Research activities

With more than 25 years of peer-reviewed grant funding, Health Promotion & Sports Medicine researchers have developed and proven the efficacy of award-winning health promotion programs and advanced the understanding of the utility of exercise as medical therapy.

Current projects

Defining the Impact of Stress and Traumatic Events on Corrections Officers

Corrections officers (COs) have high stress levels, which negatively impact their mental well-being, physical health and job performance. COs have a critical role in protecting our communities by assisting with inmate rehabilitation and operating secure prisons. Accordingly, maintaining the well-being of this largely invisible and expanding workforce is critical. Funded by the National Institute of Justice, this project’s overarching goal is to understand and effectively reduce chronic stress among COs. We are performing a prospective observational study of Oregon COs to both relate their stress level to its potential contributors and determine its impact on work performance and economic costs. Importantly, we also are assessing the neurobiological mechanisms of the impact of stress using functional MRI and biomarkers among COs with lower and higher stress levels. The findings will inform understanding of stress and identify means to mitigate its impact.

Corrections Work’s Adverse Effects and a Total Worker Health Program to Enhance Well-being

This project will begin in 2021, and it builds on our prior work among corrections professionals. During this three year project, we will design and format a comprehensive health and safety program for corrections professionals that will be delivered in brief weekly meetings when on shift. It will include mindfulness, enhanced by an establish mindfulness app (Headspace®), to reduce stress/improve mental health and promote healthy habits (nutrition, physical activity and sleep). The group meetings also will include brief learning activities to address safety, organizational factors and work-life issues. The program will be easy to implement, enjoyable, and if effective, easily scalable for widespread reach and impact. We will assess targeted outcomes and the downstream benefits on job performance/injuries/economic costs and physiological impact on cutting-edge measures of vascular health and cellular aging.

Total Worker Health for Wildland Firefighters

Fire seasons are longer, with more and larger fires, placing increased demands and risks on wildland firefighters (WFF). With funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), during this three-year project, we will identify and prioritize needs for a comprehensive Total Worker Health (TWH) program to improve the health and safety of WFF. Those findings will be used to build an innovative scalable program that will be the first comprehensive TWH program for WFF. We will assess program outcomes with a prospective usability and interrupted time-series effectiveness trial and partner with the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation in formatting a durable web-based dissemination platform to promote and assist implementing the program with all WFF groups.

Affiliated research projects

The testing and training abilities of the Human Performance Clinic are a focus for collaboration nationally and across many aspects of OHSU. For information about these projects, contact the Principal Investigator (PI) or Human Performance Clinic physiologist Alex Kanable

Modeling insulin and glucagon sensitivity during exercise in Type 1 diabetes. PI: Joseph El Youssef, MD, MCR. The Oregon Artificial Pancreas group is developing algorithms for use during aerobic and resistance using the HPC’s training facilities.

Determining the safety of oral REN01 in adults with fatty acid oxidation disorders. PI: Melanie Gillingham, PhD, RD, LD. Fatty acid oxidation disorders are a group of rare inherited conditions caused by enzymes that do not work properly. Reneo Pharma is developing REN001 to improve cellular metabolism in this disorder. OHSU investigators are using HPC facilities to understand this drug’s effects.

Evaluating the effects of resistance and aerobic exercise on glucose and lipids in pregnant women with gestational diabetes. PI: Amy Valent, DO. As an initial step in appropriately using exercise to manage gestational diabetes, this project will assess the acute effects of aerobic and resistance exercise among women with gestational diabetes.

Study in Parkinson Disease of exercise. PI: Daniel Corcos, PhDFunded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, OHSU and the HPC are one of the national sites that will examine the effects of different types of exercise training on progression of disease among individuals with Parkinson Disease.

GET FIT Prostate. PI: Kerri Winters-Stone, PhD. This is a trial of different modes of exercise (strength, tai-chi, flexibility) to determine which is most effective for preventing falls and preserving physical function among prostate cancer survivors who were treated with androgen deprivation therapy. 

 Aerobic training for multiple sclerosis. PI: Lindsey Wooliscroft, MD. Myelin repair may be an effective strategy to improve mobility and prevent disability in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). In animal models of MS, aerobic exercise has been shown to repair myelin. This training study will allow designing a rehabilitative aerobic exercise program for those with MS. 

Enhancing recovery after total knee replacement. PI: Hans Dreyer, PhD. This proof-of-principle trial will examine blood-flow restrictive therapy and amino acid supplementation on leg muscle recovery after knee replacement.  

Prior work

The health promotion work of Health Promotion & Sports Medicine began with high school sport team-based programs to use gender specific peer-led, scripted curricula to reduce drug use and other harmful behaviors while promoting healthy actions. ATLAS for young men and ATHENA for young women were proven effective, with durable positive outcomes. With the assistance of the NFL and other foundation support, these programs were widely disseminated. School-based work was extended to the successful HEALTHY program to prevent obesity among middle school children, and the SATURN study to assess the utility of school-based drug testing.

The team-centered curriculum was applied to firefighters and compared with motivational interviewing for behavior change in the PHLAME study.  Both types of programs were effective, with the team-centered format a more cost effective approach. Additional NIH funding allowed defining a model of dissemination of the evidence-based PHLAME program among fire departments. Dr. Kuehl continues his work with the International Association of Fire Fighters assessing components and utility of their Wellness and Fitness Initiative. The team-centered model of behavior change has been extended to law enforcement, corrections officers, and other occupational groups. Drs. Elliot and Kuehl were founding members of the Oregon Health Workforce Center and continue to collaborate with those scientists. For information on our prior programs, please use the contact us link.