OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of public health and human sciences

OSU creates new health promotion program, seeks participants

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new health promotion program aimed at people with physical mobility issues seeks participants from the Corvallis area.

Simon Driver, an associate professor in exercise and sport science at Oregon State University, is creating the program based on a successful model he created at a medical facility in Texas. The eight-week program is aimed at people ages 18 to 75 who have limited mobility – defined as having difficulty walking one block, or using an assistive device such as a walker, cane or wheelchair.

In addition, participants must be able to communicate in English.

The eight-week program is part of a research project by Driver to determine the effectiveness of the program on increasing physical activity for people with a mobility disability. The program will take place in the Health Promotion for People with Disabilities Lab in the Women’s Building on the OSU campus. Participants must be able to attend the program once a week for 90 minutes during an eight-week period.

The program helps people learn social and behavioral skills to become healthier. Participants will learn about setting goals, rewarding themselves for making their goals, and overcoming barriers to being healthy and active.

To learn more information on qualifications for the program and to sign up to participate, email health.disability@oregonstate.edu or call 541-737-5927.

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Simon Driver, 541-737-3263

College of Public Health and Human Sciences

About the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences: The College creates connections in teaching, research and community outreach while advancing knowledge, policies and practices that improve population health in communities across Oregon and beyond.

OSU receives $4.7 million USDA grant to help Oregon teens stay healthy

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has received a grant of nearly $5 million to develop an obesity prevention and healthy lifestyle program for teenagers.

Unlike many programs that focus on treatment of children already at risk of obesity, this new program will aim at active high school-age teens involved in 4-H soccer programs in Oregon.

OSU project directors Siew Sun Wong, an assistant professor of nutrition and a specialist with the Extension Service, and Melinda Manore, a professor of nutrition, were awarded $4.7 million to start the program, called “The WAVE Ripples for Change: Obesity Prevention for Active Youth in Afterschool Programs Using Virtual and Real-World Experiential Learning.” It was awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

“These youths are active now, but what happens when they don’t have a team sport to motivate them?” Manore said. “Many parents of active teens allow their kids to eat unhealthy food, because they don’t worry about their weight. This is about building healthy behavior that becomes part of their life.”

The intervention program will begin June 2013 in three Oregon counties – Marion, Polk and Yamhill. About 500 teens ages 15 to 19 will engage in three different life skills programs developed by OSU. One of the programs will be a real-world scenario where teens will learn about growing their own food, cooking healthy, preparing inexpensive meals at home, and staying active.

The other two programs use new cutting-edge technology to create virtual environments, led by Jon Dorbolo with OSU’s Technology Across the Curriculum, where teens will practice these same skills but as an avatar in a 3-D virtual world. One virtual world will be “realistic,” based on the real environment; the other will be a fantasy world where anything is possible.

“Kids are into technology and they spend a lot of time with it, so we want to know if there is a way to tap into that and develop a program that can be used both at home and in the classroom to encourage healthy behavior,” Manore said.

Wong, who is an expert on the use of technology to improve dietary habits, said the virtual world can be used to reach out to teens and discover their skills and potential. 

“Jake, the character in the movie ‘Avatar,’ saw how good this virtual world can be and it inspired him to make a change, which is the idea behind this part of the intervention,” Wong said. “Likewise, the idea is to create an ideal virtual world where participants can experience creative learning, be inspired and motivated to transform this positive experience back to the real world to make it a better place.”

At the end of the five-year project, OSU biostatistician Bo Zhang will lead the researchers to examine the data to see which of the three programs – the real world, the virtual “real” world, and the virtual fantasy world – resulted in better outcomes.

The research team will measure the teens’ body mass index, physical activity levels (using sensor and cloud infrastructure developed by OSU engineering faculty Patrick Chiang and Christopher Scaffidi), and their ability to meet USDA’s Choose MyPlate recommendations.

According to the researchers, the goal is to see how teens who are already physically active due to involvement in team sports can develop lifestyle skills that will stay with them past school age. Part of the intervention will include working with the young people’s parents or primary caregivers to ensure they understand about proper nutrition and exercise.

