Health in Motion: Meet Dr. Sharon Taverno Ross
Let's Move Pittsburgh had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Sharon Taverno Ross, a professor in the Department of Health & Physical Activity at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of our Executive Committee. During her interview we discussed her studies, her students and how she and her family stay active! Read on to learn more about Dr. Ross and the wonderful things she is doing around physical activity.
LMP: Tell us about your background.
Dr. Ross: I attended Penn State for both undergrad and graduate school. My training is interdisciplinary in nature spanning psychology, sociology and public health, but I would call myself a community-oriented behavioral scientist.
LMP: What are you currently working on?
Dr. Ross: I am currently finishing up a project that was testing the feasibility and acceptability of a home-based, community health worker (promotora)-delivered child obesity prevention program targeting Latino families with preschool children. Right now, we are collecting data for a separate small, qualitative PhotoVoice study that is examining the how Latino children of immigrants learn and sustain healthy physical activity habits following family immigration to the U.S. And finally, we are in the process of kicking off a large, quasi-experimental study to assess the effectiveness of a community health worker network in improving access to care, social support, and physical activity and nutrition in Latinos in Allegheny County.
LMP: Your students helped Let’s Move Pittsburgh lead an obstacle course for Open Streets PGH last summer. What other outreach or community events do you students get involved with?
Dr. Ross: Because community-based research and service learning are something I’m very passionate about, the students who work with me have the opportunity to get involved in many community-oriented experiences, particularly with communities of color. Ideally, these experiences provide opportunities for our students to be the health experts and encourage and promote health and wellness to families and children in the community. For example, I have students who are partnering with an afterschool program in the Hill District to lead weekly physical activity and nutrition lessons and activities.
LMP: How do you stay active?
Dr. Ross: It’s easy when you have two little ones (Annalise- 4 years; Aurelia-2 years)! I feel like I’m always moving… But seriously, my favorite things to do are go hiking, walk the dog, play at the playground or take a cycling class on campus. Also, I love exploring Pittsburgh and I like to take time on the weekend to explore with my family, which inevitably involves a lot of walking!
LMP: As a mom, how do you keep your kids active? Do you have any fun, creative activities that you do with them?
Dr. Ross: I guess the main way I “keep” my kids active is by limiting screen time. It’s my impression that children are innately inclined to move, but we as adults are often tell them to sit still or stop running. By turning off the screens, I am allowing them to do what they do best, play and be creative, which inevitably involves movement! But of course getting outside is a great way to encourage physical activity in children, something we try to do daily.
LMP: What do you think is the biggest barrier when it comes to being physically active?
Dr. Ross: The number one barrier we hear from families is (lack of) time. After formative research in the local Latino community, another common barrier we hear is about the weather (too cold).
LMP: How do you recommend families overcome these barriers?
Dr. Ross: The perception that families do not have time to be active can be flipped on its head by reframing or encouraging family time as active time. These do not have to be mutually exclusive or take away from time you could spend together. For example, family walks after dinner, playing at the playground (parents, too!), or going on a bike ride together. As far as the weather being a barrier, ideas to be active indoors as a family like creating a fun obstacle course, have a family dance party or do some yoga stretches together on the living room floor.