Vital Record » Public Health http://news.tamhsc.edu Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Sat, 25 Apr 2015 14:32:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Want kids to pay attention in class? Give them standing desks http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=want-kids-to-pay-attention-in-class-give-them-standing-desks http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=want-kids-to-pay-attention-in-class-give-them-standing-desks#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 13:34:29 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23173 A study from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health finds students with standing desks are more attentive than their seated counterparts. In fact, preliminary results show 12 percent greater on-task engagement in classrooms with standing desks, which equates to an extra seven minutes per hour of engaged instruction time. ]]>

For years, teachers have been searching for ways to get students to be more attentive in class.

Mark Benden, Ph.D., CPE, associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, may have the answer: standing desks.

Boy standing at desk

Preliminary results show 12 percent greater on-task engagement in classrooms with standing desks, which equates to an extra seven minutes per hour of engaged instruction time.

A recent study in the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education published by Benden and other researchers from Texas A&M  found that students provided with standing desks exhibited higher rates of engagement in the classroom than their seated counterparts. Preliminary results show 12 percent greater on-task engagement in classrooms with standing desks, which equates to an extra seven minutes per hour of engaged instruction time. The findings were based on a study of almost 300 children in second through fourth grade who were observed over the course of a school year. Engagement was measured by on-task behaviors such as answering a question, raising a hand or participating in active discussion and off-task behaviors like talking out of turn.

Standing desks – also known as stand-biased desks – are raised desks that have stools nearby, enabling students to sit or stand during class at their discretion. Benden, who is an ergonomic engineer by trade, originally became interested in the desks as a means to reduce childhood obesity and relieve stress on spinal structures that may occur with traditional desks. Lessons learned from his research in this area led to creation of Stand2Learn™, an offshoot company of a faculty-led startup that manufactures a classroom version of the stand-biased desk.

Benden’s previous studies have shown the desks can help reduce obesity – with students at standing desks burning 15 percent more calories than students at traditional desks (25 percent for obese children) – and there was anecdotal evidence that the desks also increased engagement. The latest study was the first designed specifically to look at the impact of classroom engagement.

Benden said he was not surprised at the results of the study, given that previous research has shown that physical activity, even at low levels, may have beneficial effects on cognitive ability.

“Standing workstations reduce disruptive behavior problems and increase students’ attention or academic behavioral engagement by providing students with a different method for completing academic tasks (like standing) that breaks up the monotony of seated work,” Benden said. “Considerable research indicates that academic behavioral engagement is the most important contributor to student achievement. Simply put, we think better on our feet than in our seat.”

The key takeaway from this research, Benden said, is that school districts that put standing desks in classrooms may be able to address two problems at the same time: academic performance and childhood obesity.

Additional Texas A&M researchers involved with the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, were Hongwei Zhao, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Texas A&M School of Public Health; Jamilia Blake, Ph.D., assistant professor of educational psychology at the Texas A&M College of Education; and Marianela Dornhecker, doctoral student in educational psychology at the Texas A&M College of Education. Monica Wendel, Dr.P.H., associate dean for public health practice at the University of Louisville, also contributed to the research.

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Center for Community Health Development awarded funding to evaluate American Heart Association national program http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=center-for-community-health-development-awarded-funding-to-evaluate-american-heart-association-national-program http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=center-for-community-health-development-awarded-funding-to-evaluate-american-heart-association-national-program#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 19:29:06 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23164 The American Heart Association (AHA) has selected the Center for Community Health Development (CCHD) at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health to lead the evaluation of a $3 million chronic disease prevention initiative]]>
Kenneth McLeroy, Ph.D.

Kenneth McLeroy, Ph.D.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has selected the Center for Community Health Development (CCHD) at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health to lead the evaluation of a $3 million chronic disease prevention initiative.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Community Health awarded the AHA funding to work with selected AHA affiliates who will organize community stakeholders to implement and disseminate evidence- and practice-based programs aimed at chronic disease prevention and the reduction of health disparities. AHA will identify approximately 300 affiliates over three years who will lead this effort across the nation.

Regents and Distinguished Professor Kenneth McLeroy, Ph.D., co-director of CCHD, will serve as principal investigator of the project, and Whitney Garney, Ph.D., will oversee the daily evaluation activities.

Whitney Garney, Ph.D.

Whitney Garney, Ph.D.