The project’s OSU team members include faculty from nutrition and exercise sciences, engineering, Information Services, Extension, SNAP-Ed Educators, KidSpirit, and 4-H programs. Other participants on the project include Bob’s Red Mill, Cooking Matters at the Store, Marion-Polk Food Share, as well as University of Arizona and San Diego State University’s Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health.

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Siew Sun Wong, 541-737-5855

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(left to right) Patrick Chiang, Jon Dorbolo, Siew Sun Wong, Melinda Manore, Bo Zhang, Christopher Scaffidi are part of an OSU research team who received a $5 million USDA grant to help teens stay active and eat healthy. March 2013. (photo courtesy of OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences)

Study finds sexual health services for rural Latino men could be improved

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study based on in-depth interviews of rural Latino men in western Oregon finds that these men need sexual health services designed for their needs, including more male health providers, more convenient clinic hours, and Spanish-speaking doctors.

Researchers at Oregon State University conducted interviews with young Latino men from rural backgrounds and asked them questions related to sexual health and use of sexual health services. The results are published in the March issue of the American Journal of Men’s Health.

Marie Harvey, the study’s lead author, and associate dean of research in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, has studied women’s reproductive health issues for more than 25 years. Recently, she has focused on the role of partners in sexual and reproductive health, or what she likes to call the “it takes two to tango” angle.

“We put women in the awkward position of trying to convince their partners to be active participants in pregnancy prevention and contraceptive planning,” Harvey said. “Increasingly, I think it’s crucial to talk to men and engage them on these issues.”

Latinos in the United State experience disproportionately high rates of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS. These sexual health disparities have the potential to grow as Latinos continue to be the largest and fastest growing minority in the United States.

Harvey’s research team interviewed 49 Latino men who have immigrated to the United States within the last 10 years. The average age was 24. The majority of the men came from rural areas of Mexico. More than half had never seen a health care provider, and 88 percent had never seen a provider specifically for sexual and reproductive health services.

Harvey said this research is important because the men not only gave reasons why they did, or did not, utilize sexual health services, but they gave context linked to their cultural background, beliefs, and experiences. Almost half of the men reported they never discussed sexual and reproductive health topics with their parents. As one man explained, “Unfortunately, we come from a country that, I don’t know, they never want to talk about that. They keep it quiet and one grows up ignorant about that subject.”

“Almost every man we talked with stated they didn’t have enough information or knowledge about how to prevent unintended pregnancies and STIs,” Harvey said. “But they very clearly stated that they wanted this information and would like to be better informed.”

Many of the men suggested making informational pamphlets about sexual health services and clinics available in places they frequent, such as local laundromats or Latino grocery stores, as well as airing public service announcements on Latino radio or television stations. Men also emphasized the importance of providing information in Spanish.

In addition, terminology sometimes was confusing. In the United States, the term “family planning” is often used, but many of these single men said they had no need for such a service since they weren’t planning to have a family right now.

“It's important to define terminology because we have cultural assumptions around ‘family planning’ that not everyone shares,” Harvey said. “When we used terms like birth control, or HIV testing, it became much clearer.”

Harvey said that “confianza,” a Spanish word that means trust, confidence and respect, came up frequently as a need for all the men in the study.

“Privacy was very important to them, but it goes beyond that,” she said. “This ability to trust their provider, and know that their information won’t be shared and they would not be judged when they talk openly about their sexual behavior, all of this was crucial.”

In addition, the men expressed a preference for male providers and a need for bilingual providers.  Language can be a barrier. At many community clinics, the study participants said the providers did not speak Spanish and translators were sometimes offered.

“Having a third party in the room can be a barrier to trust and honesty,” Harvey said. “In addition, the translators were often women, making it even more difficult to discuss sexual topics.  And because these are smaller communities, the translators could even be someone they knew. ”

Clinic-related factors also affected access to services. Men reported that having convenient clinic hours, reduced waiting time and living or working in close proximity to a clinic would make it easier to receive services. 

