college of public health and human sciences

Safe spaces play important role in community-based HIV prevention, research finds

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The creation and sustainment of “safe spaces” may play a critical role in community-based HIV prevention efforts by providing social support and reducing environmental barriers for vulnerable populations, a new study from an Oregon State University researcher has found.

Safe spaces often are run by community-based organizations working with vulnerable populations. They can be used to provide social support and services such as job and education assistance and health testing and treatment. Such spaces appear to be an important but under-used public health tool for prevention and treatment of HIV, said Jonathan Garcia, lead author of the study and an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

“These safe spaces serve as surrogate homes, creating an environment with a brotherhood or family undertone for men who have often been marginalized by their families and communities and do not trust public institutions such as churches, schools or law enforcement agencies,” he said. “Often they have no other place to go.”

Garcia studies how social experiences influence health, with a focus on developing new public health approaches to address needs of vulnerable populations and communities. His latest research was published recently in the journal PLOS ONE.

Co-authors of the paper are Caroline Parker, Richard G. Parker and Patrick A. Wilson and Jennifer S. Hirsch of Columbia University and Morgan M. Philbin of the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. The research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

For the study, researchers spent nearly a year conducting observations and in-depth interviews with 31 black men who were gay or bisexual, or who may not have identified as such but who had sex with other men. They also interviewed 17 others with knowledge of the men and the safe spaces they frequented in the New York City area. 

They focused on black men who have sex with other men because that population is considered particularly vulnerable to HIV, Garcia said. While these men make up just 2 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for about 75 percent of new HIV infections between 2008 and 2010.

About half of the men interviewed were homeless or were living in unstable housing situations and nearly half were unemployed. About two-thirds of the men had some kind of health insurance, with 17 receiving federal Medicaid. 

The researchers found that these men were using safe spaces as places to hang out and connect, but they also served to address vulnerabilities, including exposure to violence; lack of social support; feelings of fear or mistrust against institutions or law enforcement; and limited employment opportunities.

Addressing those issues and providing a safe, community environment provides a better basis for which men are open and amenable to seeking HIV testing and treatment, Garcia said. 

“The meaning of safety is different for people who don’t feel like they are safe at home, or that the police are on their side,” Garcia said. “Safe spaces help create that feeling of security not found elsewhere.”

The findings are already being used to help shape a clinical trial that is now under way. Men who are at substantial risk of exposure to HIV are given daily HIV medication even though they have not contracted the disease. The goal of this pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PREP, is to prevent HIV infection from taking hold if the person is exposed. The trial incorporates the use of safe spaces, both in person and in online settings, for the men receiving the treatment, Garcia said. 

Safe spaces also could be used in prevention and treatment of other diseases that carry a stigma, including sexually-transmitted infections and Hepatitis C, which is common among intravenous drug users, he said.

One problem facing organizations that operate safe spaces is funding, Garcia said. The safe spaces often are the first thing eliminated when a group or organization experiences a funding shortfall. The rationale is to use funds first on treatment or prevention services. 

“Safe spaces are recognized as something important but are more unofficial,” he said. But the spaces can play such a critical role in educating and providing health services to the affected men that eliminating the spaces could reduce the effectiveness of health programs, Garcia said.

“If that support is what they are lacking, then providing it is likely to help them continue to seek treatment and services,” he said.

Media Contact: 

Jonathan Garcia, 541-737-1609, jonathan.garcia@oregonstate.edu

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Jonathan Garcia

Jonathan Garcia

Changing habits to improve health: New study indicates behavior changes work

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Improving your heart health may be as simple as making small behavioral changes – a new study of behavioral health interventions suggests that they are effective at helping people alter their lifestyles and lead to physical changes that could improve overall health.

