Grant to fund study of police officers’ health

Jul 1, 2021 | Applied and Natural Sciences, Education and Human Sciences, General News, Innovation, Research

A $25,000 grant has been approved for a Louisiana Tech University interdisciplinary project to research and implement new ways to protect police officers’ health.

Principal investigator Dr. Todd Castleberry, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology; Dr. Jean Chen, Associate Professor of Kinesiology; and Dr. Vicky Green, Dietetic Internship Director in the School of Human Ecology; will lead the research project.

“This grant funding will be used to help collect blood for health markers, in addition to physical fitness data in police officers, ” Castleberry said. “This project was selected for its novel approach to promoting health in a specific population of Louisiana citizens who need to be healthy and fit to perform the duties of their job. With this new approach, we hope that enhancing the overall health of law enforcement will ultimately enhance the relationships between citizens and police officers.”

Castleberry, Chen, and Green applied for the grant through the Louisiana Tech University Foundation, and it was funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation.

“The Louisiana Tech University Foundation and the BCBS of Louisiana Foundation have provided our college the opportunity to showcase the real-world benefits of the innovative research in the Department of Kinesiology,” said Dr. Don Schillinger, Dean of the College of Education.

“We are excited to celebrate the accomplished and talented faculty from the department of kinesiology who are conducting world-class research to positively impact the well-being of essential public servants in our community,” said Dr. Lindsey Vincent, Associate Dean for Research, Outreach, and Innovation. “We in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University are grateful for the investment of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation who share interest in and passion for this important initiative.”

In the grant, Castleberry, Chen, and Green wrote that “the unpredictable nature of law enforcement officers’ jobs requires them to be physically ready to execute different tasks with accuracy and effectiveness,” which will likely indicate that “a fitness training program specifically designed around these motivating factors to establish good physical condition without external pressure from others would be a meaningful strategy to tackle the issue.”

According to previous research, Chen said, most of the law enforcement officers’ average fitness level and health condition are worse than those in the general population. Both the officers and administrations recognize the necessity of being physically fit, but they all express the concern of having a support system to uphold the standard.

“This is where our project comes in handy,” Chen said. “Along with the fitness components, we will also look into the diet and nutritional perspective. Our goal is to educate the officers to eat right on and off their shift.”

The research portion of the project should last about one year, and the design of the physical training program will be based on a recent study on the exercise motivations of law enforcement officers in northeastern Louisiana by Chen and Castleberry. In this previous research, they found significant motivational factors to exercise by age, affiliated agency, marital status, and number of children they have.

“We hope that the participating officers will continue to exercise and eat right even after the research portion is over,” Chen said. “We also hope that we will be able to receive more internal or external funds so that we can reach out to more officers outside of northeastern Louisiana. Our goal is to extend the physical training program with diet and nutritional education to the entire state of Louisiana, the neighboring states, and eventually across the country.”