Harvey said as the Latino population grows in places like Oregon, understanding factors that affect their use of the health care system will become even more critical.  It is essential to begin overcoming these cultural and structural barriers, Harvey said. Communities need to come together to help prevent STIs and HIV, as well as have a better informed public.

OSU research assistants Meredith Branch and Deanne Hudson, and OSU alumnus Antonio Torres, assisted on this study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs.

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Marie Harvey, 541-737-3824

Academic gains found among high risk kids in Head Start

BEND, Ore. – A new study by Oregon State University researchers finds that Head Start can make a positive impact in the lives of some of its highest risk children, both academically and behaviorally.

Published in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, the study sheds light on how Head Start has helped children living in non-parental care, or living with someone who is not a parent or step-parent by biology or adoption.

“These children tend to have unstable home lives, sometimes transitioning between different relatives, living with their grandma one month, and later with an aunt or other family member,” said lead author Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at OSU-Cascades.

“These are kids who face heightened risk factors even beyond those of other children living in poverty. They are more similar to what we find in kids in child welfare. They have a lot of challenges in their lives, and the stresses of that can cause behavioral and development issues.”

The researchers obtained data from the Head Start Impact Study, a nationally representative sample of Head Start programs and families commissioned by the federal government. Head Start provides comprehensive early child development services to low-income children and their families. That original study, published in 2010, looked at the general population of children attending Head Start programs, but did not examine impacts for children living in non-parental care.

“Children in non-parental care showed more problems with academics, behavior, and a wide variety of risk factors at the beginning of the study,” Lipscomb said. “In addition, Head Start is designed as a wrap-around program, which links child, teacher, and parent. So we wanted to know if this model even works for kids who don’t have a traditional family, and may have different caregivers at any given time.”

The researchers found that Head Start appears to be as beneficial for this group of children as it is for the general population of children living in poverty who attend the program. Analyzing the data on 253 children in non-parental care, they found the program had short-term positive impacts on school readiness, particularly in regards to early academic skills, positive teacher-child relationships, and a reduction in behavior problems.

“Our findings show Head Start is at least as effective for this very high risk group as prior studies have shown that it is for other children,” Lipscomb said. “The impact we saw was modest, not huge, but statistically significant. We think the positive impact on child-teacher relationships is especially important.”

Lipscomb said this was a new finding; prior analysis of Head Start’s impacts on children who live with their parents haven’t found this effect.

Lipscomb is an expert on early childhood development, with an emphasis on preschool and early child care experiences, and how those early social experiences help kids prepare for success in life. Her work focuses on children from at-risk backgrounds.

“Children in non-parental care tend to struggle with socio-emotional development, likely due to the risk factors they experience such as transitioning between homes, special needs, and behavioral problems,” she said. “Perhaps as a result of Head Start’s whole-child focus and standards for teacher qualifications, their teachers may be more effective than caregivers in other types of programs in establishing positive relationships with children who have high needs.”

OSU doctoral students Megan Pratt and Sara Schmitt, as well as Katherine Pears and Hyoun Kim of the Oregon Social Learning Center, contributed to this study.

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Shannon Lipscomb, 541-322-3137

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Shannon Lipscomb

Study: Taking stairs, raking leaves may equal a trip to the gym

CORVALLIS, Ore. – New research at Oregon State University suggests the health benefits of small amounts of activity – even as small as one- and two-minute increments that add up to 30 minutes per day – can be just as beneficial as longer bouts of physical exercise achieved by a trip to the gym.

The nationally representative study of more than 6,000 American adults shows that an active lifestyle approach, as opposed to structured exercise, may be just as beneficial in improving health outcomes, including preventing metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

“Our results suggest that engaging in an active lifestyle approach, compared to a structured exercise approach, may be just as beneficial in improving various health outcomes,” said Paul Loprinzi, lead author of the study. “We encourage people to seek out opportunities to be active when the choice is available. For example, rather than sitting while talking on the phone, use this opportunity to get in some activity by pacing around while talking.”

Perhaps just as importantly, the researchers found that 43 percent of those who participated in the “short bouts” of exercise met physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes day. In comparison, less than 10 percent of those in the longer exercise bouts met those federal guidelines for exercise.

