Going Gym Free with Hosts Marc & Beth and Guest Karen Basen-Engquist
Blog Talk Radio
Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., professor of Behavioral Science and director of the Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship was a featured guest on the "Let's Talk! Going Gym Free Show" with Marc and Beth. Listen now
The National Cancer Institute is providing data for researchers to develop novel analytic approaches for quantifying physical activity and dietary exposures
This data is available to all qualified investigators for studies of physical activity and nutrition. Interested investigators can request access to IDATA Study via the Cancer Data Access System.
Getting to Know Norma Olvera, Ph.D., FTOS
Norma Olvera has been interested in the cultural and familial influences on weight, self-image and health – particularly for minorities – since her early days as a psychologist. A native of Mexico City, she earned her B.A. in Clinical Psychology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico City, Mexico. She went on to earn both her M.A. and Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, with an emphasis on childhood obesity, from the University of Houston (UH).
“I’ve always had an interest in parenting issues,” she explains. “My first year in grad school I had a professor who was conducting research on obese parents, and I was quickly trained to study specific behaviors, through observation. We investigated parent-child interaction regarding food and eating and the influence of mothers on how and what their children ate. We learned that at an early age, children clearly have likes and dislikes for food and that their parents’ education, culture and economic status heavily impacts their eating habits.”
Dr. Olvera has studied a variety of dietary issues related to families over the years. In the late 90s she learned that families who make changes as a group lose weight more easily and successfully than individual members on their own. In Texas towns close to the Mexican border, she learned that environment impacts health. “There are few places to exercise and eat a healthy meal, no sidewalks, and rodents running wild,” she recalls. Her work here lead her to the Houston Independent School District, where she along with other nutrition investigators began to work with the HISD lead dietician to shape new policies to provide healthier food for students.
Dr. Olvera has a long research relationship with Dr. Karen Basen-Engquist, and they have worked together in examining barriers to physical activity in cancer survivors. More recently, Dr. Olvera and Dr. Basen-Engquist and her Energy Balance research team have been looking at measuring intensity of physical activity and its impact on adiposity reduction in Hispanic and African American teens. This kind of collaboration fosters interdisciplinary approaches to address health issues in diverse populations.
In 2005, Dr. Olvera funded BOUNCE Healthy Lifestyle Program (Behavior Opportunities Uniting in Nutrition, Counseling and Exercise) at UH to promote healthy eating, positive body image and exercise among Hispanic and African American girls and their families. Starting as a summer initiative, BOUNCE has expanded by developing afterschool nutrition and exercise programs, grocery shopping tours, gardening, cooking demonstrations, and 5k fun runs all year-round. “Through our programs, we hope to demonstrate to parents and their children that exercise and good nutrition can be both fun and empowering.”
A professor in Psychological, Health and Learning Sciences, at the UH College of Education, past president of the Hispanic Health Coalition and an active member of numerous boards, Dr. Olvera doesn’t have to work in the summer. But she chooses to continue her efforts with BOUNCE each year. “I am challenged to figure out what works and what doesn’t. There are emotional aspects of eating – kids are bullied by family members, and diseases like diabetes and alcoholism can be passed from one generation to another. Parents can be unhappy with their lives. Families may be poor, and have no transportation. There are a host of issues that impact healthy eating and regular exercise.”
A labor of love for Dr. Olvera, the BOUNCE program continues to grow and evolve. “We have learned that forgiveness for making mistakes and self-compassion play a large role in enabling kids to make lasting health changes in their behavior. It’s so uplifting to see just one child with everything against them lose weight, gain confidence and feel and look better. The ripple effect this creates in their friends, families and communities is so important. A sense of self-worth is everything.”
In Balance - Center for Energy Balance's Newsletter
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