The findings also indicate a shift is needed in the way such interventions are evaluated by researchers and used by health care providers, said Veronica Irvin of Oregon State University, a co-author of the study just published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine

Behavioral treatments such as individual counseling or group training to improve nutrition or physical activity, reduce or stop smoking, or adhere to a drug treatment plan, often are overlooked because medical care providers tend to believe it is too difficult for people the make changes to their established lifestyles, said Irvin, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

But large clinical drug trials for potential new medications often fail to show that those treatments make patients better, and drugs sometimes are associated with undesirable side effects, she said. Modification of health behavior is another option for health providers and their patients, Irvin explained, but is underutilized in clinical medical practice as well as in public health policy because many providers remain unconvinced that people can change their behavior to improve their health. 

She and her co-author, Robert M. Kaplan of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, conducted a comprehensive and systematic review of large-budget studies funded by the National Institutes of Health that involved behavioral interventions such as individual counseling or group training to improve nutrition or physical activity, reduce or stop smoking, or adhere to a drug treatment plan.

More than 80 percent of the randomized clinical trials that included a behavioral intervention reported a significant improvement for the targeted behavior and a significant physiological impact such a reduction in weight or blood pressure. Greater improvements were observed when the intervention simultaneously targeted two behaviors, such as nutrition and physical activity, which are considered lifestyle behaviors. 

“This research suggests that behavioral interventions should be taken more seriously,” Irvin said. “It indicates that people are able to achieve realistic behavioral changes and improve their cardiovascular health.”

But the researchers also noted that few of the studies documented morbidity and mortality outcomes that are often required for drug trials. Previous research by Irvin and Kaplan found that most drug trials fail to reduce mortality. Behavioral interventions should be studied in a similar fashion, Irvin said. 

“There are more positive outcomes with these trials, but they don’t often measure mortality,” Irvin said.

“The next step for behavioral trials should be to measure results using clinical outcomes, such as the number of heart attacks and hospitalizations, experienced by participants.”  

Most behavior interventions reviewed for the study showed benefits using surrogate markers for these kinds of clinical events. For example, treatments for high cholesterol have the goal of reducing heart attacks and extending life. Measures of cholesterol are surrogate markers because they are believed to be related to the clinical goal of reducing deaths. 

But the surrogate markers are not always predictive of clinical outcomes, which is a potential concern for medical researchers. Future behavioral trials should investigate these clinical events as they would be in a traditional drug trial, Irvin said.

In this study, 17 trials reported a morbidity outcome, with seven showing a significant effect on reducing morbidity outcomes such as hospitalization or cardiovascular events. 

Irvin and Kaplan began work on the study while the two worked together in the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Behavior and Social Science Research. They reviewed all large-budget clinical trials evaluating behavioral interventions for the treatment or prevention of cardiovascular disease that had received funding from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute or the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive and Kidney Diseases between 1980 and 2012.

In all, 38 studies were included in the research. They were did not include 20 large-budget trials from the period in this study because no results from those trials have been published. 

This underscores the need for more publication of research even if the outcomes were not as expected, Irvin said. Publishing these null outcomes prevents the unnecessary replication of studies and also may inform doctors and patients about which treatments are not likely to be helpful.

Media Contact: 

Veronica Irvin, 541-737-1074, Veronica.Irvin@oregonstate.edu

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Veronica Irvin

Veronica Irvin

Gene therapy could aid weight loss without affecting bone loss, new research finds

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Delivering the hormone leptin directly to the brain through gene therapy aids weight loss without the significant side effect of bone loss, according to new collaborative research from Oregon State University and University of Florida.

Rapid or significant weight loss through dieting can trigger bone loss. Loss of bone density, in turn, can lead to increased susceptibility to bone fractures in older adults, which can have a debilitating effect on quality of life. 

The bone loss is most concerning in people whose weight fluctuates due to “yo-yo” dieting, or repeated cycles of weight gain and loss, because bone lost during weight loss is not typically regained when the person gains weight again, said Urszula Iwaniec, an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

“Weight loss is generally good for you if you are seriously overweight, but bone loss can cause significant problems later in life,” said Iwaniec, whose research focuses on metabolic bone disease and bone health. “What we are trying to determine is whether there is a way to lose excessive weight while preserving bone density.” 

