Faculty publish Community Vitality website

By Alex Pologruto | Mar 8, 2022

Headshot of Dr. Esther Malm, assistant professor of Psychology

Headshot of Dr. Esther Malm, assistant professor of Psychology


Website is part of an interdisciplinary research project focused on promoting a healthy lifestyle


MURRAY, Ky. — A group of Murray State University faculty from nursing, exercise science, nutrition, psychology and occupational safety has been working on a four-part research project that investigates healthy lifestyles of

centenarians in the world’s Blue Zones. The project’s goal is to educate people about concepts of centenarian

lifestyles and compare and contrast with habits of Americans. The faculty team has recently published a Community Vitality website to share their findings.

“The project started with Dr. Jessica Naber, associate professor of nursing, who had been to Sardinia, Italy, as part of a study abroad experience,” said Dr. Esther Malm, assistant professor of psychology and one of the team members. “Sardinia is one of five Blue Zones in the world – a region with a high concentration of centenarians.” 

The other Blue Zones include Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California. Malm had also been scheduled to study abroad in Sardinia, but her trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alternatively, through informal conversations with Naber, Malm became involved in the Blue Zone research project.

“What we really want to do is identify the factors that have been associated with longevity in these Blue Zones and compare that to what happens in our own community,” said Malm. “Then, we want to think about how we can also effectively educate our community about the factors of a healthy lifestyle.”

The factors can be broken down into four major categories: movement, rest, nutrition and connection. In order to gather data, the research team created and administered a survey to people in Calloway County about the challenges of living a healthy lifestyle in a rural region. The team is also conducting more in-depth interviews with members of the local elderly population to identify their healthy habits in the four major categories.

Malm is assisting with the data analysis and creating content for the website, a major component of the project. The site offers resources in the four categories of longevity factors, along with information about the project’s purpose and the team members. 

“The site will continue to develop and evolve,” said Malm. 

Eventually, the group plans to take their research into the local elementary schools to teach students about their findings and promote the importance of health and well-being to the next generation. One of the strengths of the project is its interdisciplinary nature.

The other Murray State faculty team members include Dr. Amelia Dodd, assistant dean of the School of Nursing and Health Professions and director of the exercise science program; Dr. Janice Thurmond, assistant professor and director of the family nurse practitioner program; Dr. Lauren Roberson, nutrition program director and assistant professor in the Department of Applied Health Sciences; and Dr. Oluwabunmi Dada, assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Safety and Health.

“If you think about the various areas in terms of faculty interest – nursing, psychology, exercise science, nutrition, occupational health and safety – all of them promote or impact our well-being, so all of us have vested interests in the project,” said Malm.

While the team is looking forward to multiple publications based on the project, Malm is clear that the team’s aspirations go far beyond publications and conference presentations.

“The goal of the project is not just scholarship, but intervention and prevention – making an impact in our own region. We’re hoping the study will be longitudinal, so we can continue developing tips and guidelines to educate community members. We want to promote a healthy physical, mental, and emotional well-being for the people around us,” said Malm.

For more information please visit murraystate.edu/communityvitality/home or email msu.cvproject@murraystate.edu with any further questions.

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