparity will mark a significant shift in approach toward health care of people with disabilities,” Krahn said. “It would influence public health practice, research and policy.”

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Gloria Krahn, 541-737-3605, Gloria.krahn@oregonstate.edu

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Gloria Krahn

Smoke-free campus policy enjoys wide support, new OSU research shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Students, faculty and staff at Oregon State University have largely embraced a new policy that prohibits smoking on the Corvallis campus, but the policy change hasn’t completely eliminated secondhand smoke exposure, new research shows.

A campus-wide study of the first year of the university’s smoke-free policy showed that 72 percent of students and 77 percent of faculty were in support of the new policy, which took effect in September 2012. That number is expected to rise as people become accustomed to the policy, said Marc Braverman, a professor and Extension specialist in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and the study’s lead author.

“The more people live with the change, the more supportive they tend to become,” Braverman said. “We’re not trying to force smokers to quit. We’re trying to address the health concerns brought on by secondhand smoke. This is a clean air policy.”

However, about 77 percent of students and 55 percent of faculty and staff who responded to a survey on the policy reported that they had encountered secondhand smoke near the periphery of the campus within the previous two weeks. In addition, 29 percent of students and 18 percent of faculty and staff said they had been exposed to secondhand smoke near a building entrance on campus in that same time period.

The shift of smoking to campus boundaries is to be expected if people are following the policy, and other universities have experienced the same problem, Braverman said. One of the next steps is figuring out how to reduce the impact of that shift, both in terms of secondhand smoke exposure and other issues, including an increase in cigarette butts and other trash in common smoking locations just off campus.

Findings from the study were published in the February issue of the journal, “Preventive Medicine.” Co-authors are Lisa Hoogesteger, director of OSU’s Healthy Campus Initiatives, and Jessica Johnson, who was a graduate student in public health when the research was conducted. The study was supported by OSU and a grant from PacificSource Health Plans.

Researchers wanted to evaluate the policy implementation because more and more colleges and universities are adopting smoke-free or tobacco-free campus policies, Braverman said. When the idea was initially proposed at OSU in 2008, only 130 campuses nationwide were smoke-free or tobacco-free. As of last month, that number has jumped to 1,500 campuses, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, an advocacy group that tracks tobacco policies nationwide.

“It’s gotten to be quite a popular movement, but there is not a lot of information about the best ways to implement a policy like this or what a campus should expect when it does,” Braverman said.

In spring 2013, after almost a full academic year with the policy in place, the researchers invited all students, staff and faculty at OSU’s Corvallis campus to take a web-based survey. More than 5,600 students and 2,000 faculty and staff members responded.

The research team found that there was widespread awareness of the policy change: 89 percent of nonsmoking students and 90 percent of smoking students knew OSU was a nonsmoking campus, while 92 percent of nonsmoking faculty and staff and 99 percent of smoking faculty and staff knew about the policy.

The survey results offer a snapshot of how the policy has been received. Researchers cannot say whether the policy had more or less support at the time of the survey than when it was first enacted because they do not have comparable survey results from that prior point in time.

Survey results showed that nonsmokers were much more likely to favor the policy than smokers. Researchers also found that women were more supportive of the policy than men; international students were more supportive than students from the U.S.; and students who live in a residence hall or belong to a fraternity or sorority were somewhat less likely to support the policy.

While support for the policy was widespread, only 22 percent of students and 29 percent of faculty and staff said they would ask a smoker to put out a cigarette if they saw somebody smoking on campus.

“Enforcement poses some logistical challenges,” Hoogesteger said. “And there are going to be people who challenge the policy.”

Adding signage about the new policy across campus and continuing to educate people about the policy are two ways to help ensure the policy is followed, Hoogesteger said. Secondhand smoke exposure and increased trash in areas near campus boundaries are concerns that need addressing. The university, in conjunction with state and local health officials, also offers resources to help people quit smoking, if they choose to, the researchers said.

More information about Oregon State’s smoke-free policy, including a summary of the study, is available online at www.oregonstate.edu/smokefree.

