March 1, 2010
Renee DeGross Valdes, 404-413-1353
Cynthia Searcy preaches what she practices.
With a research agenda focused on adolescent obesity and school policies related to adolescent eating and exercise behaviors, the assistant professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, is active in every sense.
When she's not biking or walking to work at Georgia State University, she is teaching spinning classes at the Student Recreation Center or running in Piedmont Park. Not only that, she has completed nine marathons and her first-ever Ironman triathlon in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"Besides becoming a professor, I always wanted to complete an Ironman," said Searcy, who has kept a list of things to accomplish in life since college.
She brings the same focus and determination to her research. A native of Lexington, Ky., Searcy became interested in health early on. With a penchant for sports, she played volleyball on a scholarship in college.
"My research interests grew out of an intersection of personal and professional interests," said Searcy.
More than 17 percent of children - or 12.5 million - are overweight in the United States and are at greater risk for many serious health problems, including diabetes.
"As it turns out, few studies can link school policies to adolescent weight," Searcy said.
She added, "My research investigates these links and also finds no evidence that eating and exercise behaviors at school are associated with weight. This is not to say that schools should serve unhealthy foods or reduce physical education. In my mind, we need to rethink how effective school interventions can be, given that public education has limited resources. There may be more effective places to invest our public dollar."
In addition to adolescent obesity, Searcy is also taking on the financial health of charter schools, which has become a hot topic nationally. Searcy has served on the interview panel of Georgia Department of Education Charter School Commission.
"When charter schools can offer quality educational alternatives to kids in failing schools, then it's important to make sure they can keep their doors open by maintaining good financial health," Searcy said. "My research investigates how independent charter schools in Georgia are performing financially and what options they have for staying solvent."
As far as staying healthy herself, Searcy is now considering her next marathon and possibly cycling the Tour de France course.