HUNTINGTON, IN JUNE 3, 1996 --- The first annual Ferne and Audry Hammel Research Endowment grant has been awarded to the Huntington County Fitness Project (HCFP) spearheaded by two Huntington College faculty.
"The aim of the Huntington County Fitness Project is to assess and promote lifestyle fitness in Huntington County," explained Dr. Paul Smith, associate professor of physical education at Huntington College. "We will collect fitness data, offer consistent fitness information and services, and help unify health and fitness professionals across the county."
Smith and his colleague Dr. Bruce D. Evans, assistant professor of biology at Huntington College, will lead the project. Together, Smith and Evans will work to help area residents make healthy lifestyle choices.
"One of the purposes of this project is to increase awareness of the importance of physical and nutritional fitness to the health of our population," said Dr. Evans. "This information will be important to physical education teachers, dietitians, school officials, and others interested in how to improve the quality of life for our populace. A local dietitian and others have already expressed interest. We also look to include training sessions or clinics for teachers, students, or other interested persons in the future."
Dr. Harold "Ted" Hammel and his wife, Dorothy, established the Huntington College research endowment in 1995 in honor of his parents, Ferne and Audry Hammel. The endowment was created to promote original research projects by H.C. faculty in the natural sciences and mathematics. Dr. Hammel, a Huntington College alumnus and Purdue University graduate, serves as adjunct professor of physiology and biophysics at Indiana University and is professor emeritus of physiology at University of California San Diego.
The first phase of the Huntington County Fitness Project involves assessment of various age groups in the county. Efforts this spring have focused on measuring the fitness of area elementary school children. Drs. Smith and Evans have begun fitness assessments of the first through sixth grades at Northwest Elementary school in Mrs. Marie Budzon's physical education classes. In addition to her traditional physical fitness program measures, additional tests have been performed to assess grip strength, flexibility, and body fatness.
After measurements are taken, Smith and Evans take time to explain the meaning of the numbers to each participant. The entire program is geared towards promoting the fitness of the individual, says Smith.
Body fatness, a particular concern of children and adults, is handled in a positive proactive manner. Because moderately vigorous physical activity is the main lifestyle factor controling body fatness, Smith and Evans encourage each participant to enjoy sports and other physical activities.
The project leaders are careful to stress the confidential nature of the fitness assessments. Individual measurements are revealed only to the child at time of measurement and in written form only to the child's parents on a take-home report form. Brief explanations and opportunity for more comprehensive feedback are also included on the parents' form. Averages, not individual scores, will be made available to county health and fitness professionals.
In future years, the Huntington County Fitness Project will expand its focus to include adolescent and adult groups, including stress management skill appraisals. A future phase of the project will offer area residents individual consultations with specialists in physical fitness, nutrition, and stress management, as well as public clinics in these areas.
Smith and Evans hope their project will open new avenues of communication between County health officials and area fitness professionals as they explore common projects, interests, and concerns. In turn, the coordination of talents and interests of these professionals promises to be a valuable resource for the health and well-being of Huntington County.
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