SMU economists examine fighting hunger through social networks

Thomas Fomby

SMU economists examine fighting hunger through social networks

SMU economics researchers will analyze the roles social networks and isolation play in fighting hunger in North Texas.

Recent studies have found that household economic resources are not the only factor contributing to food insecurity, according to SMU economist Tom Fomby. About 1 in 6 U.S. households are affected by food insecurity, meaning there’s not enough food at all times to sustain active, healthy lives for all family members, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This study will analyze the role of other factors causing food insecurity, such as urban or rural settings, access to nutrition assistance programs, access to inexpensive groceries, family support and social stigma,” Fomby said.

Fomby, professor of economics and director of the Richard B. Johnson Center for Economic Studies, and Daniel Millimet, SMU professor of economics, are conducting the study. A $120,000 grant from the North Texas Food Bank is funding the research. The study will be complete in March 2014.

Although household income is the single most powerful predictor of food security, poverty and hunger are not synonymous. According to Feeding America, 28 percent of food insecure residents in Dallas County are ineligible for most nutrition assistance programs because they have incomes above 185 percent of the federal poverty level; and the U. S. Department of Agriculture reports that 58.9 percent of U.S. households with incomes below the poverty level are food secure. The reasons for this are not well understood.

“With this research, we expect to better understand the causes of food insecurity in North Texas and improve the assessment of at-risk households,” Fomby said.

The SMU study is one of two major research projects launching The Hunger Center of North Texas, a new collaborative research initiative created by the North Texas Food Bank. The University of North Texas is also collaborating on a study.

“We believe that this research will be groundbreaking,” said Richard Amory, director of research for the North Texas Food Bank. “Nutrition assistance programs tend to approach individuals and households in isolation. Understanding the role that communities play in food security may help us leverage social forces to develop more effective programs and, ultimately, reduce the need for food assistance.”

SMU and the North Texas Food Bank recently formed a partnership, “Stampede Against Hunger,” to build on the University community’s strong support for NTFB, connecting campus groups already working with the food bank, as well as encouraging new types of participation for the campus and alumni community.

The University’s support for the food bank has ranged from traditional food drives and volunteer work in the NTFB distribution center, to research for the food bank conducted by students in the Cox School of Business and the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.

Faculty and students from the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development volunteer regularly in NTFB nutrition courses, and Fondren Library staff organize a “Food for Fines” drive each year, waiving library fines in exchange for donations of non-perishable food items.

Written by Nancy George, with the NTFB

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

November 12, 2012|News, Research|

Research Spotlight: Antibiotics, not surgery, may provide better treatment for appendicitis

Antibiotics rather than surgery may be the better treatment for cases of appendicitis in which the appendix hasn’t burst, according to a new study.

The study’s authors say the findings suggest that nonperforating appendicitis, as the disease is called when the appendix hasn’t burst, may be unrelated to perforating appendicitis, in which the appendix has burst. Instead, the study found that nonperforating childhood appendicitis, which historically has been treated with emergency surgery, seems to be a disease similar to nonperforating adult diverticulitis, which is often treated with antibiotics.

The study, “Epidemiological similarities between appendicitis and diverticulitis suggesting a common underlying pathogenesis,” was reported in the Archives of Surgery.

Childhood appendicitis and adult diverticulitis share many similarities, including association with colon hygiene and a low intake of fiber in the diet. Those shared epidemiological features prompted researchers to examine whether the two might be similar, according to SMU economist Tom Fomby.

“We used a technique called cointegration to investigate common movements in epidemiologic data series,” said Fomby, a professor in SMU’s Department of Economics, who led the statistical analysis with statistician Wayne A. Woodward, professor and department chair in SMU’s Department of Statistical Science.

Lead author on the study was Edward H. Livingston, M.D., in the division of Gastrointestinal and Endocrine Surgery at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas; with the Department of Surgery, Veterans Affairs Medical Center Dallas; and in the Department of Bioengineering, University of Texas at Arlington. Also co-authoring was Robert W. Haley, M.D., in the Department of Internal Medicine-Epidemiology, UT Southwestern Medical School, and a past recipient of the SMU Distinguished Alumni Award.

The study looked at 27 years of data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey, which is compiled annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The analysis specifically compared national data and regional data for children with appendicitis and adults with diverticulitis who were admitted to U.S. hospitals between 1979 and 2006.

The authors’ analysis shows that although the annual incidence rates of adult nonperforating diverticulitis and child nonperforating appendicitis changed greatly during the past 25 years, their secular patterns – long-term trends – followed the same general patterns, overall as well as region by region, according to the authors.

Appendicitis is a painful infection caused by blockage in the appendix, a fingerlike pouch jutting from the large intestine. It typically affects younger people, age 10 to 30, and is the No. 1 cause of emergency abdominal surgeries, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse within the National Institutes of Health.

Diverticulitis, which is more common among people older than 60, occurs when pouches that have developed in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract become inflamed and sometimes infected, according to NDDIC. It is often treated with antibiotics, the authors say.

