Are Southern Oregonians …Too big?
A new study being launched this week is examining whether rural adults in Southern Oregon are less active and healthy and likelier to have a reduced quality of life than those in urban areas, said Kerri Winters, the principal investigator of the study.
We may identify some trends that are unique to rural Oregonians,&
said Winters, assistant professor and associate scientist at Oregon Health Science University School of Nursing in Portland.
Researchers at the university&
s School of Nursing Office of Rural Health Research are recruiting about 100 residents who are over 40 years old to participate in the five-year study.
The study will compare the behaviors of rural adults with those of urban adults in a similar study that is already in progress.
Very little is known about what lifestyle behaviors that people maintain over time lead them to age successfully,&
The long-term objective of the project is to use the research to develop a program to help rural adults change unhealthy behavior.
Help is needed because Oregonians are getting fatter, statistics show.
— — Winters and Nail demonstrate a test that measures — lower body flexibility.
Thirty-five percent of adults in the United States are overweight and 30 percent are considered obese, compared with 38 percent of adults in Oregon who are overweight and 20 percent who are obese, Winters said.
That makes us the fattest state west of the Rockies,&
OHSU researchers think the abundance of rural residents may be contributing to the state&
s high obesity rates.
National studies have shown that people in rural areas are more unhealthy than their urban counterparts, Winters said.
It could be that people in rural areas are more likely to be unhealthy because they have less access to education, health care and facilities like gyms and natural food stores and restaurants, Winters said.
Although national studies show people in rural areas tend to be less healthy, that has yet to be confirmed in Oregon, Winters said.
This study does not aim to and cannot ascertain the prevalence of obesity in rural Oregonians,&
she said. &
However, since a large proportion of the state's residents reside in rural areas, it may be likely that obesity prevalence is as high or higher in rural residents of Oregon compared to urban residents, particularly since national statistics suggest this may be the case.&
This will be the first study of its kind that specifically looks at what is happening in Oregon, she said.
People who become ill or who lose functions &
part of what may have contributed to that is poor lifestyle,&
Winters said. &
What are those patterns &
that is what we are trying to determine.&
Participants will complete surveys every six months about physical activity, quality of life, nutrition, illness, and physical functioning and disability.
Some of the participants will go through a series of testing at Southern Oregon University. Their body composition, metabolism, blood pressure, cholesterol, endurance, strength, flexibility, mobility and bone density will be tested, Winters said. Local students, faculty and community members as well as researchers from Portland will assist in the testing at SOU.
The study is expected to cost $19,100 for the first year. Investigators plan to request additional funding to continue the study for the additional four years.
Those interested in participating in the study can call (888) 613-4988.