A new $75,495 grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents promises to breathe new life into the University of New Orleans’ popular and growing human performance and health promotion program—one that suffered setbacks following Hurricane Katrina.
Marc Bonis, assistant professor of human performance and health promotion, said the award will enable UNO to purchase a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry—commonly called a “DXA” machine by those in the practice—to enhance and complete UNO’s health science learning lab. The instrument is used to measure bone density and is an effective source of data for those studying osteoporosis and obesity.
The University had such a tool prior to Katrina, but it was damaged by moisture and disuse following the floods, Bonis said. Students and faculty relied on the tool for research and practice for future careers in high-demand fields such as physical therapy and athletic training.
UNO deactivated the human performance and health promotion degree program in the wake of Katrina due to financial constraints. When it reactivated it in 2012, Bonis said, he immediately set about trying to secure the funding needed to get the DXA machine working again.
The Board of Regents grant, he said, goes largely toward covering the cost of the DXA. But Bonis is thrilled that not only will UNO be the only public education institution in town with such a machine, its use will enable university faculty and students to secure additional grants for research that this instrument makes possible.
“We were so elated,” he said. “This will give students a leg up.”
Since it was reinstated as a major, students have flocked to UNO’s human performance and health promotion program at higher than projected rates. Today, there are more than 120 students enrolled in the undergraduate program compared with the 2012 projection of 60 to 80 majors, Bonis said.
Bonis said he’s encouraged that those figures will grow with this addition of a more robust health science learning lab.
Students entering the program can choose between two tracks: health promotion, for those interested in community or school-based health education; and exercise physiology, which appeals to those interested in working in the area of individual health and fitness, including cardiac and other chronic disease rehabilitation.
Students looking to enter health fields, such as physical therapy, often choose this as an undergraduate major. Graduates will be able to plan, promote, implement, monitor and evaluate a variety of health programs, including those for individuals, families, groups and communities.
Employment opportunities for physical therapists, exercise physiologists and athletic trainers are all projected to grow at a faster-than-average pace through 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics.
Bonis said that by enhancing the health sciences lab, the University has the opportunity to improve student futures while building a healthier Louisiana.