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Student’s Award-Winning Research Shows Delta Schools Need to Focus on Physical Education

May 31, 2011�By�Elaine Pugh / Originally published on Z!ng

OXFORD, Miss. � Abigail Gamble of Manahawkin, N.J., who completed her doctoral degree in health behavior from the University of Mississippi earlier this month, has received high recognition for her dissertation research at the 11th annual American Academy of Health Behavior Scientific Meeting at Hilton Head Island, S.C.

A panel of AAHB faculty chose her research presentation as the Outstanding Student Research Poster. Her findings indicate that, despite Mississippi law, school districts and schools are failing to implement and enforce policies to provide students an opportunity to engage in 150 minutes of weekly in-school physical activity.

“Receiving this award is a great honor,” Gamble said. “The faculty members of the American Academy of Health Behavior are distinguished researchers in the field of health behavior. To be identified (by them) as a distinguished researcher is extremely rewarding and encouraging.”

Gamble, a graduate of the health behavior doctoral program in the School of Applied Sciences, investigated 11 public schools in three districts in the Mississippi Delta. She looked at the in-school activity of children ages 6 through 11 and related it to the role of state-, district- and school-level policy within each school’s built environment.

“Since the start of my graduate career, my research efforts have been focused on obesity, physical activity and chronic disease,” she said. “The work I presented at AAHB is my dissertation project, which is heavily influenced by research I conducted with my adviser, Dr. Jeffrey Hallam.”

The results of Gamble’s research are important to Mississippi, Hallam said.

“Dr. Gamble conducted an excellent study; I am very proud of her for the work she did,” Hallam said. “We have a much better picture of in-school physical activity in these schools and the relationship with weight status of the children.

“Hopefully, we can help these schools meet the physical activity state mandate to improve student health and, in particular, their intellectual health. Physical activity helps students focus on their school work.”

At this year’s UM Graduate Student Symposium, Gamble received a Best Research Award. With plans to stay in academe, she is searching for an assistant faculty position or postdoctoral fellowship at a research intensive university.

Gamble received her master’s degree in health promotion at UM, and she holds bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and liberal studies, both from Rowan University.

A graduate of Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin, N.J., she is the daughter of Jeff and Maria Gamble.

For more information on the School of Applied Sciences, go to http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/applied_sciences/.