“These findings seem incompatible with the long-held view that perforating appendicitis is merely the progression of nonperforating disease where surgical intervention was delayed too long,” write the authors. “If perforating appendicitis was simply a manifestation of nonperforating appendicitis not treated in a timely manner, the secular trends should have been statistically similar, which they were not.”

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

May 3, 2011|Research|

For the Record: Dec. 2, 2010

Anita Ingram, Risk Management, was inducted as 2010-11 treasurer of the University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA) at the organization’s 41st annual conference in Pittsburgh on Oct. 12, 2010. URMIA is an international nonprofit educational association promoting “the advancement and application of effective risk management principles and practices in institutions of higher education,” according to its press release. It represents more than 500 institutions of higher education and 100 companies.

Beth Newman, English, Dedman College, attended the North American Victorian Studies Association conference in Montreal Nov. 11-13, 2010, where she read a paper titled “Walter Pater, Alice Meynell, and Aestheticist Temporality.” The next weekend she read a slightly expanded version of the paper at the Clark Library (UCLA), at a symposium titled “Cultures of Aestheticism.”

Emily George Grubbs ’08, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, wrote an article published in Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, published by the Dallas Historical Society. The article, “Texas Regionalism and the Little Theatre of Dallas,” discusses the collaboration between local artists and the Little Theatre of Dallas in areas such as program cover design, stage sets and publicity posters. Early in their careers, architect O’Neil Ford and artists Jerry Bywaters, Alexandre Hogue and Perry Nichols were among those who collaborated with the theatre.

Grant Kao and Justin Nesbit, graduate video game design students in The Guildhall at SMU, have been chosen to receive national scholarships presented annually by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Kao and Nesbit will receive $2,500 each through the Randy Pausch and Mark Beaumont scholarship funds, respectively. The scholarships are awarded by the AIAS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of AIAS. Read more from SMU News.

SMU’s Data Mining TeamSubhojit Das and Greg Johnson, third-year students in the economics graduate program; and Jacob Williamson, a second-year graduate student in applied economics – has placed second in the national 2010 SAS Data Mining Shootout competition. Their faculty sponsor is Tom Fomby, Economics, Dedman College. Winners of the national competition were announced Oct. 25 at the SAS Data Mining Conference in Las Vegas.

SMU 2010 Data Mining Team in Las VegasThe competition’s problem statement was to determine the economic benefit of reducing the Body Mass Indices (BMIs) of a select number of individuals by 10 percent and to determine the cost savings to federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, as well as to the economy as a whole, from the implementation of the proposed BMI reduction program. This is the third year in a row that the University’s Economics Department has fielded one of the country’s top three data mining teams; SMU finished as national champions in 2008 and 2009. Read more from SMU News.

(In photo, left to right: Tim Rey of Dow Chemical Company; Subhojit Das, Tom Fomby, Greg Johnson and Jacob Williamson, all of SMU; and Tracy Hewitt of the Institute for Health and Business Insight at Central Michigan University. Dow Chemical and the Institute for Health and Business Insight were co-sponsors of the competition, along with the SAS Institute of Cary, North Carolina.)

December 2, 2010|For the Record|

Faculty Club honors Fomby, Sobol at annual BBQ May 5

SMU Faculty Club logoThe Faculty Club will honor two outstanding professors for service to the University community at the 2010 Faculty Club Awards BBQ. The celebration begins at noon May 5 at the SMU Faculty Club.

Tom Fomby, professor of economics in Dedman College, will receive the Mentor Supereminence Award, recognizing faculty for exceptional mentoring of the University’s faculty and students. Marion Sobol, professor of information technology and operations management in Cox School of Business, will receive the Distinguished Service Award, recognizing Faculty Club members for extraordinary service to the club.

The cost for the barbecue is $5. RSVP to Dee Powell, 214-768-3012.

> Visit the SMU Faculty Club online

April 27, 2010|Calendar Highlights, News|

Research Spotlight: What causes appendicitis?

Human anatomy showing location of appendixWhat triggers appendicitis, and why is it more common in certain years and in the summer? SMU researchers have published evidence that a flu-like virus is to blame.

Dedman College Professors Tom Fomby, Economics, and Wayne Woodward, Statistical Science, reviewed 36 years’ worth of hospital data on cases of appendicitis, influenza and gastric viral infections. They discovered that appendicitis admissions peaked in the years 1977, 1981, 1984, 1987, 1994 and 1998.

The clustering pattern suggests that appendicitis outbreaks are typical of viral infections. The data also showed a slight increase in the number of appendicitis cases during the summer months.

Fomby and Woodward described their findings in “Association of Viral Infection and Appendicitis,” published in the January issue of the journal Archives of Surgery. Since then, it has been the subject of articles in several media outlets, including The Daily Mail Online, USA Today, BusinessWeek, Science Daily and many others.

Read more from the SMU Research blog

February 2, 2010|Research|
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