McLeroy is an expert in program evaluation, having served as principal investigator on several large evaluation projects throughout his career.

“These programs have the potential to effectively address chronic disease prevalence across our nation,” said McLeroy. “We are hopeful that our evaluation will provide the proper feedback for producing more effective chronic disease prevention programs.”

Chronic diseases and conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity and arthritis are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States and are responsible for seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year.

CCHD will evaluate the three-year project to assess collaboration, capacity and awareness of AHA affiliates to implement strategies that promote chronic disease prevention.

“I am honored and excited to be a part of this nationwide project and to partner with a respected organization like the American Heart Association,” said Garney.

Both McLeroy and Garney have begun working with their AHA partners and are currently in the preliminary planning stages of the evaluation.

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Texas A&M releases CEO Cancer Gold Standard Accreditation Guidebook http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-am-releases-ceo-cancer-gold-standard-accreditation-guidebook http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-am-releases-ceo-cancer-gold-standard-accreditation-guidebook#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:57:23 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23152 The Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service have produced the Going for the Gold: Achieving CEO Cancer Gold Standard™ Accreditation Guidebook to help organizations seek accreditation and reduce the risk of cancer for their employees and families]]>
CEO Cancer Gold Standard Seal

Organizations earn Gold Standard accreditation through reducing cancer risk in the workplace.

In an effort to help organizations seek accreditation and reduce the risk of cancer for their employees and families, the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service have produced the Going for the Gold: Achieving CEO Cancer Gold Standard™ Accreditation Guidebook.

Eradicating cancer is the goal of the CEO Cancer Gold Standard™, a workplace wellness initiative. The CEO Roundtable on Cancer, a nonprofit organization of chief executive officers of major U.S. companies founded by former President George H.W. Bush, developed this initiative in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute.

“I am very proud that Aggies initiated this guidebook, which will become an important tool for companies wanting to be part of the CEO Gold Standard,” said Bush.

“Beginning with President and Mrs. Bush, we thank everyone in Aggieland, and notably the authors of this valuable guide, for creating such a clear, comprehensive and inviting roadmap that will encourage employers to work with and on behalf of their employees to lower the risk of cancer, detect it early, and ensure access to high-quality care,” said Dr. Martin Murphy, Chief Executive Officer, CEO Roundtable on Cancer.

To earn Gold Standard accreditation, an organization must establish programs to reduce cancer risk by eliminating tobacco use; encouraging physical activity; promoting healthy diet and nutrition; detecting cancer at its earliest stages; and providing access to quality care, including participation in clinical trials. The Gold Standard calls for organizations to evaluate their health benefits and corporate culture and take extensive, concrete actions in areas of health and wellness to reduce the risk of cancer in the workplace.

The accreditation process resulted in the creation of a very active Health and Wellness Committee at the Texas A&M School of Public Health and a strong partnership with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“Going beyond our experience, we are now ready to share lessons learned more broadly within the Health Science Center, Texas A&M University and The Texas A&M University System at large. The health and wellness activities outlined in this guidebook can have a great benefit to Aggie employees and their families,” said co-author and Regents and Distinguished Professor Marcia Ory, Ph.D, of the Texas A&M School of Public Health.

“Strongly committed to promoting a healthy workforce, AgriLife Extension Service exemplifies an organization that supports the values of the CEO Cancer Gold Standard,” said co-author Ninfa Pena-Purcell, Ph.D., of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “This most recently was exemplified by our launching wellness programs across all agency offices in Texas.”

The Cancer Alliance of Texas (CAT) introduced the Texas A&M School of Public Health to the opportunity to become CEO Gold Standard Accredited and was extremely helpful during the process.

“We will be sharing the guidebook with other CAT members and providing guidance on how state-wide organizations might seek accreditation,” said co-author Samuel Towne, Jr., Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health and a CAT member.

Deborah Vollmer Dahlke, Dr.P.H. who is the past chair of CAT, assisted in the development and review of the guidebook in terms of its relevance to organizations committed to cancer prevention and control throughout Texas.

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Cellphone bans across the U.S. http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=cellphone-bans-across-the-u-s http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=cellphone-bans-across-the-u-s#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:15:49 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23147 Texas is one of only five states in the U.S. that is without a full texting ban for all drivers. Studies have come to prove that having a texting ban greatly eliminates crash-related hospitalizations]]>

Learn more about bans against texting and driving and how it’s reducing the amount of crash-related hospitalizations.

