OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of public health and human sciences

Exercise largely absent from U.S. medical school curriculum, study shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Exercise may play a critical role in maintaining good health, but fewer than half of the physicians trained in the United States in 2013 received formal education or training on the subject, according to new research from Oregon State University.

A review of medical school curriculums showed that a majority of U.S. institutions did not offer any courses on physical activity, and when the courses were offered, they were rarely required, said Brad Cardinal, a professor of exercise and sport science in OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences. That could leave doctors ill-prepared to assist patients who could benefit from exercise, said Cardinal, the study's lead author.

“There are immense medical benefits to exercise; it can help as much as medicine to address some health concerns,” said Cardinal, who is a national expert on the benefits of physical activity. “Because exercise has medicinal as well as other benefits, I was surprised that medical schools didn’t spend more time on it.”

An article on the findings has been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. Co-authors are Eugene A. Park and MooSong Kim of OSU, and Marita K. Cardinal of Western Oregon University. The study was supported by OSU.

For the study, researchers reviewed U.S. medical schools’ websites, looking for all physical activity-related coursework. They reviewed both public and private schools, and schools of medicine and osteopathic medicine. In all, 118 of the 170 accredited schools had curriculum information available online.

Of those, 51 percent offered no physical activity related coursework, and 21 percent offered only one course. And 82 percent of the schools reviewed did not require students to take any physical activity-related courses.

Schools may be spending more time on the topic than appears in the published curriculum, but the absence of physical activity in those documents suggests exercise education is not formalized or institutionalized to the degree it ought to be, given its role in helping people stay healthy, Cardinal said.

“I’m an outsider looking in, and I was expecting to see more than what we did,” he said.

Lifestyle-related chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes are among the leading causes of death and disability, and one of the most important ways to prevent such chronic diseases is through regular physical activity participation, he said.

Physicians play a significant and influential role in encouraging and assisting patients who need or are trying to get more exercise, but past research has shown that many physicians lack the education, skills or confidence to educate and counsel patients about their physical activity, Cardinal said.

“Understanding why and how to exercise, and knowing how to help people who are struggling to make it a habit, is really important,” he said.

This issue is gaining more attention nationally.The American College of Sports Medicine supports an “Exercise is Medicine” initiative, designed to encourage primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity in the treatment plans of their patients.

Exercise is also a key component of the U.S. government’s “Healthy People 2020” initiative to improve health across the nation, and the National Physical Activity Plan to increase physical activity for all Americans, Cardinal said.

If medical schools do not include physical activity education in their curriculums, physicians or other health care workers may need to find other ways to educate themselves about exercise and its role in keeping people healthy, or perhaps give the nod to other professionals who can, Cardinal said. 

“We really need to see something happen to address this,” he said. “How do we get it more institutionalized into medical school curriculum? This is a question researchers have been asking for 40 years now. It is about time we figured it out.”

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

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Yoga class Faculty Staff Fitness

Study: Zinc deficiency linked to immune system response, particularly in older adults

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Zinc, an important mineral in human health, appears to affect how the immune system responds to stimulation, especially inflammation, new research from Oregon State University shows.

Zinc deficiency could play a role in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes   that involve inflammation. Such diseases often show up in older adults, who are more at risk for zinc deficiency.

“When you take away zinc, the cells that control inflammation appear to activate and respond differently; this causes the cells to promote more inflammation,” said Emily Ho, a professor and director of the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and lead author of the study.

Zinc is an essential micronutrient required for many biological processes, including growth and development, neurological function and immunity. It is naturally found in protein-rich foods such as meat and shellfish, with oysters among the highest in zinc content.

Approximately 12 percent of people in the U.S. do not consume enough zinc in their diets. Of those 65 and older, closer to 40 percent do not consume enough zinc, Ho said. Older adults tend to eat fewer zinc-rich foods and their bodies do not appear to use or absorb zinc as well, making them highly susceptible to zinc deficiency.

“It’s a double-whammy for older individuals,” said Ho, who also is a principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute.

In the study, researchers set out to better understand the relationship between zinc deficiency and inflammation. They conducted experiments that indicated zinc deficiency induced an increase in inflammatory response in cells. The researchers were able to show, for the first time, that reducing zinc caused improper immune cell activation and dysregulation of a cytokine IL-6, a protein that affects inflammation in the cell, Ho said.

Researchers also compared zinc levels in living mice, young and old. The older mice had low zinc levels that corresponded with increased chronic inflammation and decreased IL-6 methylation, which is an epigenetic mechanism that cells use to control gene expression. Decreased IL-6 methylation also was found in human immune cells from elderly people, Ho said.

Together, the studies suggest a potential link between zinc deficiency and increased inflammation that can occur with age, she said.

The findings were published recently in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. Co-authors are Carmen P. Wong and Nicole A. Rinaldi of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. The research was supported by the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station, Bayer Consumer Care AG of Switzerland, and OSU.

Understanding the role of zinc in the body is important to determining whether dietary guidelines for zinc need to be adjusted. The recommended daily intake of zinc for adults is 8 milligrams for women and 11 milligrams for men, regardless of age. The guidelines may need to be adjusted for older adults to ensure they are getting enough zinc, Ho said.

There is no good clinical biomarker test to determine if people are getting enough zinc, so identifying zinc deficiency can be difficult. In addition, the body does not have much ability to store zinc, so regular intake is important, Ho said. Getting too much zinc can cause other problems, including interfering with other minerals. The current upper limit for zinc is 40 milligrams per day.

“We think zinc deficiency is probably a bigger problem than most people realize,” she said. “Preventing that deficiency is important.”

