Research explores the biological, psychological, behavioral, social, environmental and policy factors that promote health and wellness. Studies are conducted at the individual, health system and population levels.


Falls are the leading cause of accidental death among the elderly and the third-leading accidental killer among all age groups. For Shirley Rietdyk, associate professor in HEALTH AND KINESIOLOGY, falls are the focus of her research. She studies the interaction of neural, muscular and mechanical systems in mobility, posture and balance. “Up to 53 percent of falls are caused by trip - ping,” Rietdyk explains. “Why people fail to step over an obstacle they knew was there is largely unknown. Understanding this failure and developing therapies to prevent it will be instrumental in decreasing the likelihood of falls.” In the Biomechanics Laboratory, Rietdyk and her research team look for clues as to how the nervous system incorporates visual and sensory information to coordinate muscle activity for safe, balanced movement. Their goals are to identify key factors that lead to falls and to develop interventions to prevent fall-related injuries.


Breast-feeding is a public health priority because it provides tremendous health benefits for the child and mother. Although 75 percent of babies born in the U.S are breast-fed at birth, only 15 percent are being breast-fed exclusively by the time they are 6 months old. Azza Ahmed, associate professor in NURSING, believes that number can be increased through effective interventions that promote and sustain breast-feeding. Through a collaborative effort, she helped develop an interactive, Web-based breast-feeding monitoring system, LACTOR that new mothers can use once they return home. “By keeping their breast-feeding diary through LACTOR, new mothers can monitor how they are doing and strive for breast-feeding success,” Ahmed says. The tool makes efficient use of clinicians’ time and keeps the lactation consultant updated on the mother’s progress or difficulties so she can provide assistance if needed.

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