Faculty Feature: Dr. Ya-Fen Wang

From Touch Point Online Magazine, Vol. II, Issue 4 – 12/6/18
Photo of Ya-Fen Wang

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 20 percent of children in the United States are obese, presenting serious health risks to children and adolescents and disproportionately affecting disadvantaged and minority children. To better understand and address this alarming trend, Dr. Ya-Fen Wang, Assistant Professor at the College of Nursing, examines cognitive-behavioral self-control skills (collectively known as resourcefulness), stress, physical activity, and overeating in children. Dr. Wang is particularly interested in understanding resourcefulness as it relates to stress, depressive symptoms, overeating styles, and activity in underserved populations. Her interest in this area includes parents since they have the greatest influence on a child’s life; therefore, she also investigates the impact of parents’ resourcefulness on framing their children’s coping skills, eating behaviors, and resourcefulness. Through her research studies, Dr. Wang has focused on school- and community-based populations with varied ethnic and racial backgrounds, including Taiwanese children and parents as well as children in northeastern Ohio rural communities with high migration rates.

In collaboration with scholars in the arts discipline, Dr. Wang and her colleagues are piloting two new and innovative intervention programs—creative movement and art expression—to test and compare the effects of these programs on children’s self-regulation skills in the domains of overeating and physical activity levels. Described by Dr. Wang as “more joyful and less stigmatized,” these intervention programs aim to enhance children’s ability to self-regulate by promoting healthy behaviors such as increased physical activity and decreased stress through effective coping and problem-solving skills. Titled Creative Interventions to Promote Self-Regulation Abilities of Minority Preadolescents, the research team offered arts-based interventions to students enrolled in a rural northeastern Ohio district in which 70% of students are ethnic and racial minorities and 95% are economically disadvantaged. Kent State University awarded funding to Dr. Wang and her team for this study through the University’s Catalyst Grant Program. Dr. Wang also received previous funding to study the effects of targeted self-regulation training for this vulnerable population from the Kent State University Research Council and the Lake County Health Department.

Dr. Wang received her Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing degrees from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Chang Gung University in Taiwan. In addition to her accomplishments in academia, she has 20 years of experience as a pediatric nurse with expertise in pediatric nursing, pediatrics, resourcefulness, childhood overweight and obesity, and physical activity. Dr. Wang’s research publications in scholarly journals include Holistic Nursing Practice, Issues in Mental Health Nursing, Western Journal of Nursing Research, Obesity & Clinical Practice, and the Journal of Pediatric Nursing. She has presented her research at the World Nursing in Healthcare Conference, the Biennial Convention of Sigma Theta Tau International, several annual research conferences of the Midwest Nursing Research Society, and the International Research Congress of Sigma Theta Tau International. In 2017, the Midwest Nursing Research Society recognized Dr. Wang with the Distinguished Abstract Award for the 41st Annual Research Conference, and in 2013, she received Honorable Mention for the Excellence in Advancing Nursing Science Award from the American Association of Colleges in Nursing (AACN).