Assistant Professor Paulette M. Yamada, in the College of Education (COE) Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science (KRS), was awarded a $60,000 grant from the Medical Research Program Fund of the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation (HCF). The project, Pediatric Physical Activity (PePA): Understanding Best Practices in Implementing Physical Activity for Patients diagnosed With Childhood Cancer, runs from July 2021 through December 2022.
PePA team members include Yamada’s co-directors, KRS Associate Professor Erin Centeio and University of Hawaiʻi (UH) Cancer Center Associate Professor Erin Bantum. The project is a collaboration among KRS, the UH Cancer Center, and the Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children.
“It is amazing to have this opportunity to expand physical activity-related survivorship care to the pediatric population,” Yamada said. “Physical activity (PA) programs designed for the pediatric population have not received the same amount of attention as adult cancer exercise rehabilitation. PA is important because it is associated with positive psychosocial outcomes, reduction in fatigue, and may reduce the risk of heart disease after the completion of treatment.”
Yamada has been working with the REHAB Hospital of the Pacific since 2017, having successfully implemented an ongoing adult cancer exercise rehabilitation program on Oʻahu called iCare. The PePA project will deliver a virtual-based PA program for children who have been recently diagnosed with cancer and who are currently undergoing treatment.
“Having the opportunity to work with colleagues both at UH and at Kapi‘olani Medical Center, in addition to incorporating a peer aspect into the study is very exciting,” said Bantum.
Childhood cancer patients have a five-times higher risk of developing diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, compared to cancer-free children. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to participate in PA, which could lead to additional risk for pediatric cancer patients.
The Kapi‘olani Medical Center will recruit and recommend 25 pediatric patients to be enrolled in the PePA project. Patients will undergo baseline assessments of fitness and quality of life, among other measures, before being invited to participate 12 weeks of virtual PA intervention with their peers twice a week for 60 minutes. They will be led through activities that are relatable and age/intensity-appropriate.
Pediatric Oncologist Dr. Kelley Hutchins stated, “We are so grateful to the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation for supporting and funding this PePA Project. Kapiʻolani’s Pediatric Oncology program will work collaboratively with the UH team to help patients to continue to be active throughout their therapy and ultimately decrease fatigue, a very common and often debilitating symptom of cancer and its treatment.”
This pilot study will test the feasibility and participant adherence to the program, and since it is virtual, it can be made available to children on neighboring islands, advancing the program’s goal of supporting the quality of life of cancer patients of all ages throughout Hawaiʻi.