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Marc Braverman, 541-737-1021, marc.braverman@oregonstate.edu; Lisa Hoogesteger, 541-737-3343, lisa.hoogesteger@oregonstate.edu

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Smoke-free campus sign

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Treadmill desks offer limited benefits, pose challenges in the workplace, study shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Treadmill desks can help overweight or obese office workers get out of their chairs and get moving, but a 12-week study by an Oregon State University researcher found that the increase in physical activity was small and did not help workers meet public health guidelines for daily exercise.

Introducing treadmill desks in the workplace also can pose logistical challenges that may not make such a program feasible for companies, said John M. Schuna, Jr., an assistant professor of exercise and sports science in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

In a small study of treadmill desk use by overweight and obese office workers, Schuna and his colleagues found that workers who used the desks increased their average number of daily steps by more than 1,000, but did not record any significant weight loss or changes in Body Mass Index after 12 weeks. The employees only used the treadmills about half the time they were asked to, averaging one session and 45 minutes a day on the machines, Schuna said.

“Treadmill desks aren’t an effective replacement for regular exercise, and the benefits of the desks may not justify the cost and other challenges that come with implementing them,” Schuna said.

His findings were published recently in the “Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.” Co-authors include Damon L. Swift of East Carolina University and several researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The research was supported by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.

Treadmill desks have been gaining popularity as a solution for helping sedentary workers out of their desk chairs during the work day. Schuna and his colleagues wanted to evaluate the effectiveness of such desks in changing workers’ behavior.

“There’s been a societal shift to more sedentary work and we are not making it up in our leisure time,” Schuna said. “We were trying to identify ways we could increase physical activity and combat the decline in occupational physical activity we’ve seen in the past 50 years.”

The study targeted overweight and obese office workers whose jobs at a private health insurance company required continuous desk work. About 40 employees participated in the 12-week study, with half using the treadmills and the other half serving as a control group for comparison.

While the participants who used treadmills did increase their daily step counts, they tended, on average, to walk at about 1.8 miles an hour, a speed that would generally be considered light intensity physical activity. Public health guidelines suggest adults need 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity several days a week.

“This was not moderate-intensity exercise,” Schuna said. “One of the challenges with the treadmill desk is that it needs to be lower-intensity activity so employees can still perform their work duties.”

There may be cardiovascular or other benefits when people begin increasing their steps, even in small amounts at low intensity, but reversing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle would likely require more activity, including moderate or vigorous exercise, he said.

Researchers faced several challenges with the study, including difficulty recruiting employees to participate. Initially, more than 700 employees of the company were targeted for recruitment, with roughly 10 percent of them expressing interest in participating. Some of those employees were deemed ineligible for the study for a variety of reasons, while others did not receive approval from a supervisor.

They also found work considerations often kept employees from using the desks, even though the company had approved and encouraged employees to participate in the program. Employees shared the treadmill desks, which required scheduling the time they would be using them.

Schuna said the findings from this study indicate that future research on exercise in the workplace should focus on interventions that avoid some of the pitfalls that come with treadmill desks.

“We need to identify some form of physical activity that can be done simply and at a low cost in an office setting,” he said.

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John Schuna, 541-737-1536, john.schuna@oregonstate.edu

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John Schuna Jr

Office treadmill Exercise

OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research seeks volunteers for research registry

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University is recruiting volunteers to join a registry for possible participation in future studies related to the health and well-being of middle-aged and older adults.

People age 50 and older who live in Oregon are invited to sign up for the LIFE Registry. Those who join the registry will receive information about opportunities to participate in OSU research. Joining the registry does not obligate volunteers to be in any study.

The registry provides OSU researchers affiliated with the Center for Healthy Aging Research with contact information for people who may be interested in participating in studies or are a good match for a particular study. When a registry member is contacted, they will receive information about a study and then can decide whether or not to participate.

The registry is used by about 40 OSU faculty members affiliated with the Center for Healthy Aging Research. Studies conducted by faculty affiliated with the center might involve biological processes, exercise, balance, diet, families, psychological processes or new technologies for helping older adults to age in their own homes. Registry members have participated in several studies related to driving, for example, including research on the understandability of traffic signs and using back-up cameras.