In the study, rats who received leptin had a weight reduction of about 20 percent, but they did not have any bone loss. The rats that lost weight were able to maintain that weight loss. They also had large reductions of abdominal fat, also known as “bad” fat, which is known to contribute to weight-related health problems.

The findings were published this week in the Journal of Endocrinology. Co-authors of the paper included Russell Turner, director of OSU’s Skeletal Biology Lab, and several Oregon State University faculty, as well as researchers from the University of Florida. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. 

Leptin is required for normal skeletal growth and maintenance. The hormone also plays a significant role in the body’s ability to maintain weight, telling your brain how much fat you have and if fat stores are sufficient. But people appear to develop leptin resistance with weight gain, and the brain no longer receives accurate messages, Iwaniec said.

“Using leptin at the level of the hypothalamus to control weight is where, at some point, we believe we’re going to be able to control weight gain,” she said. “When the brain tells us to lose weight, it works. When we try to lose weight and the brain tells us not to, it doesn’t work.” 

To better understand the role of leptin in both weight and bone loss, researchers injected the gene for leptin directly into the hypothalamus of rats and analyzed the effects on their weight and bones. Injecting the leptin into the brain allows the hormone to bypass the blood-brain barrier, which reduces the ability of leptin to enter the brain, Iwaniec said.

But this type of gene therapy, which is essentially permanent, may have other risks or side-effects that are not yet known, the researchers said, and much more study is needed before gene therapy becomes a treatment for weight loss in humans. 

“This kind of therapy has the potential for being far less invasive than something like bariatric surgery,” Turner said. “But it’s forever. It seems like a very extreme procedure, from that standpoint.”

Editor’s Note: This research was supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under grant number R01AR060913.

Media Contact: 

Urszula Iwaniec, 541-737-9925, urszula.iwaniec@oregonstate.edu

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Urszula Iwaniec

Researcher Urszula Iwaniec

Young Latinos experience discrimination when obtaining health care, research shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Young Latinos living in rural areas say they face discrimination when they obtain health care services – a factor that could contribute to disparities in their rates for obtaining medical care and in their health outcomes, a new study from Oregon State University has found.

Perceived discrimination is considered a barrier to obtaining health care services for underrepresented populations, including Latinos, according to lead researcher Daniel López-Cevallos, associate director of research for the Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement at OSU.

The findings were published recently in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. The research was co-authored by S. Marie Harvey, associate dean and professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. Harvey received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support the study.

Researchers conducted interviews with 349 young adult Latinos, ages 18 to 25, living in rural Oregon. Nearly 40 percent of those interviewed said they had experienced health care discrimination, such as being prevented from accessing services; being hassled; or being made to feel inferior in some way.

“What matters is the perception,” Harvey said. “If a person is less likely to seek out services because of that perception, it needs to be addressed.”

Latinos are considered an underserved group because they are less likely to obtain regular health care services and have higher rates of chronic disease such as diabetes than the general population, leading to disparities in their overall health and well-being. 

The researchers’ goal was to better understand the role perceived discrimination plays in Latinos’ access to and use of health care services. Much of the past research on discrimination in health care has focused on African-Americans and people living in urban settings. This study emphasizes the experience of Latinos living in rural areas, a trend emerging as Latino populations move to rural areas across the nation, Lopez-Cevallos said.

“We have a different population here, so we want to be able to address concerns in Oregon and other states with growing rural Latino communities,” he said.

Addressing health care barriers facing Latinos and other underrepresented groups is important because when health care issues go undiagnosed or untreated, health care costs tend to rise. Prevention, early diagnosis and disease management are critical components of health care reform under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Nearly 45 percent of foreign-born Latinos, reported discrimination, compared to about 32 percent of Latinos born in the U.S. Researchers did not ask participants in the study about their immigration status.

Some Latinos may feel discriminated against simply because they are not eligible for health care programs and cannot get the access to services that they need, Lopez-Cevallos said.

