IU researchers discuss childhood obesity, depression in Latino youth, teen alcohol use, more at APHA

  • Nov. 19, 2014


Indiana University researchers, including graduate students and faculty members of the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, participated in the 142nd American Public Health Association annual meeting and exposition this week in New Orleans.  

Here is a sampling of their studies:

Setting family rules promotes healthier behavior in children
Alyssa M.  Lederer

Alyssa M. Lederer
Photo By Eric Rudd, IU Communications

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Who says your kids don't listen to you?

An Indiana University study has found that setting specific family rules about healthy eating and sedentary behavior actually leads to healthier practices in children.

Data analyzed for the study was originally part of a data set used to evaluate the Wellborn Baptist Foundation's HEROES program, a K-12 school-based obesity prevention initiative set in the Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky tri-state area. However, lead author Alyssa M. Lederer, doctoral candidate and associate instructor in the Department of Applied Health Science at the School of Public Health-Bloomington, was able to use the data to look further into the connection between family rules and sedentary behavior and eating behavior, as well as family rules and weight status.

"Childhood obesity has really become a health crisis, so as researchers we're trying to see what we can do to lessen the toll," Lederer said.

Data for the study was collected from a sample of nearly 3,000 participants from fourth through eighth grade. The family rules that were specifically analyzed related to time spent watching television, playing video games and on the computer, and what children were or were not allowed to eat.

Primarily, the study showed that students coming from households with healthy behavioral guidelines tended to make healthier choices for themselves. For example, the children with set family rules for what they could or could not eat were less likely to consume fast food and were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables than students without guidelines. The same went for time spent with television, video games and computer use. Moreover, the study revealed a profile of the demographics of children most likely to have family rules, citing that students coming from families that had eating and sedentary rules were more likely to be younger, female, white and of lower socioeconomic status.

Although no direct correlation between family rules and weight status was evident from the data, there was a direct correlation between the healthy behaviors shown and weight status. Lederer said this means that the family rules may play more of an intermediary role in this regard -- family health rules lead to behavioral change, and behavioral change leads to weight-loss.

"As we try to figure out ways to tackle childhood obesity, this is something that families can do very easily," Lederer said. "It doesn’t involve money or policy change, and it can make a very important change in their children's health."

Lederer presented "Setting rules to improve healthy behavior: The relationship between family rules and children's demographics, dietary and sedentary activities, and weight status," on Nov. 17 with co-author Mindy Hightower King, research scientist at IU's Center on Education and LifeLong Learning. Co-authors Danielle Sovinski, research associate at IU's Center on Education and Lifelong Learning, and Nayoung Kim, doctoral candidate and associate instructor in the Department of Applied Health Science at the School of Public Health-Bloomington, were unable to attend.

Lederer can be reached at lederer@indiana.edu. For additional assistance, contact Milana Katic at 219-789-6320 or mkatic@iu.edu. Top

Acculturative stress may explain high depression rates in Latino youth

Researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis say acculturative stress may explain, in part, why Indiana's Latino youth face an alarming disparity in depression and suicide rates when compared to their white counterparts.

While examining epidemiological health disparities data, a team of researchers led by Silvia Bigatti at the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health noticed that Latino teens in Indiana had a 65 percent higher rate of suicide attempts and a 24 percent higher rate of depression than white teens.

"When we saw the alarming disparity in suicide attempts and depression rates, we had to ask what could be going on," said Katrina Conrad, community research and outreach coordinator at the school.

Community partner Virna Diaz, director of the Latino Health Organization, provided insight about conflict between Latino teens and their parents regarding what they do and how they should act at school versus home. Given that insight, as well as reports in scientific journals about acculturative stress, which stems from immigrants straddling two different cultures, the team decided to work together to develop a study focused on that issue. They received pilot funding from the Indiana Minority Health Coalition.

The community-based participatory research study examined the link between acculturative stress and depression among 86 Latino adolescents -- 41 males and 45 females between ages 12 and 19.

"We looked at acculturative stress and depression and ended up finding nearly 60 percent of our participants had some level of depression, which was higher than expected," Conrad said. "Those who had moderate levels of acculturative stress were 10 times more likely to have depression, which was shocking to us."

Further, results indicated that adolescents with low self-mastery, the ability to overcome obstacles, were six times more likely to experience acculturative stress.

When the study's findings were presented to the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, the research team was asked to consider designing an intervention, Conrad said.

Working with additional academic and community partners, the team developed a yearlong program for Latino teens focusing on boosting self-mastery and resiliency called "Your Life. Your Story: Latino Youth Summit." The program began in June with a summer camp and continues with monthly meetings.