Loprinzi, who is an assistant professor at Bellarmine University, conducted the research as a doctoral student working in the lab of Brad Cardinal at Oregon State University. Cardinal, a professor of exercise and sport science, is co-author of the study, which is in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

“You hear that less than 10 percent of Americans exercise and it gives the perception that people are lazy,” Cardinal said. “Our research shows that more than 40 percent of adults achieved the exercise guidelines, by making movement a way of life.”

Cardinal, who has studied the “lifestyle exercise” model for more than 20 years, said one of the most common barriers people cite to getting enough exercise is lack of time. He said the results of this study are promising, and show that simply building movement into everyday activities can have meaningful health benefits.

“This is a more natural way to exercise, just to walk more and move around a bit more,” Cardinal said. “We are designed by nature as beings who are supposed to move. People get it in their minds, if I don’t get that 30 minutes, I might as well not exercise at all. Our results really challenge that perception and give people meaningful, realistic options for meeting the physical activity guidelines.”

For example, Cardinal said instead of driving half a mile, try biking or walking the same distance; instead of using a riding lawn mower, use a push lawn mower. Instead of sitting through TV commercials, try doing some sit-ups, push-ups, or jumping jacks during the commercial breaks; and instead of sitting and being a spectator at a child's sporting event, try walking around during the halftime break.

The researchers said the participants in this study wore accelerometers, which is an objective tool to measure physical activity. Those who participated in the short bouts of activity could be moving as few as one or two minutes at a time. The people in the “short bouts” group had positive results in areas such as blood pressure, cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and waist circumference.

For instance, the study showed those in the shorter exercise group who met physical activity guidelines had an 89 percent chance of not having metabolic syndrome, compared to 87 percent for those meeting guidelines using the structured exercise approach.

Loprinzi said the one area where small bursts of activity did not seem to equal the benefits of longer, sustained exercise was in Body Mass Index, or BMI. However, the researchers cautioned that these findings do not necessarily mean that short bouts of activity do not help with weight loss, especially since they did find a benefit on weight circumference.

“There are inherent limitations in BMI as a surrogate measure of fat and health in general,” Cardinal said. “People can still be ‘fit’ and ‘fat.’”

The researchers emphasized that for health benefits, people should seek out opportunities to be physically active.

“In our society, you will always be presented with things that entice you to sit or be less active because of technology, like using a leaf blower instead of a rake,” Cardinal said. “Making physical activity a way of life is more cost-effective than an expensive gym membership. You may be more likely to stick with it, and over the long term, you’ll be healthier, more mobile and just feel better all around.”

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Brad Cardinal, 541-737-2506

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This graphic shows daily activities, and how simply making movement part of every day can lead to a healthier lifestyle.

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Cutting your own vegetables as opposed to buying pre-cut veggies at the store is just one everyday activity you can do as part of a healthy lifestyle.

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Brad Cardinal

No more “empty nest”: middle-aged adults face pressure on both sides

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The “empty nest” of past generations, in which the kids are grown up and middle-aged adults have more time to themselves, has been replaced in the United States by a nest that’s full – kids who can’t leave, can’t find a job and aging parents who need more help than ever before.

According to a new study by researchers at Oregon State University, what was once a life stage of new freedoms, options and opportunities has largely disappeared.

An economic recession and tough job market has made it hard on young adults to start their careers and families. At the same time, many older people are living longer, which adds new and unanticipated needs that their children often must step up to assist with.

The end result, researchers suggest, are “empty nest” plans that often have to be put on hold, and a mixed bag of emotions, ranging from joy and “happy-to-help” to uncertainty, frustration and exhaustion.

“We mostly found very positive feelings about adults helping their children in the emerging adulthood stage of life, from around ages 18 to 30,” said Karen Hooker, director of the OSU Center for Healthy Aging Research.

“Feelings about helping parents weren’t so much negative as just filled with more angst and uncertainty,” Hooker said. “As a society we still don’t socialize people to expect to be taking on a parent-caring role, even though most of us will at some point in our lives. The average middle-aged couple has more parents than children.”

