OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of public health and human sciences

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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Megan MacDonald
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)

Changes in processing, handling could reduce commercial fishing injuries, research shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Handling frozen fish caused nearly half of all injuries aboard commercial freezer-trawlers and about a quarter of the injuries on freezer-longliner vessels operating off the coast of Alaska, new research from Oregon State University shows.

Many of those injuries and others aboard the two types of vessels could be prevented with the right interventions, and the research methods used in the study could help identify and reduce injuries and fatalities in other types of commercial fishing, said researcher Devin Lucas. His findings were published in the “American Journal of Industrial Medicine.”

“We’ve drilled down to such a detailed level in the injury data that we can actually address specific hazards and develop prevention strategies,” said Lucas, who recently received his Ph.D. in public health from OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and works for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the Alaska Pacific office.  

Lucas’ study is the first scientific assessment of the risk of fishing on freezer-trawlers and freezer-longliners. In both types of vessels, the processing of fish is handled on-board. The vessels had reputations for being among the most dangerous in commercial fishing in part because of a few incidents that resulted in multiple fatalities.

However, an analysis of 12 years of injury data showed that fishing on the freezer vessels was less risky than many other types of commercial fishing, which is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, Lucas said. The rate of injury on freezer-trawlers was about the same as the national average for commercial fishing, while the rate aboard freezer-longliners was about half of the national average.

“The reality is that many fisheries elsewhere in the U.S., including Oregon Dungeness crabbing, are much more dangerous,” Lucas said.

His review of injury data indicated that the majority of injuries in the freezer-trawler fleet occurred in the factories and freezer holds, while the most common injuries in the freezer-longliner fleet occurred on deck while working the fishing gear. Injuries from processing and handling fish were also common on the longliners, the research showed.

Study co-author Laurel Kincl, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health and safety in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, said the methods used in the research, including describing and categorizing the types of injuries, can now be applied to other commercial fishing industries to identify safety issues and pinpoint areas for prevention.

“Not all commercial fishing is the same,” Kincl said. “You have different equipment, different processes.”

Kincl said researchers are hoping to build from this research and explore other fishing-related injuries and prevention strategies. The Dungeness crab industry is one area that may be explored and another is land-based fish-processing, she said.

Additional authors of the study were Viktor E. Bovbjerg and Adam J. Branscum, associate professors in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and Jennifer M. Lincoln of NIOSH. The research was supported by OSU and NIOSH.

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Devin Lucas, 907-271-2386, dlucas@cdc.gov

Laurel Kincl, 541-737-1445, Laurel.kincl@oregonstate.edu

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Devin Lucas

Researcher Devin Lucas

Mistrust, discrimination influence Latino health care satisfaction

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Mistrust of the medical community and perceived discrimination by health care providers can affect how satisfied young adult Latinos in rural Oregon are with their health care, new research from Oregon State University shows.

Health care satisfaction, or the lack of, could influence health outcomes for patients, affect participation in health care programs under the new Affordable Care Act, and contribute to disparities in health care access for Latinos, said lead researcher Daniel López-Cevallos, associate director of research for the Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement at OSU

“Health care reform is about people getting insurance so they have access to services, but mistrust may lead people to delay care,” López-Cevallos said.

Findings of the research were published recently in “The Journal of Rural Health.”  The article was co-authored by S. Marie Harvey, associate dean and professor of public health, and Jocelyn T. Warren, assistant research professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. Harvey received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the research.

Researchers surveyed 387 young adult Latinos, 18 to 25, living in rural Oregon. Patient satisfaction information was collected as part of a larger study about health issues among young, rural Latinos. Participants were not asked about their immigration status; more than half, about 58 percent, were born outside the U.S. and the average length of U.S. residency was 13.8 years.

The majority of participants, about 73 percent, reported being moderately or very satisfied with their health care. Among those who were not satisfied, medical mistrust and perceived discrimination were identified as factors. Other factors including age and health insurance did not affect satisfaction, the study showed.

