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Professors Survey Campus About Working Comfortably


From Dateline (October 9, 2003)

Sometimes the smallest adjustments can make a big difference. Just ask Shari McMahon and Yosuke Chikamoto, associate and assistant professors, respectively, of kinesiology and health promotion.

Earlier this year, they conducted an online survey of full- and part-time staff members designed to identify university practices used to reduce musculoskeletal discomfort. The study was an outgrowth of the professors’ interest in aging, especially as America’s work force gets older.

Additionally, according to McMahon and Chikamoto, among the most urgent needs in worker health and safety research is to determine the types of changes, adaptations and coping strategies utilized by employees to minimize the impact of physiological changes.
Among the survey findings: individuals who participate in ergonomics training programs are more likely to change their work environment to reduce discomfort and enhance their performance.

Staff members working six or more hours at their computers have a tendency to take fewer breaks and change body positions less frequently. “No matter how busy people are, they need to take breaks,” says McMahon. “Even if they are ‘micro’ breaks, a few seconds to change focal points to reduce eye strain or relax the hands and stretch is very helpful in preventing musculoskeletal disorders.”

Among McMahon’s current research is studying the health consequences of exposure to a variety of environmental and occupational health stressors, including low-frequency electromagnetic fields. She is a certified health education specialist and special adviser for the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Chikamoto’s research and professional interests are in identifying effective strategies in delivering health promotion programs. He has developed a series of such programs utilizing computer technology, including the Stanford Educational Assessment of Risk and Readiness for Change and Health Promotion Practitioner Support System. He serves on the worksite health promotion committee at the International Institute for Health Promotion at American University.

Taking an age-related approach, McMahon and Chikamoto will next prepare the study’s results for publication.



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