The findings of this research were just published in the Journal of Aging Studies, and were based on data from six focus groups during 2009-10. It was one of the first studies of its type to look at how middle-aged adults actually feel about these changing trends.

Various social, economic, and cultural forces have combined to radically challenge the traditional concept of an empty nest, the scientists said. The recession that began in 2008 yielded record unemployment, substantial stock market losses, lower home values and increased demand for higher levels of education.

Around the same time, advances in health care and life expectancy have made it possible for many adults to live far longer than they used to – although not always in good health, and often needing extensive care or assistance.

This study concluded that most middle-aged parents with young adult children are fairly happy to help them out, and they understand that getting started in life is simply more difficult now. Some research has suggested that age 25 is the new 22; that substantially more parents now don’t even expect their kids to be financially independent in their early 20s, and don’t mind helping them through some difficult times.

But the response to helping adult parents who, at the same time, need increasing amounts of assistance is not as uniformly positive, the study found – it can be seen as both a joy and a burden, and in any case was not something most middle-aged adults anticipated.

“With the kids, it’s easy,” is a general purpose reaction. With aging parents, it isn’t.

“My grandparents died younger, so my parents didn’t cope with another generation,” one study participant said.

Many middle-aged people said it was difficult to make any plans, due to disruptions and uncertainty about a parent’s health at any point in time. And most said they we’re willing to help their aging parents, but a sense of being time-starved was a frequent theme.

“It brings my heart joy to be able to provide for my mom this way,” one study participant said. “There are times when it’s a burden and I feel resentful.”

The dual demands of children still transitioning to independence, and aging parents who need increasing amounts of care is causing many of the study participants to re-evaluate their own lives. Some say they want to make better plans for their future so they don’t pose such a burden to their children, and begin researching long-term care insurance. Soul-searching is apparent.

“I don’t care if I get old,” a participant said. “I just don’t want to become debilitated. So I would rather have a shorter life and a healthy life than a long life like my mom, where she doesn’t have a life. She doesn’t have memories. Our memories are what make us who we are.”

An increasing awareness of the challenges produced by these new life stages may cause more individuals to anticipate their own needs, make more concrete plans for the future, reduce ambivalent approaches and have more conversations with families about their own late-life care, the researchers said in their study.

Note: 

The study this story is based on is available in ScholarsArchive@OSU: http://bit.ly/10PslLB

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Karen Hooker, 541-737-4336

First study of Oregon’s Hmong reveals surprising influences on cancer screenings

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Cervical cancer rates for Hmong women are among the highest in the nation, yet past research has shown that cervical and breast cancer screening rates for this population are low – in part because of the Hmong’s strong patriarchal culture.

However, a new study by Oregon State University researchers examining attitudes regarding breast and cervical cancer screening among Oregon’s Hmong population shows a much more complicated picture. The study found that Hmong women often make their own health decisions, but in an environment in which screening is not discussed.

The study, recently published online in Health Education Research, is the first to look at the role of Hmong patriarchal and family influences on women’s breast and cervical cancer screening. It is also one of the only studies conducted with Oregon’s Hmong population.

Lead author Sheryl Thorburn, a professor of public health at Oregon State University, conducted the study with Jennifer Kue, a Portland native and member of the Hmong community. Kue is now an assistant professor at the Ohio State University.

According to the researchers, about 3,600 Hmong live in Oregon, with the majority centered in the Portland metro area. They interviewed more than 80 Hmong people in Portland and Salem - not only women ages 18 years and older, but also men, including husbands and male leaders in the community.

In the study, the majority of women and men reported that women make health decisions independently, and that, in general, breast and cervical cancer screening was not discussed in the household.

“What we are seeing from our study is that the Hmong culture is evolving,” Kue said. “It may not be the same for Hmong women everywhere. This is one piece of the puzzle.”

The Hmong first came to the United States in the 1970s as refugees from Southeast Asia. They played a central role in supporting the U.S. during the Vietnam conflict, and hundreds of thousands of Hmong were relocated to the United States.