Immigration reform policies, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy enacted by President Obama in 2012, could also open access for Latinos who are not eligible for care under the Affordable Care Act. People who qualify for the program have access to employment, and employment often leads to access to health care, Lopez-Cevallos said.

The findings also suggest 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.

“It’s not all on the doctor, it’s up to the whole health care team,” Lopez-Cevallos said.

“For young adult Latinos, ‘confianza,’ a term that encompasses trust, respect, level of communication and confidentiality, is really important,” Harvey added. “If they don’t feel like they are treated with confianza, they may view that as discrimination.”

Media Contact: 

Daniel López-Cevallos, 541-737-3850, Daniel.lopez-cevallos@oregonstate.edu; S. Marie Harvey, 541-737-3824, Marie.harvey@oregonstate.edu

New book from OSU expert shows teachers, parents how to help preschoolers thrive

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Teachers and parents of preschoolers have a new resource from Oregon State University professor Megan McClelland and OSU graduate Shauna Tominey, whose new book demonstrates how to help 3-to-6-year-olds flourish during their formative years.

Much of McClelland’s research focuses on the important role of self-regulation skills – the social and emotional skills that help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task, form healthy friendships and persist through difficulty. Children with stronger self-regulation are more likely to do well in school and graduate from college compared to children with weaker self-regulation.

“Stop, Think, Act: Integrating Self-regulation in the Early Childhood Classroom,” (Routledge) is a guide to help preschool teachers and parents understand self-regulation and help children ages 3-6 build those skills through developmentally appropriate games, songs and more. 

Recent research by McClelland and her colleagues has found that these types of activities can significantly improve children’s self-regulation and early academic achievement skills.

McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in Human Development and Family Sciences at OSU, and Tominey, an associate research scientist and the director of Early Childhood Programming and Teacher Education at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, wrote the book in an effort to meet increasing demands for information about self-regulation and the activities that boost it. 

“Teachers, and parents, too, are desperate for resources to help support young children,” McClelland said. “This book offers practical tools and activities you can do with your children at home or in the classroom.”

The book offers early childhood education teachers the latest research, a wide variety of hands-on activities to help children learn and practice self-regulation techniques, as well as tips and tools for integrating those activities into early learning settings.

But “Stop, Think, Act” also would be useful for parents of children ages 3-6 who are looking for ways to help prepare their children for schools, said McClelland, a nationally-recognized expert in child development. 

“The kids love playing the games,” she said. “There are some key elements, but you can play them in lots of different ways.”

One game is “Red Light, Purple Light,” which is similar to “Red Light, Green Light.” The teacher or leader serves as a stoplight, holding up construction-paper circles to represent stop and go. Children follow 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 impulses to stop or go.

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

Media Contact: 

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

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Megan McClelland

Megan McClelland

"Stop, Think, Act"

Stop Think Act

OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences Dean Tammy Bray to step down

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Tammy Bray, dean of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and executive dean of the Division of Health Sciences at Oregon State University, announced today that she will step down from her position following a national search for her replacement.

Under Bray’s leadership, the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, the fastest-growing college at OSU, achieved national accreditation in 2014, becoming Oregon’s first and only accredited college of public health.

“I am grateful to serve and be a part of such a remarkable community of alumni, students, faculty and staff,” Bray said of her 13-year tenure. “Together, we did the impossible and built the first accredited college of public health in a land grant institution for Oregonians.”

The college’s funding from grants and contracts under Bray increased sixfold, from $3 million in 2002 to more than $18 million in 2014. Bray also oversaw the creation of new centers dedicated to research into healthy children and families; aging; food and nutrition; and global health.

“Dean Bray is a visionary leader and builder of innovative education and research programs that are focused on the future of public health and well-being,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “Her contributions to Oregon State University and public health in Oregon and globally form a significant and long-lasting legacy.”

