Kent State University researchers who want to discover what motivates some people to stay active into their senior years have found a living laboratory just a few miles away.
The medical fitness centers run by Akron General Health System in nearby Stow, Bath Township and Green attract participants who are older than typical gym members and more likely to be exercise novices, said Doug Ribley, the health system’s senior vice president of health and wellness services.
But what gets them active?
And why do they keep moving?
These questions — and many more — will be explored through a new research partnership announced Tuesday between Akron General and the Kent State University College of Public Health.
The health system and university are creating a joint Health and Wellness Research Collaborative to research, develop and test programs that encourage healthy lifestyles and better management of chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
“I believe the Akron General wellness model is an innovation that will bring us a national model,” Sonia Alemagno, dean of Kent State’s College of Public Health, said during an event at the Akron General Health and Wellness Center in Stow to announce the partnership.
For years, studies have shown an estimated 20 percent of the U.S. population accounts for about 80 percent of all medical costs, said Dr. Thomas “Tim” Stover, Akron General Health System’s president and chief executive.
The goal of the new partnership, he said, is to develop wellness models that keep now-healthy Americans from becoming the next 20 percent.
The collaborative “has the potential to improve the health of millions of Americans by reducing the impact of chronic disease,” he said.
The health system already is working with 23 other hospitals, universities and municipalities from across the country to help those clients develop their own version of Akron General’s popular Health & Wellness centers, he said. The research partnership with Kent State “is going to give us the boost we need to take this to the next level,” he said.
Researchers specializing in social and behavioral science can help determine what motivates people to embrace healthy lifestyles, Alemagno said.
Other experts within the College of Public Health also will be able to analyze data and provide a cost-benefit analysis of existing wellness programs and those being developed.
“There’s been a huge void in this area over the years,” Ribley said of the research initiative. “This is long overdue.”
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.