Previous research suggests that strong patriarchal influence as well as suspicion of Western medicine could be barriers to cancer screening among women, and that men may make the decisions about critical medical conditions of Hmong women. However, those earlier studies did not survey both men and women about family influences on cancer screening.

Kue, who conducted the research while doing her doctoral studies at OSU, said she was surprised at the amount of autonomy reported by both male and female respondents. There also seemed to be greater use of health services among the Oregon Hmong interviewed.

For instance, 75 percent of women in the study had a clinical breast examination at least once; 79 percent of women 40 and older had received a mammogram at some point in their lives; and 84 percent of women had gone to the doctor for a Pap smear. In comparison, the few national studies conducted of Hmong women show low rates of breast and cervical cancer screening, ranging from 27 to 74 percent.

However, Kue said these results do not mean that health barriers do not exist.

“It is not enough to have been screened once because we want women to get screened regularly,” Kue said. “There have been so few studies done of the Hmong that it can be difficult to draw conclusions. What we do know is that this is a population at high risk.”

Still, the researchers said they were surprised that so few people reported that husbands or other male family members were influencing decisions. What their study did show was that overall, most women did not talk about their health with their husband or family members, and kept screening decisions private.

“In our culture, we place a heavy emphasis on communal decision-making and it’s male-dominant, so I would have expected men to have more influence,” Kue said.

Thorburn said this qualitative study helps researchers who follow up to shape their research.

“Without this exploratory study, people might have gone in with a lot of assumptions that may not be correct about the culture,” Thorburn said. “It gives us a completely different picture and tells us this is more complicated. It’s not men deciding whether or not women get screened because women of all ages said they have control and make the decisions about their health.”

The research was conducted with the help of a Community Advisory Committee, made up of nine Hmong community members and leaders. This key principle of community-based research was one of the ways the researchers were able to get buy-in from the closely-knit Hmong people.

Karen Levy Keon, formerly with Oregon State University and Ann Zukoski with Rainbow Research contributed to this research study, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

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Sheryl Thorburn, 541-737-9493

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(Left to right) Karen Levy Keon, Patela Lo, Jennifer Kue, and Sheryl Thorburn are the research team who conducted the first study of Oregon's Hmong population in regard to their attitudes on cancer screening. Jan. 2013. (Photo: OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences)

Physical education requirement at four-year universities at all-time low

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Even as policy makers and health experts point to an increased need for exercise, more than half of four-year colleges and universities in the United States have dropped physical education requirements compared to historic levels.

Almost every U.S. college student was required to take physical education and exercise requirements in the 1920s; today, that number is at an all-time low of 39 percent, according to a new study.

Oregon State University researcher Brad Cardinal, lead author of the study, examined data from 354 randomly selected four-year universities and colleges going back to 1920, a peak year with 97 percent of students required to take physical education. The results are in the current issue of Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport.

“We see more and more evidence about the benefit of physical activity, not just to our bodies, but to our minds, yet educational institutions are not embracing their own research,” Cardinal said. “It is alarming to see four-year institutions following the path that K-12 schools have already gone down, eliminating exercise as part of the curriculum even as obesity rates climb.”

More than 34 percent of adolescents and teens ages 12-19 are overweight and more than 17 percent are obese. These rates have roughly doubled since 1980, according to the 2012 Shape of the Nation Report.

Cardinal, who is a professor of exercise and sport science at OSU and a national expert on the benefits of physical activity, said research shows that exercise not only improves human health, but it also improves cognitive performance.

“Brain scans have shown that physical activity improves the area of the brain involved with high-level decision making,” he said. “In addition, we know employers often are concerned about employee health, in part because physically active employees attend work more and tend to perform better.”

Cardinal’s own university, Oregon State University, still requires physical education courses. He said requiring physical education sets the tone for students to understand that being active and healthy is as important as reading, writing and math. Cardinal believes even requiring just one or two exercise courses can at least jump-start a student into thinking about a healthy lifestyle as part of their overall college experience and later life.

