OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of public health and human sciences

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: 
Source: 

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

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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: 
Source: 

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: 
Source: 

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

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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.”

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

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Older adults on a walk

 

Walk With Ease

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Arsenic and health to be focus of Corvallis Science Pub

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Once touted as a conditioner for the skin, arsenic has a long history as a poison and as an ingredient in paint, pesticides and wood preservatives. On June 8, the Corvallis Science Pub will focus on the modern public health story of this toxic metal.

Molly Kile, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, will describe her work in Bangladesh, the location of what the World Health Organization calls the largest case of mass poisoning. Kile looks at patterns of water contamination and disease to understand the risks of even low levels of arsenic in water.

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.

“Contaminants like lead and arsenic have effects on the distribution of health problems across the population,” says Kile. “It’s not as much about the average person as it is about the people who are particularly vulnerable.”

An environmental epidemiologist, Kile has master’s and doctoral degrees from the Harvard School of Public Health.

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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Media Contact: 
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Molly Kile, 541-737-1443

Statins show promise as a prevention tool for adults 75 and older, OSU study shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Statins could be a cost-effective tool for preventing heart attacks and other cardiovascular incidents in adults over age 75, but the benefits would need to be weighed against potential side effects, a study being published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine has found.

“Statins look promising as an intervention for this population, but there are concerns about potential physical or cognitive side effects,” said the study’s lead author, Michelle Odden, an assistant professor of epidemiology in OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

“It’s not all good or all bad; we’re in a gray area,” said Odden, who is affiliated with OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research. “That’s where patient preference becomes important. People who are concerned about the side effects should have a conversation with their health care provider.”

Researchers examined whether statins should be routinely given to older adults who are not already taking them as prevention against heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular events that can affect quality of life and drive up health care costs.

They used computer modeling to estimate the cost-effectiveness, including risks and benefits, of statin use among older adults. The findings indicated that statin use can help prevent cardiovascular incidents, but if that use increased the risk of physical or cognitive side effects by roughly 10 to 30 percent, any benefit from statins would be offset.

“We don’t know what the true risk is,” Odden said. “But we know statin use is very sensitive to these other risks in older populations.”

Statins are a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disease caused by high cholesterol. Many types of statins are available in generic form, which keeps drug costs low. Use of such drugs to prevent a significant cardiac event could reduce overall health care costs and improve the quality of life of older adults, Odden said.

More than 40 percent of adults over age 75 already are taking statins. However, medical guidelines for statin use are only for people who start taking statins when they are younger, up to age 75. The drugs are typically prescribed to people who have a history of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, diabetes or a high probability of a cardiovascular event within 10 years.

As people live longer and healthier lives, cardiovascular health prevention efforts may need to be adjusted to reflect differences that come with age. Statins seem like a promising option to prevent cardiovascular incidents among older adults, but they may not be beneficial if they introduce side effects such as muscle weakness and cognitive impairment, which are suggested to occur with statin use, Odden said.

“Physical and cognitive independence are two things that are very important to older adults,” she said. “Both conditions are so impactful that a small increase in risk may not be worth the gains in cardiovascular health.”

Additional research, including clinical trials using older adults, would be needed to better understand the benefits and risks of statin use in this population, Odden said. 

Co-authors of the study are Mark J. Pletcher, Pamela G. Coxson, David Guzman, David Heller, and Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo of the University of California, San Francisco; Lee Goldman of Columbia University; and Divya Thekkethala of OSU. The research was supported by a grant from the American Heart Association Western States Affiliate and the National Institutes of Health.

Media Contact: 
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Michelle Odden, 541-737-3184 or michelle.odden@oregonstate.edu

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College Wide Photo Shoot Fall 2012

Portland workshop to explore modified toy cars for children with disabilities

PORTLAND, Ore. ­– Oregon State University will host a “Go Baby Go” workshop on Friday, May 1, in Portland, as part of a national program that provides modified, ride-on toy cars to young children with disabilities so they can move around independently.

The event is the first to be held in Portland since Go Baby Go expanded to OSU last year, and will be from noon to 4:30 p.m. at Jefferson High School. Spaces are still available, and attendance is free but advance registration is required.

Parents, volunteers and clinicians such as physical therapists will learn to adapt toy cars for children with a variety of special needs. Some cars also will be available for children and their families to test-drive and take home that day.

The modified cars give children with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other 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 OSU leader of the Go Baby Go project.