Among Bray’s accomplishments:

  • Raising nearly $40 million to construct the Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families; renovate the food and nutrition lab for the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health; support 11 endowed faculty positions; and provide about $500,000 annually for student scholarships.
  • Hiring more than 40 new faculty members since 2008.
  • Establishing The Oregon Center for Health Innovation to connect academic, industry and community partners for work on a wide range of preventive health and workforce development projects.
  • Integrating the college’s outreach efforts with the OSU Extension Service, specifically the Family and Community Health Program and the 4-H program, to improve community health in Oregon and beyond.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with Dean Bray in building a distinct and preeminent college at OSU,” said Provost Sabah Randhawa. “There has never been a dull moment in keeping up with her ideas. Her strength is to follow through with her ideas and make them a reality.”

As a professor, Bray’s research expertise has been in antioxidants and free radical metabolism in the prevention of diabetes, as well as the role that diet plays in gene expressions that influence a person’s susceptibility to chronic disease. In the future, she plans to focus her energies on high-impact projects related to health innovation, leadership and globalization. 

“I view the transition in my role as dean as a relay exchange in track,” Bray said. “I’m going to keep running as fast as I can and will pass the baton to new leaders to move our vision forward.”

A native of Taiwan, Bray came to OSU from Ohio State University in 2002 as a professor of nutrition and as associate dean for research and international studies. She earned her Ph.D. and master’s degree from Washington State University and her B.S. from Fu-Jen University in Taipei, Taiwan. 

Bray is a member of the Global Health Committee in the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) and part of the design team of the National 4-H Council, charged with improving the culture of health in America.

She served 10 years on the external advisory council for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute at NASA. She was president of the Society for Free Radicals in Biology and Medicine; president of the Canadian Society for Nutritional Sciences; treasurer of the Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine; and a member of the directors of the national Board of Human Sciences. She also co-chaired the committee to produce the Oregon Health Improvement Plan for the Oregon Health Policy Board under the then-new Oregon Health Authority in 2010.

Bray has established an endowment through the OSU Foundation to further her passions of leadership, innovation and globalization. The endowment will allow the college to bring high-profile health leaders to campus for the benefit of students and faculty alike and to provide pilot funding for innovative approaches to teaching or research. To learn more about this endowment, visit http://health.oregonstate.edu/giving.

Randhawa said OSU will launch a national search for a new dean this fall.


Media Contact: 

Tammy Bray, 541-737-3256, tammy.bray@oregonstate.edu; Sabah Randhawa, 541-737-2111, Sabah.randhawa@oregonstate.edu

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Dean Tammy Bray

Tammy Bray

Oregon Center for Health Innovation to respond to emerging health care issues

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences is establishing a new center to develop solutions for today’s most pressing health problems and build a workforce to address health challenges of the future.

The Oregon Center for Health Innovation will connect academic, industry and community partners for a wide range of projects to improve the well-being of the overall population, and create cost-sustainable health interventions that reduce preventable disease.

“Innovation means asking different questions,” said Tammy Bray, dean of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “Oregon has been a pioneer in health reform, and pioneering ideas and solutions are needed to host a prosperous economy, healthy population and environment. This center is a way for us to continue that work hand-in-hand with our community and business partners.”

The center is being created at a time when health care systems are undergoing a seismic shift in their business models, brought on in part by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and federal and state changes affecting health care financing.

Faculty members at OSU are receiving growing numbers of requests for assistance from businesses, government agencies, public health organizations, health care systems and communities navigating these new challenges. The center provides a vehicle for faculty and students to work with outside partners to better understand and solve these new and emerging problems.

Currently, researchers from the center work with partner organizations to conduct program evaluation and research, perform big data analyses to uncover trends and targets, and develop technology innovations that support health needs and goals. Workforce development initiatives will engage students at all levels in applied experiences, from undergraduate service learning to internships for graduate students and post-doctoral fellowships.

Springfield-based PacificSource Health Plans, a longtime collaborator with OSU, is supporting the center as a founding partner.