The research suggests a need to improve “cultural competency” among health care providers, from the doctors to the receptionists to the lab technicians, so Latinos are treated with respect and dignity, the researchers said. A bilingual/bicultural workforce may be more effective in addressing health issues affecting a patient.

“Trust is huge; it allows patients to disclose concerns and be honest,” Harvey said. “In a previous study we conducted, young adult Latino men reported that ‘confianza,’ a term that encompasses trust, respect, level of communication and confidentiality, affected their access to and use of health care services.  

Efforts to enroll Latinos in health care programs under the Affordable Care Act won’t be successful if patients don’t feel comfortable at their doctor’s office, López-Cevallos said.

“These are young, healthy adults,” he said. “We want them in our health insurance pools to help average the risk and keep costs down. This is an opportunity, but we have a lot of work to do.”

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S. Marie Harvey, 541-737-3824, Marie.harvey@oregonstate.edu

Daniel López-Cevallos, 541-737-3850, Daniel.lopez-cevallos@oregonstate.edu

Behavior problems in preschool and child care centers may be an issue of genes

BEND, Ore. – A new study suggests that some children may be genetically predisposed to developing behavioral problems in child care and preschool settings.

Previous research has found that some children develop behavior problems at child care centers and preschools, despite the benefit of academic gains. It was never known, however, why some youngsters struggle in these settings and others flourish. The new study indicates that some children may be acting out due to poor self-control and temperament problems that they inherited from their parents.

The study’s lead author Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at Oregon State University-Cascades, said the findings point to the reason that some children develop problem behavior at care centers, despite the best efforts of teachers and caregivers. The results are published online today in the International Journal of Behavioral Development.

“Assuming that findings like this are replicated, we can stop worrying so much that all children will develop behavior problems at center-based care facilities, because it has been a concern,” she said. “But some children (with this genetic predisposition) may be better able to manage their behavior in a different setting, in a home or smaller group size.”

Researchers from Oregon State University and other institutions collected data in 10 states from 233 families linked through adoption and obtained genetic data from birth parents as well as the children. They found that birth parents who had high rates of negative emotion and self-control, based on a self-reported temperament scale, were more likely to have children who struggled with behavioral issues such as lack of self-control and anger, in child care centers. They controlled for adoptive parent’s characteristics, and still found a modest effect based on the genetic link.

“We aren’t recommending that children are genetically tested, but parents and caregivers can assess a child’s needs and help them get to a setting that might be more appropriate,” Lipscomb said. “This study helps us to explain why some children struggle so much with large peer groups and heightened social interactions. It may not be a problem with a teacher or parent, but that they are struggling on a biological level.”`

Lipscomb is in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. She is an expert on early childhood development and school readiness, and is particularly interested in adult influences on young children.

Researchers from the University of Oregon, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh, University of California, Riverside, Yale Child Study Center, and Oregon Social Learning Center contributed to this study, which was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

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Shannon Lipscomb, 541-322-3137

OSU receives $1.25 million CDC grant to study Medicaid expansion in Oregon

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and the Oregon Health Authority have received $1.25 million from the Centers for Disease Control to study the health impact of opening the Oregon Health Plan to more people.

The five-year study will evaluate how the health of low-income women and their infants is affected when more of them are eligible for Medicaid health care coverage, i.e., the Oregon Health Plan. According to researchers, this study’s results will inform health reform efforts in Oregon and across the nation, as many states and communities undergo sweeping changes under the Affordable Care Act.

The OSU team will be led by researchers in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, including Marie Harvey, Jeff Luck, Jocelyn Warren and Jangho Yoon.

“Oregon is an ideal state to conduct this study because of its ongoing commitment to Medicaid health care delivery for all, and the commitment of state leaders to collaborate to ensure this program’s success,” said Harvey, associate dean for research in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and one of the grant’s principal investigators.