“There is a remarkable disconnect in that we fund research as a nation showing that physical activity is absolutely critical to academic and life success, but we aren’t applying that knowledge to our own students,” he said.

While no research has conclusively shown why this downward trend is happening at universities, Cardinal said it is likely a result of shrinking budgets and an increased focus on purely academic courses, similar to what has happened at public elementary, middle, and high schools.

However, he noted that the median physical education budget for schools in the United States is only $764 per school year in K-12 and 61 percent of physical education teachers report an annual budget of less than $1,000. Yet, obesity will cost the United States $344 billion in medical-related expenses by 2018, about 21 percent of the nation’s health-care spending.

While many universities offer recreation classes and fitness centers, Cardinal said, those facilities are often intimidating for first-year, international, and low-fitness or skill-level students. He said studies have shown that campus exercise facilities are often utilized by the healthiest population of the student body.

“The very people who want to work out, and likely would find a way to do so no matter what, are often the most frequent visitors to gyms and fitness centers,” Cardinal said. “A public university should provide a way for people who may be intimidated by state-of-the-art facilities, or may be unfamiliar with even the basic concept of working out, a way to learn about basic health and physical activity.”

He added that it may be up to researchers and experts in his own discipline of exercise science to turn the tide at universities, and bring the research into a policy arena.

“As health educators and exercise scientists, we need to get serious about our roles in advocating for and using research to bring physical education back to college campuses,” Cardinal said. “College isn’t too late to start influencing students and getting them on a healthy trajectory.”

Spencer Sorensen of Portland State University and Marita Cardinal of Western Oregon University contributed to this study.

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Brad Cardinal, 541-737-2506

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Students get a full body workout in a Body Pump Class. Photo: OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences

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Brad Cardinal

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Students get a workout in a Body Pump Class. Photo: OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences

Older adults who are frail more likely to be food insufficient

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A national study of older Americans shows those who have limited mobility and low physical activity – scientifically categorized as “frail” – are five times more likely to report that they often don’t have enough to eat, defined as “food insufficiency,” than older adults who were not frail.

The nationally representative study of more than 4,700 adults older than age 60 in the United States uses data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The results are online today in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Lead author Ellen Smit, an epidemiologist at Oregon State University, said food insufficiency occurs when people report that they sometimes or often do not have enough food to eat. Food-insufficient older adults have been shown to have poor dietary intake, nutritional status and health status.

“Although little is known about food insufficiency as it relates to frailty, conceivably we thought if food insufficiency is associated with poorer nutritional status, it may also be associated with physical functioning and frailty,” she said.

Frailty is a state of decreased physical functioning and a significant complication of aging that increases the risk for incident falls, fractures, disability, health care expenditures, and premature mortality. People in this study are diagnosed as frail when they meet two of the following criteria: slow walking, muscular weakness, exhaustion and low physical activity.

Smit said as the population ages, with more than 20 percent of Americans expected to be older than 65 by 2030, the need for identifying clinical and population-based strategies to decrease the prevalence and consequences of frailty are needed. In her study, almost 50 percent of people were either frail, or “pre-frail,” meaning that they were at risk for decreased physical functioning.

Frail people were older, less educated, at lower income levels, more likely to be female, more likely to be smokers, and less likely to be white than adults who were not frail. Frail people were also more likely to be either underweight or obese, while at the same time eating fewer calories than people who were not frail.

“We need to target interventions on promoting availability and access to nutritious foods among frail older adults,” Smit said. “It is also important to improve nutritional status while not necessarily increasing body weight.”

Frail adults may have difficulty leaving the house, for instance, and accessing fresh fruits and vegetables. Smit said communities could work on identifying programs or nonprofit organizations that can deliver nutritious meals or fresh produce to older frail adults.

Researchers from Oregon Health & Science University, Bellarmine University, Tufts School of Medicine and Portland State University contributed to this study, which was partially supported by grants from the General Research Fund Award at Oregon State University and the National Institutes of Health.

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Source: 

Ellen Smit, 541-737-3833

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

College Wide Shoot Fall 2012

Ellen Smit