PhoneBans-LONG

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School of Public Health leading multi-state initiative to reduce childhood obesity along the U.S.-Mexico border http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=school-of-public-health-leading-multi-state-initiative-to-reduce-childhood-obesity-along-the-u-s-mexico-border http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=school-of-public-health-leading-multi-state-initiative-to-reduce-childhood-obesity-along-the-u-s-mexico-border#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 15:49:13 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23110 Joe Sharkey, Ph.D., M.P.H, has received a $4.9 million grant that targets populations of Mexican heritage in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona]]>

Joe Sharkey, Ph.D., M.P.H, has spent nearly a decade trying to improve the lives of children and families living along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Now, Sharkey plans to take his work to a new level with the help of a five-year, $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Sharkey will lead a team from Texas, New Mexico and Arizona who plan to implement a family-centered approach to reducing the incidence of childhood obesity along the border through research, education and extension. Levels of childhood obesity in this area are reaching “epidemic proportions,” according to studies conducted by the United States-México Border Health Commission.

photo of a colonies

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in areas such as the colonias located along the Texas-Mexico border.

“The burden of obesity disproportionately affects marginalized populations, such as children of Mexican heritage who reside in impoverished communities along the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Sharkey, who is professor of health promotion and community health sciences in the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health and founding director of the Program for Research and Outreach-Engagement on Nutrition and Health Disparities.

The program will focus on areas with the least amount of resources, such as the more than 2,300 colonias scattered along the Texas-Mexico border from El Paso to Brownsville. Colonias are unregulated neighborhoods that have sprung up in former agricultural areas that have exhausted their usefulness for growing crops. Families living in these areas have limited access to affordable, healthy foods and physical activity opportunities. Public health officials trying to improve the quality of life in these areas face numerous barriers such as language, level of education, poverty, inaccessibility, and trust of outsiders. The program will focus on Hidalgo County (Texas), Luna and Otero counties (New Mexico), and Santa Cruz County (Arizona).

“Obesity is a very complex issue in these areas,” Sharkey said. “It can be hard to be physically active when it is 100 degrees outside, there are dogs running loose and there are gangs. Parents may be keeping their kids inside the house because it is safer. You can’t just take a program from somewhere else and drop it in there.” As a result, the team will focus on addressing environmental context and culture of the areas.

Sharkey and other members of the research team plan to develop and test a promotora-driven model called Salud Para Usted y Su Familia (Health for You and Your Family). Promotoras are members of the community who are trusted by residents, serve as a cultural bridge, and have special training in outreach and health education. Sharkey said he was encouraged to start the program by promotoras themselves.

“We have been doing research along the border for years,” Sharkey said. “They wanted to know how we can change things.”

Working with these promotoras, Sharkey and his team plan to develop a program to improve individual and family behavior in three key areas: nutrition, physical activity and “screen time.”

“Positive behavior changes in children are not sustainable if the family system and home environment remains unchanged,” Sharkey said. He wants to develop a program that will enable residents to maintain their cultural traditions, but do so in a healthier way. For example, this might involve using olive oil in tortillas instead of lard.

The new program builds on variety of other programs Sharkey has developed in South Texas since 2007. His first project along the border involved driving every road in Hidalgo County to map its food resources. More recently, he has done several studies looking at hunger rates among children and the elderly who live in the colonias.

Sharkey said improving the health of families living along the U.S.-Mexico border is important because these communities are typical of many new immigrant communities springing up throughout the country, including in states such as North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Iowa, Colorado, Oregon and Oklahoma.

“If you look at the demographics, populations of Mexican origin will be the largest minority group in the United States, if they are not so already,” Sharkey said. “We hope this project will help us learn how to improve the health of this population, whether it is through individual behavior or environmental changes.”