"Your Life. Your Story." includes a resilience-building curriculum, a mentoring component with IUPUI undergraduates, physical activity and emotional expression activities including art, music, storytelling, technology and dance, said Conrad, who serves as the program director. All activities are designed to provide teenagers with outlets to further develop their identities and sense of self, and to give them the ability to communicate their stories.

Preliminary results since the program started are promising, Conrad said. After a single week of summer camp, the team found that participants had a statistically significant increase in resilience and a statistically significant decrease in depressive symptoms. At the end of the year, the researchers hope to see that those trends have continued, she said.

"The 'Your Life. Your Story.' program has the potential to create a large and lasting impact, not only in Indianapolis, but across Indiana and even nationwide," Conrad said. "We think it is something that could be tailored to other types of underserved or marginalized youth as well, and we hope to expand it."

The study "Acculturative stress and depression among Latino adolescents living in a Midwestern metropolitan area with an emerging Latino population" was presented on Nov. 17.

To speak with Conrad, contact Rich Schneider at 317-278-4564 or rcschnei@iu.edu. Top

When it comes to teen alcohol use, friends have more influence than peers
Jonathon Beckmeyer

Jonathon Beckmeyer
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A recent study by an Indiana University researcher has found that adolescents' alcohol use is influenced by their close friends' use, regardless of how much alcohol they think their general peers consume.

Jonathon Beckmeyer, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Health Science at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and author of the study, said his research generally focuses on the onset of teen alcohol use and how their social relationships shape those experiences.

"We've known for a long time that friends and peers have an influence on individual alcohol use, but there are no common studies that distinguished between the broader peer group and the friend group’s influence on those decisions," Beckmeyer said.

Data used for the study were taken from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Each participant was 15 years old and was asked a series of questions related to how many teens their age and how many of their friends they thought consumed alcohol, and whether they had consumed alcohol themselves in the past year.

The study demonstrated that the participants' perceptions of how many teens in their direct friend group had consumed alcohol held more weight than the perceptions of how many of their peers overall were consuming. In other words, even if a teen perceived that many teens in general consumed alcohol, they were less likely to have experimented with it themselves if they did not think their friends drank alcohol.

"We're spending our time changing perceptions of the broader peer group, but really what might be the more key determinant of teen alcohol use is what's going on in their own friend group," Beckmeyer said. "Really working to encourage teens to make friendships with non-alcohol-using friends could be one of the more effective things parents can do to help."

Beckmeyer presented his study, "Comparing perceptions of how many peers and friends use alcohol: Associations with middle adolescents' own alcohol use" on Nov. 19.

Beckmeyer can be reached at jbeckmey@indiana.edu. For additional assistance, contact Milana Katic at mkatic@iu.edu. Top

Car crash survival rates increase with being younger, male and driving a big vehicle

Motor vehicle crashes are the most common cause of unintentional life lost around the world, with about 30,000 deaths occurring annually in the U.S. due to motor-vehicle crashes.

A study by a doctoral student in epidemiology at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis showed that vehicle inequities have a significant impact on survivability in head-on collisions.

Uzay Kirbiyik conducted a study of risk factors associated with drivers' survival in head-on vehicle collisions by examining Fatality Analysis Reporting System database records in 558 crashes.

The results showed that the driver's chance of survival was increased by driving a vehicle with a higher mass, driving a newer vehicle, being younger, being a male, using a seatbelt and having the airbag deployed in the crash.

Kirbiyik said his study found that more women die in head-on collisions, but deferred to medical trauma experts to explain why.

The study concludes that vehicle inequity, which includes differences like height and rigidity as well as weight, was a major cause of drivers' fatalities. According to Kirbiyik, if you are in an automobile, given that other variables are equal, you are 17 times more likely to die compared to a driver of a light truck. This ratio is about nine times for a collision with an SUV.

According to the study, there were more young people between the ages of 15 and 24 involved in head-on collisions than any other age group. That age group accounts for 21 percent of the collisions, and the rate of death among that age group is 39 percent in the study group, the lowest among all age groups.

"An intervention that reduces the involvement of younger drivers will likely help reduce the death rate of other age groups," Kirbiyik said. "This shouldn't be a surprise, but it is not an easy task to do."

Kirbiyik presented his study, "Factors affecting survival in head-on vehicle collisions" on Nov. 17.

To speak with Kirbiyik, contact Rich Schneider at 317-278-4564 or rcschnei@iu.edu. Top

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