“PacificSource has had a long and successful partnership with OSU, including support over the last five years for OSU’s Healthy Campus Initiative and ongoing research focused on healthy lifestyles,” said CEO Ken Provencher. “This new commitment to support the Oregon Center for Health Innovation creates a partnership that enhances the ability of both organizations to positively impact the health of Oregonians.”

Programs with other health organizations also are in the works, said Gloria Krahn, the Barbara Emily Knudson Chair in Family Policy and director of external relations for the college. She is serving as the center’s interim director until a full-time director is hired.

“America spends much more on health than any other country in the world, yet we are far from the healthiest country on important measures such as lifespan, infant mortality and rates of chronic conditions,” Krahn said.

“It will take all of us working together – across multiple sectors of business, academia and communities – to create innovative solutions and cost-sustainable approaches that promote better health for everyone,” she said. “This center can help create a compelling future for the health of Oregonians and the nation.”

Media Contact: 

Tammy Bray, 541-737-3256, tammy.bray@oregonstate.edu; Gloria Krahn, 541-737-3605, Gloria.krahn@oregonstate.edu

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Tammy Bray

Tammy Bray


Gloria Krahn

Gloria Krahn

Oregon State research reaches record, exceeds $308 million

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State University research funding reached $308.9 million, its highest level ever, in the fiscal year that ended on June 30. A near doubling of revenues from licensing patented technologies and an 8.5 percent increase in competitive federal funding fueled OSU research on a range of projects including advanced ocean-going research vessels, the health impacts of pollution and sustainable materials for high-speed computing.

“This is a phenomenal achievement. I've seen how OSU research is solving global problems and providing innovations that mean economic growth for Oregon and the nation,” said Cynthia Sagers, OSU’s vice president for research who undertook her duties on August 31. “OSU’s research performance in the last year is amazing, given that federal funds are so restricted right now.”

The overall economic and societal impact of OSU’s research enterprise exceeds $670 million, based on an analysis of OSU’s research contributions to the state and global economy that followed a recent economic study of OSU’s fiscal impact conducted by ECONorthwest.

Technology licensing almost doubled in the last year alone, from just under $6 million in 2014 to more than $10 million this year. Leading investments from business and industry were patented Oregon State innovations in agriculture, advanced materials and nuclear technologies.

OSU researchers exceeded the previous record of $288 million, which the university achieved in 2010. Although federal agencies provided the bulk of funding, most of the growth in OSU research revenues over the past five years stems from nonprofit organizations and industry.

Since 2010, total private-sector funding from sponsored contracts, research cooperatives and other sources has risen 60 percent — from $25 million to more than $40 million in 2015. Oregon State conducts research with multinationals such as HP, Nike and Boeing as well as with local firms such as Benchmade Knife of Oregon City, Sheldon Manufacturing of Cornelius and NuScale Power of Corvallis.

By contrast, federal research grants in 2015 were only 0.2 percent higher than those received in 2010, a year in which American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds gave university research a one-time shot in the arm across the country. According to the National Science Foundation, federal agency obligations for research have dropped from a high of $36 billion in 2009 to $29 billion in 2013, the last year for which cumulative figures are available. The Department of Health and Human Services accounted for more than half of that spending.

“We’ve worked hard to diversify our research portfolio,” said Ron Adams, who retired as interim vice president for research at the end of August. “But it’s remarkable that our researchers have succeeded in competing for an increase in federal funding. This speaks to the success of our strategic initiatives and our focus on clusters of excellence.”

Economic impact stems in part from new businesses launched this year through the Oregon State University Advantage program. Among them are:

  •  OnBoard Dynamics, a Bend company designing a natural-gas powered vehicle engine that can be fueled from home
  •  Valliscor, a Corvallis company that manufactures ultra-pure chemicals
  • eChemion, a Corvallis company that develops and markets technology to extend battery life

Altogether, 15 new companies have received mentoring assistance from Oregon State’s Advantage Accelerator program, part of the state-funded Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or RAIN. Six new companies are working with the Advantage program this fall.