Partners on the project include New Mexico State University (Jill McDonald, Ph.D.), the Mariposa Community Health Center in Nogales, Ariz. (Susan Kunz, M.P.H.), Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (Sharon Robinson, Ph.D.), and Baylor University (M. Renee Umstattd Meyer, Ph.D.). The USDA awarded the grant through the Childhood Obesity Prevention Challenge Area, a program of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative sponsored by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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Health Science Center offers new programs to increase the diversity of the health care workforce in Texas http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=health-science-center-offers-new-programs-to-increase-the-diversity-of-the-healthcare-workforce-in-texas http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=health-science-center-offers-new-programs-to-increase-the-diversity-of-the-healthcare-workforce-in-texas#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:24:02 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23103 College of Medicine and College of Nursing start new programs with the help of grants from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board]]>

Having a more diverse health care workforce isn’t just a lofty goal. Numerous studies – including one by the Institute of Medicine – have documented that patients from minority communities do better when they are treated by health care professionals with similar backgrounds.

photo of minority student

The Texas A&M College of Medicine and College of Nursing have both started new programs designed to increase the number of students from underrepresented communities who apply to medical and nursing school.

That is why the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and College of Nursing have both started new programs they hope will help increase the diversity of the health care workforce in Texas. Both programs have been funded by grants from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB).

The College of Medicine has started a three-part program it calls the Aggie Doctor Initiative. This initiative is designed to help prospective medical students at key stages in their academic careers: their first year of college, the medical school application process, and their first year of medical school.

The initiative launched last fall with the selection of 25 first-year undergraduate students at Texas A&M University who are participating in an existing program called the FOCUS Learning Community, which is designed to help support low-income students or those who are the first in their families to attend college.

Each of these students was paired with a current Texas A&M medical student who has a similar background. In the fall, the students all took the same chemistry class as well as a common seminar class to help them prepare for exams. The program has also made science tutors and supplemental instruction available for those who want them.

“First-year undergraduate students on a pre-med track face a schedule packed with classes such as chemistry, biology and statistics,” said David McIntosh, assistant dean for diversity at the College of Medicine and director of the Aggie Doctor Initiative. “We lose so many students in that first year.”

After just one semester, McIntosh said the benefits were clear as the program’s inaugural students performed much better in their first semester than pre-med students have done in the past.

“We even had two students earn a 4.0 grade point average,” he said, also noting that the group of students has formed a unique bond, which should provide support as they continue their undergraduate education.

This spring, McIntosh began offering some medically relevant experiences for the undergraduates, such as a suture clinic taught by medical school students. Participants also are shadowing physicians at Health for All, a nonprofit medical clinic in Bryan, and have had the opportunity to work with Mark Sicilio, M.D., a practicing pediatrician and the interim chair of the Humanities Department in the Texas A&M College of Medicine.

“We hope some of these students will attend the Texas A&M College of Medicine, but we will be happy to see them attend any medical school,” McIntosh said. “Some of them will be highly sought after.”

While the first year of college is a pivotal time for all students, sophomores and juniors interested in entering into medicine can still benefit from the Aggie Doctor Initiative through a program called Pre-Med Fellows, which accepted its first 10 participants last fall.

The Pre-Med Fellows program also provides mentoring, as well as an MCAT prep course, a seminar on preparing medical school applications, and the opportunity to sit in on some classes at the College of Medicine. Students who complete the Pre-Med Fellows program and earn a score of 27 on the MCAT will be guaranteed admission into the Texas A&M College of Medicine.

Finally, for students entering their first year of medical school, the initiative is launching MedCamp, which will welcome its first 25 participants this summer. These participants will be selected from among applicants who have expressed an interest in remediating healthcare disparities in Texas. These students will have the opportunity to arrive on campus a month early so they can participate in a variety of social and academic activities designed to acclimatize them to life as a medical student.

“In medical school, students have tests every two weeks that cover about as much material as they would have had in a whole semester as undergraduates,” McIntosh said. “Even students who have been high-achieving their entire lives sometimes hit a bump in the road when they get here.”

Students participating in MedCamp will be connected with four mentors to help them as they start medical school – a staff mentor, a clinical faculty mentor, a science faculty member and a mentor who is a second-year medical student.

The College of Medicine received funding from the THECB to run the Aggie Doctor Initiative for two years. After that, McIntosh hopes to secure additional funds to keep the program going and make it available to even more students.

The College of Nursing is using the grant it received from the THECB to develop a program to recruit and retain more nurses from South Texas, specifically Hidalgo County, which is the poorest county in the United States. The goal of the program is to expand the Hispanic nurse workforce, since this is the most underrepresented racial/ethnic group among the registered nurses, with only about 6 percent nationwide.

The college is partnering with South Texas College, the South Texas Health System and the McAllen Independent School District to identify potential candidates beginning as early as middle school who have an interest in the field of nursing. The program, which will leverage the college’s presence at the Texas A&M Health Science Center McAllen campus, will include workshops to talk about careers in nursing and offer application assistance to prospective students.

