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News July 14, 2009 //  by  // Comments

HHP program: best in nation

One of the Universities’ newest gems, the Department of Health and Human Performance hopes to see continued progress in the near future.

In February, the Academic Analytics’ Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index ranked HHP’s doctoral program No. 1 in the nation among colleges and universities with health, physical education and recreation programs.

Academic analytics is a ‘privately owned company with the mission of delivering objective, analytical data on faculty productivity to universities,’ according to their Web site. The ranking is based on the faculty’s publications in books and journals, including all grants and awards.

Department Chairman Charles Layne said HHP is one of the most unique programs of its kind.

‘I would say we’re like a small heath science college,’ Layne said. ‘We have all these varied but integrated scientific and academic components that you do not typically see in a department of our kind across the country.’

In 2005, HHP ranked 15th among the best doctoral programs in kinesiology by the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education, an honorary organization.
Despite the program’s youth, Layne expressed optimism about its value and expansion.

‘That ranking encompassed many aspects of the doctorate program beyond faculty productivity,’ Layne said. ‘We’d like to achieve as high a ranking as possible in the overall (American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education) rank. The nice thing about the No. 15 ranking was, our doctorate program was only 3 or 4 years old at that point. If they did it again today, we would probably land at least in the top 10.’

The research areas, programs, and centers at HHP extend from the Texas Obesity Research Center (TORC), directed by Rebecca Lee, to the Behavioral Opportunities Uniting Nutrition Counseling and Exercise (BOUNCE) program, directed by Norma Olvera.

‘We do research on exercise, as well as dietary habits and obesity and human performance,’ Lee said. ‘We have investigators doing cellular research, but also we have biomedical engineers, kinesiologists, psychologists, specialists and nutritionists. It’s quite a broad span of expertise.’

BOUNCE is a collaborated camp program with the University and its outlying community aimed at Hispanic and black girls. BOUNCE stresses activities for a healthy lifestyle by incorporating healthy food choices, daily exercise and positive self-esteem.

‘The goal is to reduce obesity in minority populations,’ Olvera said. ‘Having put together a project like this, I would say we are one of the few programs that involve the family, the community and research.’

The researchers at HHP work with different organizations within and outside of UH, including the Texas Medical Center and NASA.

‘We have alliances with the children’s nutritional research center,’ Lee said. ‘I also work with people from the M.D. Anderson Heath Disparities unit. There are other people doing work with the Baylor College of Medicine.’

Both graduate and undergraduate students also take part in the research, allowing them to experience various facets of the analysis.

‘We have 25 students involved in the (BOUNCE) project,’ Olvera said. ‘We train them in different aspects of research, from assessment of physical activity to data collection to qualitative research.” ‘

The programs at HHP include motor skills research, learning and memory enhancement and muscle strength testing. Also incorporated is the TIGER study (Training Intervention Genetics of Exercise Response), designed to investigate DNA variation and its influence on fitness, and an Active Regeneration program, which is intended for individuals paralyzed because of spinal cord injury.’ Much of this is conducted on campus through the HHP’s Laboratory of Integrated Physiology (LIP).

HHP has a presence on several popular Web sites frequented by students, including a YouTube channel and a Facebook account. HHP also has a functioning virtual campus on Second Life, which houses class videos from the department.

‘We’re looking for things to build an online community. We add new videos (to the YouTube channel) every week,’ Layne said. ‘The goal is to get our name out so we can attract qualified students.’

For more information on HHP, visit http://www.hhp.uh.edu/


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