One of the study’s goals will be to create an integrated, state-level data system that links de-identified Medicaid information with other existing health care data, such as from hospitals and birth and death certificates. This data system will help answer critical questions about the effect of Medicaid expansion on the use of health services and health outcomes among women and their children. A diverse group of county and community groups in the state with interest in maternal and child health will participate in setting research priorities for the study.

The project has been endorsed by Gov. John Kitzhaber, who has led the state’s efforts on implementation of comprehensive reform of Oregon’s Medicaid financing and delivery system. The research will also be helpful as Oregon looks towards the adoption of a more coordinated care model across all types of health care delivery systems.

“This project is an ideal complement to ongoing health system innovation and reforms in Oregon,” said Mike Bonetto, senior health care policy adviser to Gov. Kitzhaber. “This project will play a key role in our action plan by providing concrete data on how we can improve the health care and health outcomes of Medicaid-eligible women and their infants, a particularly vulnerable population.” 

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Marie Harvey, 541-737-3824

Bob Moore to give talk, free cooking demonstration, on Oct. 9

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Bob Moore, founding CEO of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, will give a free, public talk and a cooking demonstration at Oregon State University on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

At noon, Moore will give a talk on “Bob Moore and the Bob's Red Mill Story – The Importance of Whole Grains,” in the Construction and Engineering Hall of LaSells Stewart Center, 875 S.W. 26th St., Corvallis. At 1 p.m., Moore and Lori Sobelson, instructor and director of corporate outreach for Bob's Red Mill, will conduct a food and cooking demonstration titled “Cooking with Ancient Grains."

The event is sponsored by OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and its Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Public Health.

Recipes and food samples will be given to those who attend. Questions may be sent to moorefamilycenter@oregonstate.edu

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Emily Ho, 541-737-9559

Traber honored for research on vitamin E

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Maret Traber, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, and principal investigator in the Linus Pauling Institute, has received an international honor for her work on vitamin E.

Traber received the DSM Nutritional Science Award 2013 on fundamental or applied research in human nutrition, which included an honorarium of 50,000 Euros. It recognizes her lifetime commitment to research on vitamin E and many new insights into its role in human nutrition and optimum health.

Traber is director of the Oxidative and Nitrative Stress Laboratory at OSU and is the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Micronutrient Research. She has published nearly 250 professional publications on vitamin E, on such topics as its bioavailability, kinetics, metabolism, and effects of vitamin E deficiency – especially in people with particular health concerns, such as burn victims or diabetics.

She received the award in Granada, Spain at the IUNS 20th International Congress of Nutrition.

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Maret Traber, 541-737-7977

ACL injuries may be prevented by different landing strategy

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Women are two to eight times more likely than men to suffer a debilitating tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee and a new study suggests that a combination of body type and landing techniques may be to blame.

In two new studies published online this week in the Journal of Athletic Training, lead author Marc Norcross of Oregon State University documents how women who were asked to undergo a series of jumping exercises landed more often than men in a way associated with elevated risk of ACL injuries.

Both men and women tended to land stiffly, which can lead to ACL injuries, but women were 3.6 times more likely to land in a “knock-kneed” position, which the researchers say may be the critical factor leading to the gender disparity in ACL tears.

“We found that both men and women seem to be using their quad region the same, so that couldn’t explain why females are more at risk,” Norcross said. “Using motion analysis, we were able to pinpoint that this inability to control the frontal-plane knee loading – basically stress on the knee from landing in a knock-kneed position – as a factor more common in women.

“Future research may isolate why women tend to land this way,” he added, “but it could in part be because of basic biology. Women have wider hips, making it more likely that their knees come together after jumping.”

Norcross, an assistant professor of exercise and sport science in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, is a former collegiate athletic trainer dedicating his research to the prevention of ACL tears.