Jodie Gary, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nursing who is directing the initiative, said the college hopes to double its enrollment of Hispanic students within the next two years. Gary thinks one program that might be particularly appealing to students in the area is the college’s R.N. to B.S.N. program that can be completed online.

“South Texas has fewer nurses with bachelor’s degrees than other parts of the state,” Gary said. “Studies have shown a positive correlation between level of education and patient outcomes, so this is something we can do that will really make an impact in that area.”

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Health Science Center announces 2015 Commencement ceremonies, speakers http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=health-science-center-announces-2015-commencement-ceremonies-speakers http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=health-science-center-announces-2015-commencement-ceremonies-speakers#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 19:19:38 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23098 State and national healthcare leaders will address students graduating in medicine, nursing, public health, pharmacy and dentistry]]>

The Texas A&M Health Science Center will host its 2015 commencement ceremonies in May at locations across the state.14335732762_d3357a9745_k

The first ceremony will take place on Friday, May 8, when the College of Nursing holds its commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. in Rudder Auditorium on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station. The featured speaker will be Janelle Shepard, B.S.N., M.B.A., senior director of care transitions for the Texas Health Alliance and a member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Commencement ceremonies for the College of Medicine and the School of Public Health will be held in Rudder Auditorium on Saturday, May 9. The ceremony for School of Public Health graduates will begin at 9 a.m. and will feature James F. Sallis, Ph.D., distinguished professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego and director of Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Sallis is one of the world’s most cited authors in the social sciences, and has been featured in Time magazine as one of the four most effective scientists currently working to address America’s obesity problem.

The ceremony for College of Medicine graduates will begin at 2 p.m. and will feature Geoffrey Ling, M.D., Ph.D., founding director of the Biological Technologies Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Ling has launched several well-publicized projects at DARPA, including the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, which is trying to develop a robotic human arm, and the PREVENT program, which focuses on blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI). Prior to joining DARPA, Ling was an Army doctor and a professor of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He is considered to be the Army’s premier subject matter expert on TBI and was one of the doctors who treated U.S. Sen. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in 2011.

Thomas Menighan, Sc.D., MBA, executive vice president and CEO of the American Pharmacists Association, will be the featured speaker at the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy’s commencement ceremony, which will be held on Saturday, May 23, at 2 p.m. in the Steinke Physical Education Center in Kingsville. Menighan has founded several pharmacy-related companies, including SynTegra Solutions Inc., SymRx Inc., and CornerDrugstore.com©.

Maxine Fienberg, D.D.S., president of the American Dental Association, will be the featured speaker at the commencement ceremony for the Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry, which will be held on Wednesday, May 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.

Admission to all commencement ceremonies is free and does not require a ticket. For additional information, visit the Texas A&M University commencement website.

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New research shows fall-related hospitalizations are on the rise in Texas http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=new-research-shows-fall-related-hospitalizations-are-on-the-rise-in-texas http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=new-research-shows-fall-related-hospitalizations-are-on-the-rise-in-texas#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 14:35:43 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23078 Fall-related hospitalizations in Texas are increasing significantly, according to a study conducted by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among people age 65 and older, with a third of this population suffering a fall each year]]>
Women helping another walk

The number of fall-related hospitalizations among adults age 50 and older increased by nearly 20 percent from 2007 to 2011.

Fall-related hospitalizations in Texas are increasing significantly, according to a study conducted by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health.

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among people age 65 and older, with a third of this population suffering a fall each year.

Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health researcher Samuel Towne Jr., Ph.D., and others recently analyzed the geographic dispersion of falls and fall-related hospitalization rates in Texas. Using data from the 2011 Texas Hospital Inpatient Discharge Public Use Data File, the researchers examined the characteristics of patients as well as the location of each incident.

Samuel Towne Jr., Ph.D.

Samuel Towne Jr., Ph.D.

Published recently online in the Journal of Safety Research, researchers found that the number of fall-related hospitalizations among adults age 50 and older increased by nearly 20 percent from 2007 to 2011. A previous study by members of the research team identified an increase in the cost of fall-related hospitalization of $1.2 billion along the same timeline and age group. Additionally, they discovered that the number of fall-related hospitalizations was higher for females than for males, with females age 85 and older representing 33 percent of the total fall-related hospitalizations in 2011.

