Cal Poly’s statistics department is helping the kinesiology department’s FLASH program analyze and interpret data which will show the overall health of thousands of Cal Poly students over a period of four years.
Statistics assistant professor Soma Roy is running the statistics side of the study.
“We are trying to follow the same group of students and then compare their experiences in college to what it was in high school,” Roy said.
FLASH is worked on by Science through Translational Research in Diet and Exercise (STRIDE). Associate professor and director of STRIDE Anne McDermott is heading the study.
The kinesiology department conducts testing and the statistics department retrieves the data to analyze and form statistics. McDermott said she hopes to create the nation’s largest health study.
Students involved in this study are in the classes of 2013 and 2014 and are monitored for a four-year period to see the changes in their health over time.
“We want to know something about demographics, the factors that influence health,” McDermott said.
The study came about when McDermott came to Cal Poly in 2007 to create an obesity prevention center. She began studying gaps in the data within the community to see what her department’s aim should be.
“As we were developing the literature it was clear two areas that were missing were middle school kids and health info on college students,” McDermott said.
Because one of the gaps was with college students, McDermott set out to try and create a beneficial study for Cal Poly. Through the Winter 2008 and Spring 2009 quarters, she tried different factors for the study such as which questions should be asked on a survey and how to get students to participate, she said. After doing a pilot trial with 911 students, the study officially began Fall 2009.
First, students are asked to fill out a questionnaire asking questions about their diet, activities and hobbies.
“(We) want to know how habits affect you through time and how college affects these things,” statistics senior Jewels Lee said.
Second, students are asked to go to the kinesiology building where their height, weight and body mass are measured.
Third, students aren’t required but are encouraged to volunteer for a blood test that measures glucose levels and cholesterol. It involves a prick on the finger and is done by appointment only.
After the data has been taken, the student statisticians work to create and develop trends. The statisticians first clean the data. This is time consuming because they have to make sure all of the data can be used, statistics senior Emily Conklin and Lee said. They also have to ensure any audience can read and interpret the answers the students give.
“Some people have no responses and some responded more than others,” Lee said. “If people decided to type things in and we can’t interpret things they say like ‘hella,’ then we fix it.”
Another problem the statisticians said they were having is students only taking the questionnaire portion and not going in for the physical assessment. If only half the study is done, the data become useless, Conklin said.
After the data is thoroughly cleaned up, it has to be double key entered. Double key entering is when two people enter the same data to make sure all of the information is double-checked and put in accurately. Then, with all of the data in front of them, the students can find trends.
No one from either statistics or kinesiology can identify the students due to the number each responder is given. FLASH hired California Sate University of Fullerton to generate its survey and give each student a number instead of a name. Then all of the data goes to the statisticians.
“They only give (us) numbers,” McDermott said. “I don’t see who wrote or put what. I just know that student 470 said this and that.”
Although the statisticians are still cleaning the data and have not completely finished, they said they have still found a few interesting things.
Conklin and Lee both said it has been reported that women have a harder time falling asleep, staying asleep and getting enough hours of sleep.
Another fact revealed by McDermott was 30 percent of men have normal blood pressure so 70 percent have high blood pressure.
Conklin said she hopes the study will positively affect the students at Cal Poly.
“Hopefully it will give them more information on how college life affects their health and if we can get facts out then it’s interesting to know,” Conklin said.
Data shows many college students don’t realize what their health is really like, the student statisticians said.
Both departments are still looking for more students to participate in this study from the class of 2014.
This article was written by Erica Derrico.