Understanding why older adults do not take in zinc as well is an important area for future research, Ho said. Additional research also is needed to better understand how zinc works in the body, she said.

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Emily Ho, 541-737-9559, Emily.ho@oregonstate.edu

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People with disabilities experience unrecognized health disparities

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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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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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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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.

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

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‘Go Baby Go’ mobility program for children with disabilities expands to OSU

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is the newest hub for “Go Baby Go,” a program that provides modified, ride-on cars to young children with disabilities so they can move around independently.

The modified toy cars give children with mobility disabilities a chance to play and socialize with their peers more easily, said Sam Logan, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and leader of the Go Baby Go project at OSU.

Past research has shown that independent mobility is linked to cognitive, social, motor, language and other developmental benefits in young children, he said. Being pushed in a stroller or being carried from one place to another is fundamentally different from having active control over one’s own exploration, which is where the developmental gains are seen.

“We want to provide that movement experience as early as possible, so they can reap the benefits,” said Logan, whose research focuses on providing technology and training to children with disabilities to promote social mobility. “Beyond mobility and socialization, we hope that the ride-on cars provide children with disabilities a chance to just be a kid.”

There are no commercially available devices for children with mobility issues to get around on their own; and power wheelchairs usually aren’t an option until the children are older. The modified cars provide them independence at a much younger age and at a relatively low cost. The cars run about $100 and the electric switches and other modifications, including seating support and padding, bring the total cost to about $200.

Go Baby Go was founded by Professor Cole Galloway as part of a research project at the University of Delaware but researchers have also trained volunteers in more than 40 communities to modify the cars so more children have access to them. Logan oversaw the program at University of Delaware before he joined the OSU faculty this year and said he knew he wanted to continue the program by adding a Go Baby Go site in Corvallis.

“The overarching mission of the lab is to help as many families as we can,” he said. “Within a year, we’d like everyone in Oregon to know that these cars are available.”

Logan will be leading a car-building workshop on Nov. 11 to show OSU students how to modify the cars. About 15 students in Logan’s motor behavior classes have volunteered to work on the first cars, and Logan’s long-term goal is to establish a student-led OSU club that would host car-building workshops on a regular basis.

He is also looking for families interested in obtaining a car for their child. Cars will be available at the Nov. 11 event, he said. Cars have been modified for children with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and complex medical needs, such as trachea tubes, he said. While most of the cars are modified to operate with hand movements, they also have been modified for head movement, Logan said.

Families interested in a modified car for their child should email Logan at sam.logan@oregonstate.edu. Parents are encouraged to make a donation to help with car costs if they’re able to, but no donation is required to receive a car, Logan said.

“The donations just allow us to keep providing more cars,” Logan said. “We also ask that families who receive cars either pass them on to another child or return them to us when their child outgrows the car.”

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Children with autism focus of Corvallis Science Pub talk

CORVALLIS, Ore. – For school-age children, the rise in autism spectrum disorder and the decrease in physical activity spell trouble. Since children diagnosed with autism tend to be more sedentary and also lag in the development of motor skills, physical activity may be more difficult to learn.

At the Nov. 10 Corvallis Science Pub, Megan MacDonald, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, will explore the connection between autism and exercise.

“Our nation is in the midst of a physical inactivity epidemic, and children with ASD have not been spared," she said. “The good news is that we can teach these physically active behaviors to help ensure a healthy future.” 

The Science Pub presentation is free and open to the public. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 S.W. 2nd St. in Corvallis.

MacDonald received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2011. Her research focuses on how motor skills and physically active lifestyles improve the lives of children and youth with and without disabilities. She has a specific interest in the movement skills of children with autism spectrum disorder.

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 MacDonald, 541-737-3273

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OSU-Cascades one of 15 universities nationwide to receive federal suicide prevention grant

BEND, Ore. – Oregon State University – Cascades will use a new $305,000 suicide prevention grant to develop programs at the branch campus to support student mental health and to identify and respond to students who are at risk for suicide.

The campus was one of 15 universities nationwide to receive a 2014 Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people in the U.S. aged 18 to 25. Depression is a leading risk factor for suicide and a common problem that can interfere with a student’s ability to have a productive college experience.

The grant project will be co-led by Susan Keys, Ph.D., an associate professor and senior researcher in public health and Linda Porzelius, Ph.D., head of personal counseling services, both at the branch campus. 

“This grant could not come at a more propitious time,” Keys said. “The funds will help ensure we have important systems in place for mental health support as we welcome new students beginning in 2015."

The grant will also support the creation of web-based suicide prevention information for students; faculty, staff and student training in suicide prevention; and student projects that encourage fellow students to live healthy lives, seek help when they are experiencing stress and to reduce the stigma associated with asking for or receiving help. An additional focus will strengthen connections between campus services and those available in the community.  Grant collaborators include public, private and non-profit health and mental health providers.

“For some college students, balancing school, work, relationships and family while planning for a career can be overwhelming.  Educating our campus community on how to identify these students and referring them to supportive services could be lifesaving,” said Keys.

Keys joined OSU-Cascades in 2013. She has been a professional advocate for youth mental health for more than 30 years. Her experience has included leading national programs in suicide prevention and youth violence prevention for DHHS and serving as chair of the counseling department at Johns Hopkins University.  She chairs the Deschutes County Suicide Prevention Advisory Council. Keys is also a consultant for the state of Oregon’s youth suicide prevention grant program.

Resources to assist students in need are currently available on campus and within the community.  National online resources include ReachOut.com, a mental health and information service for teens and young adults, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255).

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Christine Coffin, 541-322-3152, Christine.Coffin@osucascades.edu

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Susan Keys, 541-322-2046

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