Kent State College of Nursing Professor Receives Grant to Research Stress and Obesity in Children

Photo of Ya-Fen WangKent, Ohio – Ya-Fen Wang, Ph.D., RN, MSN, assistant professor in Kent State University’s College of Nursing, has received a $10,000 grant from the Lake Health Foundation in northeast Ohio. Dr. Wang’s one-year project, titled “Resourcefulness, Stress, and Overeating in Children,” will study whether children’s prolonged exposure to stressful situations such as school, family or environment encourages poor eating behaviors, which can lead to childhood obesity. The study also looks at whether those behaviors can be exchanged for healthier options through self-coping skills, also known as resourcefulness.

In 2011, the latest Ohio Department of Health study found that 19.5% of Ohio third-graders were obese. The study also stated that racial disparities exist within the third-graders, with obesity occurring in 30.7% of Hispanic children, compared to 17.2% of their non-Hispanic, Caucasian peers. Dr. Wang explained that, like adults, children who are obese are at an increased risk for health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and heart dysfunction, joint problems and fatty liver disease.

Dr. Wang’s research is taking place in the Painesville School District in Painesville, Ohio, where 42% of students enrolled in public education in 2012 were Hispanic, according to the Federal Education Budget Project. In November, 2015, face-to-face interviews were conducted with 82 students ranging from 9-to-12-years in age. The students answered questions about their stress and how they cope with it, and their eating behaviors. The students’ data is now being analyzed to discover why and how often the children eat and if their stress and eating are related.

“Research in adults has revealed resourcefulness is effective for decreasing stress and performing healthy behaviors. For instance, a resourceful individual may go for a walk instead of eating cookies after a stressful day. He or she will swap a poor choice for a healthy activity, which is an effective way to manage stress. However, few studies have examined whether resourcefulness skills are similarly important in children.” said Wang.

The grant compensated the data collectors and provided incentives for student participation.

About Kent State University’s College of Nursing

In existence for nearly 50 years, the College of Nursing at Kent State University is one of the largest and most comprehensive nursing programs in the nation with more than 12,000 alumni worldwide. As part of Kent State’s eight-campus system, the college provides more than 2,000 nursing students courses of study at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral levels. To learn more about nursing programs at Kent State, please visit


Photo Caption: 
Ya-Fen Wang, Ph.D., RN, MSN, assistant professor in Kent State University’s College of Nursing, has received a grant to research stress and obesity in children. 

POSTED: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 11:57am
UPDATED: Friday, February 1, 2019 - 11:15am
Mariah Gibbons