Additional economic impact stems from the employment of students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty. According to the OSU Research Office, about a quarter of OSU undergraduates participate in research projects, many with stipends paid by grant funds. In addition, grants support a total of 843 graduate research positions and 165 post-doctoral researchers.

The College of Agricultural Sciences received the largest share of research grants at Oregon State with $49.4 million last year, followed by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at $39 million and the College of Engineering at $37 million. The College of Science saw a 170 percent increase in research funding to $26.7 million, its largest total ever and the biggest rise among OSU colleges. Among the largest grants received in FY15 were:

  •  $8 million from the NSF to the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry (College of Science) for new high-speed information technologies
  •  $4 million from the Department of Energy to reduce barriers to the deployment of ocean energy systems (College of Engineering)
  •  $4 million from US Agency for International Development to the AquaFish Innovation Lab (College of Agricultural Sciences) for global food security
  •  $3.5 million from the USDA for experiential learning to reduce obesity (College of Public Health and Human Sciences)
  •  $2.3 million from the NSF for the ocean observing initiative (College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences)
  •  $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education for school readiness in early childhood (OSU Cascades)


Editor’s Note: FY15 research totals for OSU colleges and OSU-Cascades are posted online.

College of Agricultural Sciences: http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/story/osu%E2%80%99s-college-agricultural-sciences-receives-494-million-research-grants 

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences: http://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/features/funding/

College of Education: http://education.oregonstate.edu/research-and-outreach 

College of Engineering:  http://engineering.oregonstate.edu/fy15-research-funding-highlights

College of Forestry: http://www.forestry.oregonstate.edu/research/college-forestry-receives-near-record-grant-awards-fy-2015

College of Liberal Arts: http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/cla-research/2015-research-summary

College of Pharmacy: http://pharmacy.oregonstate.edu/grant_information

College of Public Health and Human Sciences: http://health.oregonstate.edu/research 

College of Science: http://impact.oregonstate.edu/2015/08/record-year-for-research-funding/

College of Veterinary Medicine: http://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/research-highlights

OSU-Cascades: http://osucascades.edu/research-and-scholarship 

Media Contact: 

Cynthia Sagers, vice president for research, 541-737-0664; Rich Holdren on OSU research trends, 541-737-8390; Brian Wall on business spinoffs and commercialization, 541-737-9058

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Surface chemistry research

Masters students at OSU worked to improve the performance of thin-film transistors used in liquid crystal displays. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)

OOI mooring

The Oregon shelf surface mooring is lowered to the water using the R/V Oceanus ship's crane. (photo courtesy of Oregon State University). Wave Energy

The Ocean Sentinel, a wave energy testing device, rides gentle swells near Newport, Ore. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University) Hernandez3-2

An undergraduate student at the Autonomous Juarez University of Tabasco, Mexico, is working with cage culture of cichlids in an educational partnership with the AquaFish collaborative Support Program. (Photo: Tiffany Woods)

OSU faculty to receive $4.6 million in grants for early childhood learning research

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers in Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences have been awarded $4.6 million in federal grants to study how to better prepare at-risk children for school.

OSU-Cascades researcher Shannon Lipscomb will receive $1.5 million to develop and test a program to help teachers improve the school readiness of preschoolers who have been exposed to trauma. The four-year grant is the largest research grant ever awarded to a faculty member at OSU’s branch campus in Central Oregon.

OSU researcher Megan McClelland will receive two grants totaling $3.1 million to continue and expand her work in the area of self-regulation skills among preschool children. Self-regulation skills help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task and persist through difficulty. Children with stronger self-regulation are more likely to do well in school and graduate from college compared to children with weaker self-regulation.

The grants were announced today by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Educational Sciences. In all, 15 Early Learning Program grants were awarded; OSU received three of the grants and was the only Oregon institution to receive funding from that program.

A priority of the U.S. Department of Education is to enhance learning and development for children with high needs through early learning programs.

“Research shows the importance of high-quality, early learning experiences for children's later success not only in school but also in other key aspects of life such as avoiding criminal behavior,” said Lipscomb, an assistant professor in the human development and family sciences program at OSU-Cascades.