The researchers classified 20.5 percent of non-metropolitan counties and 34.2 percent of metropolitan counties in Texas as “hot spots” for falls among those aged 65 and older. There were clusters of “hot spot” counties throughout the state (north, south and central regions), many of which lacked community-based fall prevention programs.

“There has been limited information about the geographic dispersion of falls and fall-related hospitalizations, especially in relation to fall-prevention programming,” Towne said. “Studies like this enable policymakers and program planners to examine current fall-prevention programs and encourage development of new programs where they are most needed.”

Increasing community-based programs targeting populations with the highest fall risk will allow for a better quality of life for elderly adults.

“With the rapid growth of the older population in Texas, a coordinated approach including clinical, community and technological interventions will be needed to halt the anticipated rise in falls and their enormous public health burden,” said co-author and Regents and Distinguished Professor Marcia Ory, Ph.D., of the Texas A&M School of Public Health.

Additional authors include Matthew Smith, Ph.D., and Aya Yoshikawa, Ph.D.

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New School of Public Health dean on a mission to improve public health in Texas http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=new-school-of-public-health-dean-on-a-mission-to-improve-public-health-in-texas http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=new-school-of-public-health-dean-on-a-mission-to-improve-public-health-in-texas#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 15:22:54 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23073 Jay Maddock, Ph.D., wants to use his new position as dean of the Texas A&M College of Public Health to raise the level of public health in Texas. ]]>

In his office at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, Dean Jay Maddock has a small horse-shaped figure that was given to him by a woman who created thousands of miles of walking trails on Jeju, an island off the southern coast of Korea.

Jay Maddock, Ph.D.

Jay Maddock, Ph.D.

Maddock proudly keeps this figure as a symbol of the positive impact just one person can have.

The potential to have such a major impact on people’s lives is what prompted Maddock, who holds a Ph.D. in psychology, to pursue a career in public health.

“Public health can make a real difference in people’s lives,” he says.

Maddock is passionate about all aspects of public health, but the area he is particularly passionate about is exercise. He has been interested in promoting exercise ever since he was in graduate school and noticed he was putting on weight as a the result of a sedentary academic lifestyle.

“We have engineered physical activity out of our daily lives and made it very easy to do very little,” he says. “We really need to rethink our environment.”

Maddock, who was recently elected president of the American Academy of Health Behavior, has spent the past 15 years working on how we can put physical activity back into our daily lives. While he was director of public health at the University of Hawaii, he co-authored the state Physical Activity and Nutrition Plan and was involved in implementing a variety of initiatives that helped the state become recognized as the healthiest in the country.

Among these were initiatives to offer more recess and physical education in the schools, develop safer and more walkable communities, and increase access to fruits and vegetables.

One simple idea Maddock says can work is “walking school buses,” where parents walk their children to school and pick up more parents and children along the way.

“Twenty to 30 years ago, every kid walked and biked to school. Today none of them do,” Maddock says. “Children only need one hour of exercise a day. If they walk 15 minutes each way to school, that’s half of it.”

Another idea is “complete streets,” where every new street that is built has to accommodate cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicles.

Maddock says even seemingly minor things such as zoning codes can have a major impact on public health. He is an advocate of communities that have housing and retail together, which are commonly referred to as “walkable communities.”

“Downtown Bryan is a great example of a walkable community,” Maddock says. “We need more places like that. People want to live in these communities.”

Maddock notes that walkable communities are not just good for public health, but also good economic policy.

“Getting people out of their cars and on foot is great for the economy,” he says.

Maddock says the key to developing walkable communities is working with community leaders, developers and local planning boards.

“Walkable communities look different everywhere, but the ideas and principles behind them are the same,” he says.

Maddock says developing community coalitions is also a key to improving public health, since social factors tend to influence a lot of our behaviors. While he was in Hawaii, he helped build a coalition in Kauai that was recently named one of the best coalitions in America for increasing physical activity and improving nutrition.

Maddock wants to use his new position as dean to help bring similar programs to Texas, which currently ranks 31st among the 50 states when it comes to public health.

“After 15 years in Hawaii, I felt I had pretty much done what I could do there,” he says. “I was looking for a new challenge. I want to make Texas a better place for everyone.”

If history is any guide, he is likely to succeed.

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