Studies vary in length; some can be completed in less than an hour while others may last for several months or more. Depending on the type and nature of the research, studies may completed online or over the phone, or they may take place on the OSU campus, in the community or in the volunteer’s home.

The registry includes about 500 people now and organizers would like to add 500 more volunteers. The goal is to include volunteers of all backgrounds and there are no health requirements. Registry information is confidential and will be released only to Center for Healthy Aging Research faculty and their staff.

For more information about the registry, visit http://bit.ly/15v5NF9 and fill out the online volunteer form. Interested volunteers may also call 541-737-4993.

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Holly Lenz, 541-737-4993, holly.lenz@oregonstate.edu

Self-regulation intervention boosts school readiness of at-risk children, study shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An intervention that uses music and games to help preschoolers learn self-regulation skills is helping prepare at-risk children for kindergarten, a new study from Oregon State University shows.

Self-regulation skills – the skills that help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task and persist through difficulty – are critical to a child’s success in kindergarten and beyond, said OSU’s Megan McClelland, a nationally recognized expert in child development and a co-author of the new study.

“Most children do just fine in the transition to kindergarten, but 20 to 25 percent of them experience difficulties – those difficulties have a lot to do with self-regulation,” McClelland said. “Any intervention you can develop to make that transition easier can be beneficial.”

The results of the new study are notable because positive effects of an intervention, especially one that aims to improve self-regulation and academic achievement, can be difficult for researchers to find, said McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

The intervention was most effective among children who are considered at highest risk for struggling in school – those from low-income backgrounds who are learning English as a second language. In addition to a positive effect on self-regulation, the intervention had a positive effect on math achievement for English language learners.

“The math gain was huge,” McClelland said. “English language learners who were randomly assigned to the intervention showed a one-year gain in six months. This was in spite of the fact that we had no math content in these games.”

That indicates that children were more likely to integrate the self-regulation skills they’ve learned into their everyday lives, McClelland said. It also supports previous research finding strong links between self-regulation and math skills.

The study was published recently in “Early Childhood Research Quarterly.”  Lead author Sara A. Schmitt conducted the research as a doctoral student at OSU and now is an assistant professor at Purdue University. In addition to McClelland, the other authors of the study are Alan C. Acock of Oregon State and Shauna L. Tominey of Yale University.

In all, 276 children enrolled in federally funded Head Start and Oregon Prekindergarten programs for at-risk children in the Pacific Northwest participated in the study. Children ranged in age from three to five, with most about four years old. Children were randomly assigned to either a control group or the intervention program.

The intervention ran for eight weeks, with two 20- to 30-minute sessions each week. Research assistants came into classes and led children through movement and music-based games that increased in complexity over time and encouraged the children to practice self-regulation skills.

One game used in the activities was “Red Light, Purple Light,” which is similar to “Red Light, Green Light.” A researcher acted as a stoplight and held up construction-paper circles to represent stop and go. Children followed color cues, such as purple is stop and orange is go, and then switched to the opposite, where purple is go and orange is stop.

Additional rules are added later to increase the complexity of the game. The game requires children to listen and remember instructions, pay attention to the adult leading the game and resist natural inclinations to stop or go.

“It’s about helping the children practice better control,” McClelland said. “The games train them to stop, think and then act.”  

Researchers evaluated children’s self-regulation and academic achievement before and after the intervention and found that children who had received the intervention scored significantly higher on two direct measures of self-regulation. English language learners who participated in the intervention also scored significantly higher in math than their peers in the control group.

Researchers want to continue improving the games used in the intervention and expand the use of the intervention to more children, McClelland said. Because the games are somewhat simple and require few materials, training teachers is fairly easy and the program is relatively low-cost for schools, she said.

The study was supported by a grant from the Ford Family Foundation and by OSU.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Megan McClelland, 541-737-9225, megan.mcclelland@oregonstate.edu

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Multimedia: 

Researcher Sara Schmitt works with a child

Sara Schmitt

 

Megan McClelland

Megan McClelland