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Iowa Investigator: Sharon Tucker

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Sharon Tucker

What is the focus of your research? What questions are you trying to answer? What problems are you attempting to solve?

My research is focused on investigating strategies for promoting health and wellness and preventing disease and illness. I am interested in strategies that target behavioral and environmental change and that motivate people to reach their health and wellness goals. As strong evidence supports early intervention strategies before illness and disease develop, I am particularly interested in reaching children through partnering with parents. Most of my research is guided by self-efficacy theory. Questions I am trying to answer:

  1. What environmental strategies can help working parents promote physical activity (PA) and healthy body composition for parents and their children?
  2. What are the effects of work-site physical activity strategies on PA levels, fat and lean mass, PA self-efficacy, and other health outcomes?
  3. What are the effects of targeting parents at the worksite on their children’s PA levels and body mass index (BMI)?
  4. What effects does nurse delivered motivational interviewing have on child and parent PA levels and BMI?
  5. How does use of mobile phone text messaging influence PA self-efficacy, motivation, PA levels and body composition (fat and lean mass)?
  6. What effects does motivational interviewing have on PA levels and other health behaviors among people living with chronic disease?
  7. What behavioral parenting interventions are most effective for promoting child and parent mental health, well-being, and parent-child relationships?

What led to your interest in this topic?

As a mental health clinical nurse specialist, I observed long ago how environmental and behavioral experiences influence health patterns over time and contribute to suffering and quality of life. As a sexual assault nurse examiner in the 1980s, I observed the suffering of hundreds of (mostly) women, many who were repeat victims. These experiences compelled me to pursue work that would be more preventive in nature. I became interested in the family as a unit to support both parents and children in promoting health and wellness, preventing disease and suffering as possible, and empowering people to take charge of their health and chose behaviors that support health and wellness, and positive relationships. Over the past two decades, the growing mental health problems and overweight and obesity crisis have become two major foci for my research projects. 

What impact (on citizens, practice environment, educational opportunities, funding, etc.) do you predict coming from this research?

I anticipate the identification of effective health promoting strategies that are:

  • behavioral and practical,
  • shift unhealthy cultures and environments to be “health friendly” (mind/body/spirit),
  • and empower families to adopt health strategies that are feasible and consistent with their values and life goals.

How does the research integrate into education/practice/service?

This research is about changing cultures, environments, and behaviors that will sustain health and wellness patterns among working parents, families and children. Nursing’s foundation is health promotion and environmental change. Nurses are thus in a natural position to provide services consistent with this research program. Moreover, the focus is appropriate for multiple settings and can be part of community volunteer work as well paid nursing services. Teaching nurses health behavior strategies such as motivational interviewing will equip them with the tools to empower patients to promote their own health and prevent/reduce disease and illness.

Posted On: 
Feb 2nd, 2012