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Understanding Obesity and Self-Esteem: What Your Weight in Middle School Says about You Now

Congratulations to Etinosa Oghogho and Dr. Helen Bland. They placed first for their research poster presentation for the entire National Youth At Risk Conference. The purpose of this triangulation mixed-methods study was to determine the impact of past middle-school age weight and self-esteem on adult weight and self-esteem.  Using the Theory of Planned Behavior, participating college students were asked to retrospectively report on weight perception of self and body self-esteem both at middle school age and currently (n=185). Sampling methodology employed was random, cluster sampling. Current BMI is significantly associated with middle school BMI and self-esteem (p=0.01).  Thematic content analysis carries themes of affirmation and admonition from middle-school age to present.  Public health implications of study are explored.


Georgia Southern study shows number of obese adults trying to lose weight is decreasing

A new Georgia Southern study shows that even though obesity in the U.S. has reached historic highs and nationwide public awareness campaigns have outlined the associated health risks, the number of overweight and obese adults trying to lose weight has steadily fallen.

The research brief, titled “Change in percentages of adults with overweight or obesity trying to lose weight, 1988 to 2014,” was a student-led research effort by Kassandra Snook, Carmen Duke and Kathryn Finch, all 2016 graduates in the Master of Public Health program at the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health (JPHCOPH) at Georgia Southern. The brief was recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“We observed a rising percentage of overweight people who believed that their body weight was just fine,” said Dr. Jian Zhang, associate professor of epidemiology in the JPHCOPH, who supervised the study. “Surprisingly, my students found that no scientific effort had been made to verify this hypothesis, and we were not sure Americans were truly translating the elevated awareness about the obesity crisis into action.”

The students used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an ongoing survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to examine the theory. They reviewed survey data from 1988-1994, 1999-2004 and 2009-2014, which revealed an alarming divergent trend: the prevalence of overweight and obesity increased, and the number of overweight and obese adults trying to lose weight decreased.

“You would hope that as being overweight and/or obese become more well-known risk factors for a variety of conditions and diseases, more people would attempt to avoid that risk,” said Snook, lead author of the brief. “I think the results of this research are very significant in showing that the obesity epidemic is continuing, and will continue to worsen as long as no weight loss attempts are made.”

Andrew Hansen Dr.P.H., assistant professor of community health behavior and education in the JPHCOPH, and one of the brief’s co-authors and supervisors of the study, says the discussion of obesity isn’t a discussion about external looks. It’s a discussion about health. And with health care being one of the most relevant topics in the country right now, it’s even more important to discuss the health of our citizens. “I remember a pilot once telling me, ‘You have to make small corrections early to avoid huge problems later,’” he said. “And that is so true to this aspect of health as well. Screen for health issues early. Find the problems. Make the small corrections early to avoid expensive problems later.”

For co-authors and mentors Hansen, Zhang and Amy Hackney, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Georgia Southern, the publication of this research brief in JAMA is a career highlight. For the three recent public health graduates, one of which was lead author of the brief, the publication is a career launch.


Georgia Southern Examines Sleep in Families with Children

Dr. Kelly Sullivan, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health Georgia Southern University released a preliminary study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 69th Annual Meeting in Boston, April 22 to 28, 17, demonstrating that women’s sleep, unlike men, is affected by having children in the house.

“Getting enough sleep is a key component of overall health and can impact the heart, mind and weight,” said Sullivan, “It’s important to learn what is keeping people from getting the rest they need so we can help them work toward better health.”

The study found that not only was living with children associated with how long younger women slept, but also how often they felt tired. Younger women with children reported feeling tired 14 days per month, on average, compared to 11 days for younger women without children in the household.

To read more about the study, please visit the American Academy of Neurology News Page. The story has also been mentioned by other prestigious outlets such as CBS, Fox, and MSN.


Georgia Southern Receives Grant to Survey Mosquito Control Capacity

In response to the threat of the Zika virus and in an effort to prepare for other mosquito-borne diseases, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) seeks to have a thorough understanding of the capacity of communities to provide mosquito control services and respond to locally acquired cases. Georgia DPH awarded Georgia Southern University Research and Service Foundation, Inc. a $40,000 grant to survey mosquito control capacity for city and county governments within the State of Georgia. Under supervision of Dr. Christopher Rustin, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, researchers and students in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health will assess and categorize the capabilities of each government entity across the State.  This information will be used by the Georgia DPH to assess resource allocation needs and better plan and respond to potential mosquito-borne disease threats.


Georgia Southern Examines Markov Chain Monte-Carlo Methods for Missing Data Under Ignorability Assumptions

Missing observations are a common occurrence in public health, clinical studies and social science research. Consequences of discarding missing observations, sometimes called complete case analysis, are low statistical power and potentially biased estimates. Fully Bayesian methods using Markov Chain Monte-Carlo (MCMC) provide an alternative model-based solution to complete case analysis by treating missing values as unknown parameters. Fully Bayesian paradigms are naturally equipped to handle this situation by augmenting MCMC routines with additional layers and sampling from the full conditional distributions of the missing data, in the case of Gibbs sampling. Here we detail ideas behind the Bayesian treatment of missing data and conduct simulations to illustrate the methodology. We consider specifically Bayesian multivariate regression with missing responses and the missing covariate setting under an ignorability assumption. Applications to real datasets are provided.

Dr. Haresh Rochani, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Director of the Karl E. Peace Center for Biostatistics, co-authored the chapter titled “Markov Chain Monte-Carlo Methods for Missing Data Under Ignorability Assumptions” in the ICSA Book Series in Statistics titled Monte-Carlo Simulation-Based Statistical Modeling.