Lipscomb will use her grant to develop and test a program to help teachers improve the school readiness of preschoolers who have been exposed to trauma. Selected teachers will participate in online classes to gain knowledge about childhood trauma and how to promote learning and development in children exposed to trauma.

Regular video coaching sessions will help teachers take their understanding and incorporate it into practices in the classroom with children.  A benefit to the online and video implementation is its ability to reach teachers in rural areas, where professional development programs may not be available.

McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences on the main OSU campus, will receive $1.6 million to improve a measure called the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task, which assesses school readiness. The new research will look at ways to improve the assessment, such as expanding the range of the assessment and broadening the use of the task.

McClelland’s second grant, for $1.5 million, will focus on intervention activities using music and games to help preschoolers strengthen their self-regulation skills. The grant will allow McClelland and her research team to improve existing intervention activities that have shown to improve children’s self-regulation and academic achievement and to develop new games that promote those skills.

“Both of these grants will allow us to increase and extend our work in ways we haven’t been able to before,” McClelland said.

Media Contact: 

Megan McClelland, 541-737-9225, megan.mcclelland@oregonstate.edu; Shannon Lipscomb, 541-322-3137, Shannon.lipscomb@osucascades.edu

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Megan McClelland

Megan McClelland

Shannon Lipscomb


Light-intensity exercise could prove beneficial to older adults, new research shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An easy walk, slow dancing, leisurely sports such as table tennis, household chores and other light-intensity exercise may be nearly as effective as moderate or vigorous exercise for older adults – if they get enough of that type of activity.

New research indicates that 300 minutes a week of light exercise provides some significant health benefits for people over age 65, said Brad Cardinal, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University.

“You get a nice array of health benefits by doing five hours of light physical activity per week,” said Cardinal, who is a national expert on the benefits of physical activity and a co-author of the study. “There appears to be some real value in devoting at least three percent of the 168 hours available in a week to these light forms of physical activity.”

Current medical recommendations suggest that all adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. The researchers wanted to know whether exercise of less intensity, done more often, would produce similar health benefits.

Light exercise is more appealing to people over 65, and such activities do not generally require the approval of a physician, Cardinal said. Older adults, in particular, may be more reluctant to participate in moderate to vigorous exercise because of health concerns, including fear of injury.

The researchers examined data from the 2003-06 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, which is conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics and is a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. The 2003-06 results are the only available cycles that use objectively measured physical activity data.

They found that older adults who participated in light intensity exercise activities for 300 minutes or more were 18 percent healthier, overall, than peers who did not log that much light activity. They had lower body mass index (BMI), smaller waist circumference, better insulin rates and were less likely to have chronic diseases, Cardinal said.

“These findings highlight that, in addition to promoting moderate-intensity physical activity to older adults, we should not neglect the importance of engaging in lower-intensity, movement-based behaviors when the opportunity arises,” said lead author Paul Loprinzi, who earned his Ph.D. at Oregon State and now is an assistant professor of exercise science and health promotion at the University of Mississippi.

“For example, instead of talking on the phone in a seated position, walking while talking will help increase our overall physical activity level.”

The study was published in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion. Co-author Hyo Lee also earned his doctorate at OSU and now works at Sangmyung University in Seoul, South Korea.

The findings are part of a growing body of evidence that indicate light activity can lead to improved health, but more study is needed to better understand how the two are connected, Cardinal said. It may also be time to rethink current exercise guidelines, with new recommendations geared specifically to adults over age 65 that emphasize the benefits and ease of participation in light activity, he said.

“This research suggests that doing something is dramatically better than doing nothing,” he said. “For the average, every day person, that is a much more palatable message than the current guidelines that emphasize moderate to vigorous exercise.”

Media Contact: 

Brad Cardinal, 541-737-2506, brad.cardinal@oregonstate.edu

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Older adults on a walk


Walk With Ease

Brad Cardinal