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For seven years, Marquette students have been working to improve the fitness and self-esteem of children in a working-class, predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in Milwaukee. Called Youth Empowered to Succeed, it’s a partnership with the United Community Center and is funded by grants from the U.S. Office of Minority Health. The students have found that even a simple change such as cutting in half the calories in a school lunch can make a difference; in six weeks, kids lost an average of about three and a half pounds each. Dr. Lawrence Pan, a professor in and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, wants to prove the value of programs such as YES by collecting more big-picture data: Can you calculate the value to society, for example, of a teenage girl avoiding an unwanted pregnancy? Collecting such data would allow YES to better focus its efforts toward helping kids get healthier and have success in school. “Eventually, that would test some different hypotheses in terms of what are our different approaches to improving student success rates,” Pan says. Marquette students in YES also lead study time and art projects — another approach intended to help the kids do well in school and move on to college. “When you work with kids, you really have the opportunity to change people’s lives,” says Dr. Paula Papanek, associate professor and program director of the exercise science degree program. “And I think Marquette mentors feel that. I’ve got pictures of our Marquette mentors who have gone to these kids’ junior high graduations. That’s priceless.”

Fun with fiber Obesity is a complex issue, but that doesn’t rule out simple solutions. How about having children mix fiber powder into their orange juice? “Reversing the obesity epidemic takes a lot of smaller steps,” says Dr. Marilyn Frenn, a professor in the College of Nursing. Dr. Marilyn Frenn Professor, Nursing

Frenn’s “fun with fiber” study asks children to take a certain amount of prebiotic fiber every day and participate in an online program. Using a bioimpedance meter — a handheld device that estimates body composition — a pilot study found children who were taking fiber had reduced body fat. They were eating fewer calories and less saturated fat. Next, Frenn and a researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin plan to analyze stool samples to see if the fiber helped increase the amount of “good” bacteria in study participants’ intestines. Frenn is working with parents, too. Supported by grants from the Northwestern Mutual Foundation and Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin, Frenn developed an online program to encourage healthy eating. The program promotes “authoritative parenting,” the idea that parents should give clear guidance and choices rather than being overly strict or too lenient.



Dr. Lawrence Pan Professor and Chair, Physical Therapy

Saying yes to fitness and nutrition

“Other studies have shown that if you intervene with parents, that’s even better than intervening with kids,” Frenn says.


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Discover Research 2014  
Discover Research 2014  

Every spring DISCOVER: Marquette University Research and Scholarship showcases some of the most interesting research happening on Marquette'...