HHD faculty contribute to Women’s Health Research Day

Researchers in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) contributed to the 2017 Women’s Health Research Day Conference, hosted on Nov. 6 at the Nittany Lion Inn in State College.

The conference was sponsored by the Penn State Center for Women’s Health Research; the Department of Kinesiology; the Penn State College of Medicine Office of the Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies; Robert E. Dye M.D. Professorship; and the Penn State Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness.

Danielle Symons Downs, professor of kinesiology and obstetrics and gynecology along with Nancy Williams, professor and head of the Department of Kinesiology, were on the executive planning committee. Other planning committee members were Jennifer McCall-Hosenfeld, associate professor of medicine and public health sciences, and Carol Weisman, distinguished professor of public health sciences and obstetrics and gynecology, both at the Penn State College of Medicine. 

“With about 40 posters and about eight oral presentations, this was a very interdisciplinary crowd that included both social and basic science,” Williams said. “I am hoping this will help create new collaborations and greater visibility for women’s health research at Penn State.”

Members of the HHD community presented a variety of research on women’s health:

— Xiang Gao, associate professor of nutritional sciences and director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Lab, presented his study on Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). His work outlined RLS and its higher prevalence in women relative to men. Physician-diagnosed RLS was associated with 43 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality, according to Gao’s study of a cohort including 57,417 women. The results have recently been accepted to be published in the journal Neurology.

— The presentation “Determinants of Healthy Eating and Exercise in Overweight/Obese Pregnant Women and the Impact of Intensive, Individually-Tailored Gestational Weight Gain Intervention,” was given by Abigail Pauley and Krista Leonard, graduate students in the Department of Kinesiology; Emily Hohman, research associate at the Center for Childhood Obesity Research; Daniel Rivera, a faculty affiliate of The Methodology Center; Jennifer Savage Williams, assistant professor of nutritional sciences and interim director of Center for Childhood Obesity Research; and Symons Downs.

— Williams, Downs, Pauley, Leonard and Hohman also presented “Poor Psychological Health & Control in Overweight Pregnant Women: Possible Barriers to Exercise/Healthy Eating Self-Regulation.”

— Dennis Scanlon, distinguished professor of health policy and administration and director of the Center for Health Care Policy Research, and Sheila West, professor of biobehavioral health, participated in the panel discussion, “How is the Changing Policy Landscape Impacting Women’s Health?”

— Jennifer Graham-Engeland, associate professor of biobehavioral health; and Margaret Winchester, research associate of health policy and administration, reviewed abstracts for the conference.

— Winchester, also coordinator for the Pan University Network for Global Health, moderated four research presentations by investigators from across the University.

The presentations were: “A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis to Test the ‘Timing Hypothesis’ of Hormone Replacement Therapy and Cardiovascular Disease”; "Examining Feasibility and Validity of Resting Metabolic Rate in Overweight and obese pregnant Women: A Preliminary Novel Assessment of Mobile Metabolism”; “A Hypothesis Generating Proteomic Study of Vulvodynia Implicates Neuroinflammation in the Syndrome’s Pathophysiology”; and “Zinc Deficiency Impairs Oocyte Growth and Cumulus Cell Differentiation in the Preantral Ovarian Follicle."

The Penn State Center for Women’s Health Research promotes research on women’s health and sex/gender differences related to health by supporting a network of Penn State faculty members in multiple disciplines who are interested in research collaborations and mentoring opportunities. The goal is to advance the science of women’s health and contribute to the development of health promotion, disease prevention, health services delivery, and health policy approaches to improving women’s health and well-being across the life span.

The Center sponsors special talks on women’s health and sex/gender differences related to health and Women’s Health Research Day. In addition, the Center maintains information about active research projects, data sets and funding opportunities; promotes the development of interdisciplinary research teams around specific topics for grant applications; and provides mentoring opportunities for junior faculty members, graduate students and medical students.

To help faculty prepare research grant applications, the center’s website includes a description of the Center and other women’s health resources at Penn State (including the NIH-funded Penn State BIRCWH – Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health – K12 Program) that can be included in grant applications.