A University at Buffalo obesity prevention research team headed by epidemiologist and childhood obesity expert Dr. Youfa Wang, is working with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (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 and 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 itself.
”NASA has been conducting research in this area for some time and has sent us data they have collected from more than 20 countries,” Dr. Wang says. “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 their obesity-related research. They include funding from several U.S. federal agencies including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s(AHRQ), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Their research includes international collaboration projects, some of which are ongoing.
Dr. Wang is 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. He directs the Systems-oriented Global Childhood Obesity Intervention Program, which collaborates with institutions from many countries. He is also an adjunct professor at several other universities including the Johns Hopkins University and Peking University.