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Current Highlighted Research


Applied Research Project, Activate!Activate's Brainy

Principal Investigators: Lesley Cottrell and Nancy O'Hara Tompkins
Start Date: October 2014
End Date: September 2019
Funding Source: USDHHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The long-term goal of the WVPRCs applied research project is to increase student physical activity, improve aerobic fitness, combat health risks, and improve academic performance using a coordinated schools approach that incorporates school and family-based strategies that promote physical activity. Project partners include: state and local health departments in the Mid-Ohio Valley, state and local departments of education, a state-wide cardiovascular risk screening program, and members of the WVPRCs Community Partnership Board.

The WVPRCs applied research project will:

1) Define and document current school physical education and recess practices among elementary schools in WV and compare student health and academic outcomes based on school practices.

2) Test effectiveness of school- and family-based physical activity interventions in terms of improved child physical activity, health, and academic outcomes.

3) Translate research results into environmental and policy recommendations at the local, regional, and state levels to increase student access to effective physical activity and education.

These outcomes have local, regional, and/or state level policy and practice relevance. These include a state report of current physical education, physical activity policy recommendations to enhance policy and practice for physical activity in schools, the home environment, and recess practices in all elementary schools throughout the state, and enhance partnerships among schools, families, and local health departments.


Programs to Reduce Obesity in High Obesity Areas (The West Virginia Health Children Project)

Principal Investigators: Emily Corbett - Spangler Murphy
Start Date: September 2016
End Date: September 2018
Funding Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Habits and behaviors that are developed early in life tend to persist throughout childhood and into adulthood. Behavioral choices are influenced by individual factors such as skills, knowledge, and preference; settings where children spend time such as early care and education, home, healthcare, and community; social networks of family, friends and neighbors; and macro-level sectors such as school and agriculture policy, food systems, and transportation. This project is expected to improve access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity for young children and their families in rural West Virginia through a partnership among families, schools, communities, and West Virginia University (WVU). The West Virginia Prevention Research Center and WVU Extension Service will work together in partnership with the communities to build capacity among all the partners to identify community-based goals and objectives that will promote healthy lifestyles for preschool children and their families in Barbour, Gilmer, and Pleasants counties in West Virginia. The expected reach of direct beneficiaries of this project is 800 children and parents.  Secondary beneficiaries include approximately 30 childcare personnel whose professional practices will be enhanced as a result of this project.

 The goals of this project are as follows:

  • Increase knowledge of parents/caregivers related to healthy behaviors associated with eating, physical activity, and screen time.
  • Increased knowledge and behaviors of ECE providers related to healthy foods and beverages, physical activity, and screen time.
  • Increased number of ECE practices that promote improved behaviors related to healthy foods and beverages, physical activity, and screen time.

Wellness App for Pregnant Women: PregPal

Principal Investigators: Peter Giacobbi and Treah Haggerty
Start Date: May 2016
Funding Source: WVCTSI

The purpose of this project is to develop and test the feasibility, and preliminary efficacy of an app that uses guided imagery to help pregnant women with psychological stress, sleep, diet, and physical activity.

College Student Transition Study

Principal Investigators: Nicholas Turiano and Amy Gentzler
Start Date: July 2016
Funding Source: WVCTSI : National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health

The College Student Transition Study is a longitudinal examination of 600 freshman students during the transition to college. The transition to college marks a time with significant increases in tobacco and alcohol use, illicit drug use, as well as risky sexual behaviors, and is also a time where psychological and social functioning are changing quickly. Students were assessed before arriving to campus in August 2016 and four additional times throughout their first year. Detailed questions about their psychological, behavioral, social, and physical health were assessed at each measurement occasion.

The long-term goal of the project is to understand the psychological and social factors that predict substance use during the transition to college. By identifying factors that increase the risk of poor behavioral choices, we can develop and implement prevention strategies for at-risk populations. The majority of students attending West Virginia University are from the greater Appalachia area, which is a unique population of individuals for which unique prevention efforts need to be developed. Findings from this study can be used as a model for other schools and areas in the region.  

A secondary aim of this project is to build an infrastructure that connects various WVU departments, programs, and community partners to understand and address the needs of the WVU student population. An interdisciplinary team is needed to implement changes that will improve the psychological, behaviors, social, and academic lives of emerging adults in this state.