“You see ACL injuries in any sport where you have a lot of jump stops and cuts, so basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and volleyball are high-risk sports,” said Norcross. “We know that people who hurt themselves tend to look stiff when they land and that the combined ‘knee loading’ from multiple directions is likely causing the injury event. But it wasn’t clear initially why women had more injuries than men.”

The researchers used motion analysis software to monitor the landing strategies of 82 physically active men and women. They found that both males and females had an equal likelihood of landing stiffly – likely from tensing the muscles in their quads before landing – putting them at higher risk of ACL tears. Women, however, were more likely to land in a “knee valgus” position, essentially knock-kneed.

Norcross said his next research project will focus on high school athletes, looking at a sustainable way to integrate injury prevention into team warm-up activities through improving landing technique.

“We are trying to create a prevention strategy that is sustainable and will be widely used by high school coaches,” he said. “A lot of athletes do come back from an ACL injury, but it is a long road. And the real worry is that it leads to early onset arthritis, which then impacts their ability to stay physically active.”

This study was supported by the NATA Research & Education Foundation Doctoral Grant Program.

Researchers from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Greensboro contributed to this study.

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Marc Norcross, 541-737-6788

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ACL jumping landing
Biomechanical model of a female using a “knock-kneed” technique and experiencing high frontal plane knee loading during a jump landing.

Science Pub focuses on getting ready for school

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If you want to know if your kindergartener will succeed in school, look to Simon Says for an answer. Or to Red Light/Green Light. Or to the marshmallow game. 

At the Corvallis Science Pub on Sept. 9, Megan McClelland will demonstrate how these and other tasks can be used to determine if a child is ready for school. Her Science Pub presentation begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, located at 341 S.W. Second St. in Corvallis. It is free and open to the public.

“We’re talking about being able to sit still, follow directions and play well with other kids,” said McClelland, an associate professor in the Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences. To be prepared for school, “they need to have some self-control as well as some basic academic skills.”

These games, she added, give children an opportunity to demonstrate self-regulation, the ability to control their behavior, thoughts and emotions.

McClelland specializes in early childhood development, but self-regulation turns out to be critical for success later in life as well. In 2012, McClelland reported that stronger self-regulation in young children is associated with later success in college.

McClelland is the director of the Early Childhood Research Core in the Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families at Oregon State. Her research focuses on social and cognitive development in young children and pathways to school readiness.

Sponsors of Science Pub include Terra magazine at OSU, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

 

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Megan McClelland, 541-737-9225

Runs to benefit OSU’s MS Exercise Program held Sept. 21

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Two different runs will be held Saturday, Sept. 21, at Willamette Park to benefit Oregon State University’s Multiple Sclerosis Exercise Program, an individualized exercise program for people with multiple sclerosis.

The events will include a 4-mile timed trail run and a 2-mile fun run/walk accessible for people with limited mobility. Participants in the program receive free one-on-one assistance from OSU graduate students who are studying improved health for people with disabilities in the Movement Studies in Disability program, which is housed in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

The cost for the event, titled Corvallis Run for Your Life, is $15 for the 4-mile run and $10 for the 2-mile run/walk. All proceeds benefit the MS Exercise Program. To sign up, go to http://corvallisrunforyourlife.com/

Corvallis resident and OSU employee Rachel Robertson is organizing the event on behalf of her sister, Andrea Weiser. Weiser grew up in Corvallis and graduated from Crescent Valley High School in 1986. An avid outdoorswoman and athlete, Weiser was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago.

“When she first was diagnosed, she could barely walk,” Robertson said. “She is working her way back up now. It’s very important to stay active when you have MS, and the program at OSU provides such an essential service for so many in the community.”

Sponsors of the Run for Your Life include OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute, Coffee Culture, Encore Physical Therapy, Corvallis Radiology, Corvallis Sport and Spine Physical Therapy, Mazama Brewing, Pride Printing Company, Samaritan Health Services, and Ryan Sparks, DMD.

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Rachel Robertson, 541-230-1282