Proof Points: College of Health and Human Sciences

OSU researchers are discovering solutions to the complex challenges facing young children and families.

  • OSU’s Child Development Laboratory in the Hallie Ford Center for Health Children and Facilities, with its on-campus Head Start program, provides a “living laboratory” for faculty and students to study young children. Faculty in the center produced Health in Action, a multi-media program in English and Spanish used statewide to train childcare providers about the nutrition and physical activity needs to children to reduce causes of obesity.
  • An international expert on childhood obesity, Stewart Trost leads research on obesity prevention across the lifespan – from establishing healthy behaviors and models for preschoolers to understanding the psychological and environmental determinants of adults’ physical activity. Trost recently received a $1.2 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to design a healthy eating and physical activity program for home-based day care providers and training on how to use it. This follows a $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that Trost also received to record energy expenditure and changes in physical activity in grade school children.
  • The college’s IMPACT (Individualized Movement and Physical Activity for Children Today) program has been delivering a weekly program of physical activity for children with disabilities for 26 years. Each young person is paired with an OSO student volunteer to guide them through the program managed by graduate students in the college’s highly acclaimed Movement Studies in Disability program.
  • The Family Policy Program at OSU offers undergraduate, graduate, and extended education, along with research and evaluation to improve the well-being of individuals and families across the lifespan. Bobbie Weber is researching critical needs of the child care industry and addressing solutions for families to make child care more available and affordable. Deana Grobe studies the interrelationships among child care subsidy use, employment and other types of assistance.
  • At the OSU Child Development Laboratory, HHS researchers such as Megan McClelland are working on issues pertaining to early childhood development, which many educators believe is the key to academic success in later years. McClelland has developed cutting-edge programs through her studies, including the “Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders” task, a proven predictor of school readiness.

OSU researchers are discovering the myriad keys to optimal aging, delivering practical applications of their research across the state and nation.

  • The psychosocial aspects of aging are gaining attention, in part because of the groundbreaking work by our scholars: Karen Hooker, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research, co-developed a model of six foci of personality that has been adopted by universities across the United States as a powerful tool to guide future studies on personality and aging. Carolyn Aldwin’s multidisciplinary perspective on coping and health is featured in her book Stress, Coping and Development. She emphasizes the transaction between people and their environments and explores the negative and positive impacts of stress as we age. She is also editor and contributing author of the Handbook of Health Psychology and Aging.
  • Internationally known scholar and author Rick Settersten encourages a new understanding of our various life passages – toddlers to children, children to adults, adults to elders. An expert on life transitions, he says all the “rules” for how we age are changing and impacting our society in ways we never imagined, but must embrace.
  • OSU nutrition scientist Emily Ho is studying the way diet, and certain foods, can protect against certain types of cancer, specifically prostate cancer. Along with several of her colleagues at OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute, where she is a principal investigator, Ho is looking at the soy-tea-vegetable synergy and how an Asian diet might help protect the body, as well as the important role zinc might play in the fight against prostate cancer.

Researchers in OSU’s Bone Research Laboratory are discovering solutions to improving bone health across the lifespan.

  • The BUGSY (BUilding the Growing Skeleton in Youth) programs is in its 11th year, studying the long term effect of impact exercise in the early years to bank bone mass for later in life. Lead researcher Kathy Gunter says data on the 300 children followed are evidence enough to establish interventions in school physical education programs. Gunter’s Better Bones and Balance course was designed following research by her and Christine Snow demonstrating that weight-bearing physical activity can reduce the risk of osteoporotic fractures in older women. Kathy has trained more than 75 instructors to deliver the program in communities throughout Oregon, Washington, and California. Data show that women participants have greater bone mass, reduced fall risk and better functional capacity than those who have not.
  • Russell Turner and Urszula Iwaniec are studying the effects of genes, hormones, diet, alcohol, and exercise on bone health. They are testing the idea that moderate amounts of alcohol may slow bone loss in aging women and reduce the risk for osteoporotic fractures.They are also exploring dietary and lifestyle measures and drug therapy to control the production of chemicals in bone that make them attractive to cancer cells.
  • Mike Pavol is studying the clinical and ergonomic application of biomechanics, conducting research into preventing falls by older adults by improving their ability to recover from a loss of balance. He is also investigating landing mechanics to reduce knee injuries and promote strong bones throughout the lifespan.
  • Besides coauthoring four top-selling textbooks, publishing 100-plus papers and articles in refereed journals and holding the associate editorship of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal from 1998 to 2006, Melinda Manore works with Oregon Health and Science University’s Department of Medicine through an OSU-OHSU research exchange. Some of her most notable research is in the “female athlete triad” — how the synergy of sports, hormones and bone growth affects the health of girls and women. She conducted the first-ever bone study among winter athletes at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Health and Human Ssciences research in risky behaviors and sexual health has uncovered significant dynamics that threaten specific populations and has focused policy maker attention on those issues.

  • Marie Harvey’s work has focused on the social, psychological, and cultural aspects of sexual and reproductive health. In 2008, she was given the Carl S. Shultz Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement from the American Public Health Association’s Population, Family Planning and Reproductive Health Section, the highest honor in her field. Harvey is involved in two studies, one funded by the Centers for Disease Control and the other by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs, that examine sexual risk behavior and contraception use among Latinos in rural Oregon.
  • Sheryl Thorburn researches discrimination in health care and its effects, as well as health-related behavior of disadvantaged groups and its contribution to disparities in health and health care. She is principal investigator on a National Cancer Institute-funded study to explore the influence of discrimination, medical mistrust, and other social, cultural, and health care system factors on breast and cervical cancer screening among Hmong women living in Oregon. She has also studied discrimination when obtaining contraceptive services and conspiracy beliefs about HIV/AIDS and birth control.
  • Brian Flay studies health promotion and disease prevention; mass media for health promotion and prevention; smoking and drug abuse prevention; violence prevention; youth HIV/AIDS prevention; positive youth development; comprehensive school reform; prevention research methods and theory; prevention research training. His National Institutes of Health-funded research looks at school-based programs to reduce problem behaviors.
  • Joseph Catania has been involved in research in public health and related disciplines for more than 25 years, studying behavioral antecedents and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. His focus includes social and behavioral factors in sexual health, sexual dysfunctions among men, sexual development and sexual trauma (particularly outcomes associated with childhood sexual abuse), and sexually transmitted infections such as HIV.

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