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UB team partners with NASA to design, implement, evaluate global obesity prevention programs

by jmaloni

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Mon, Jan 26th 2015 11:10 am

A University at Buffalo obesity prevention research team headed by epidemiologist and childhood obesity expert Dr. Youfa Wang is working with NASA as an official collaborative partner in its global "Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut" program.

"Mission X" is an international health and fitness challenge for children. The UB group is helping to design, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of the "Mission X" obesity prevention program and other programs conducted by the Wang team.

"NASA has been conducting research in this area for some time, and has sent us data they've collected from more than 20 countries," said Wang, a professor of epidemiology and environmental health in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions and a clinical professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "Our analysis will be used to enhance the design of the program's data collection instruments."

The Wang team also will train young researchers studying the causes, measurement and prevention of childhood obesity.

To date, children from 29 countries worldwide have participated in the "Mission X" program. Its website uses games, handouts, journaling, videos and podcasts to introduce kids to 18 physical and educational activities adapted from actual exercises used by astronauts to prepare for space exploration. Among these are hands-on exercises that promote strength training, core-building, muscle endurance and agility. Other activities help kids improve concentration, hand-eye reaction time, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, bone health and high-energy levels, and, in general, promote a healthy lifestyle. 

Over the past 15 years, Wang and his team have secured more than $25 million in research grants in support of their obesity-related research. This includes funding from several U.S. federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The research includes international collaboration projects, some of which are ongoing.

Wang directs the Systems-oriented Global Childhood Obesity Intervention Program, which collaborates with institutions from many countries. He is an adjunct professor at several other universities, including the Johns Hopkins University and Peking University. 

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