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, Logan said.

“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.

At the workshop, people can attend simply to get more information; to learn how to build a car; or even to build and take home a car at the end of the day. Parents who can’t attend the building workshop, but would like a car for their child, can arrive at 3 p.m. for a fitting and test-driving session with the child. 

Anyone interested in obtaining a car at the event is asked to purchase a car and switch in advance. All other supplies will be provided. For additional information about the car options and the switch needed, contact Logan at Sam.logan@oregonstate.edu. Families who need financial assistance to purchase a car should also contact Logan.

The workshop will be held in the Jefferson High School old gym, Room B24, 5210. N. Kerby Ave. Reservations must be submitted by Monday, April 27, to Logan and event coordinator Juli Valeske, jvaleske@pps.net.

Additional workshops are expected to be held in the Portland area in the coming months. Family members, clinicians or others interested in attending a future workshop or obtaining a car should contact Logan.

 

Media Contact: 
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Sam Logan, 541-737-3437, sam.logan@oregonstate.edu

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Sam Logan and volunteers modify a car.

GoBabyGo at Oregon State

Injury prevention programs not widely used in high schools, study shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Injury prevention programs can help reduce ankle, knee and other lower extremity injuries in sports, but the programs are not being widely used in high schools, a new study from Oregon State University has found.

Researchers surveyed 66 head soccer and basketball coaches from 15 Oregon high schools and found that only 21 percent of the coaches were using an injury prevention program, and less than 10 percent were using the program exactly as designed, said the study’s lead author, Marc Norcross, an assistant professor of exercise and sport science in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

“We know these programs are beneficial to the athletes,” Norcross said. “If I were to recommend something to coaches, it would be to adopt one of these programs and follow it.”

In 2013-14, more than 1.7 million students competed in high school soccer and basketball in the United States. During that period, about 335,000 of the athletes had a lower extremity injury that required medical attention and kept them from participating for at least one day.

The more serious injuries, such as an ACL tear, can require months of recovery and rehabilitation and can lead to early onset of arthritis. But even minor injuries such as an ankle sprain can have significant consequences, Norcross said. Ankle sprains, for example, increase the risk of arthritis developing in the joint.

Injury prevention programs are designed to help reduce lower extremity injuries that occur during play or practice but aren’t as a result of contact with another player. Among the better known-programs are PEP, developed by the Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation; and FIFA 11+, developed in conjunction with the world soccer organization.

While they can vary in structure and content, most injury prevention programs include often include similar activities, such as strength exercises, cutting/jumping drills and balance exercises with a focus on using proper technique.

In their study, OSU researchers wanted to find out whether high school coaches were aware of existing injury prevention programs, if they were using a program, and if not, why not. They focused on soccer and basketball because lower extremity injuries are common in those sports and they are not usually caused through direct contact with another player.

They found that about half of the boys and girls coaches surveyed were aware of existing injury prevention programs. Coaches of girls’ teams were more likely to be aware of the programs than coaches of boys’ teams. Also, less than half of the coaches perceived lower extremity injuries to be a problem for their team.

The findings were published recently in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. The research was funded by a grant from the Oregon School Activities Association Foundation. Co-authors of the study are Samuel Johnson, Viktor Bovbjerg and Mark Hoffman of OSU and Michael Koester of the Slocum Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Eugene.

While most coaches surveyed were not using a formal injury prevention program, about two-thirds of the coaches, or 65 percent, reported that they use activities similar to those found in such programs. That may be one reason they aren’t adopting a specific program, Norcross said.

But there hasn’t been any research yet to determine what, specifically, works about the injury programs. Researchers don’t know if it is specific components of the programs that lead to fewer injuries, or if it is the combination of several things.

“When a coach says, ‘I already do most of those things, isn’t that enough?’ – the answer is, we don’t know,” Norcross said. “Maybe that is good enough. We need to find that out.”

OSU researchers are now working on a related study that will examine high school athlete injury data in relation to coaches’ injury prevention practices. That should help researchers understand whether specific practices, or injury prevention programs as a whole, are helping to reduce injuries, Norcross said.

“For too long, we’ve been waiting for the perfect program to be developed,” he said. “There’s more we don’t know than we do. But we should use the little we do know while we continue to learn more.”

Media Contact: 
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Marc Norcross, 541-737-6788, marc.norcross@oregonstate.edu

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College Wide Photo Shoot Fall 2012

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.”

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

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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.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

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

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