Karly Geller

Karly Geller

Associate Professor

Area: Health Promotion
Office: 214 Phillips Hall

Degree: Post-doctorate, University of Hawaii Cancer Center | Post-doctorate, Kansas State University
Ph.D., Kansas State University
M.Ed., University of Virginia
B.A., University of West Florida

Curriculum Vitae

As a public health researcher, my agenda ultimately targets the prevention of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer; and, I am especially interested in serving understudied populations. To contribute to the prevention of these public health concerns, I lead research in three broad areas: multiple health behavior examination and promotion, physical activity maintenance examinations, and public health theory testing and measurement validation. 

Disease is not influenced by only one behavior. Chronic disease prevention requires the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle, or multiple health behavior. Through my research, I strive to better understand the multi-level factors influencing individuals’ multiple health behavior by examining individual level determinants, as well as factors within the physical and social environment. To date, I have examined factors that influence youth and adults’ physical activity, sedentary behavior, fruit and vegetable consumption, fat intake, and sleep behavior. More specifically, I am interested in distinguishing between different sources (friends, family, etc.,) and types (positive or negative) of social support for healthy lifestyle behaviors. I am also interested in the impact of the physical environment on human health; which is an area of research I will continue in the future. I have examined environmental access to healthy opportunities in relation to human health, and I have developed an objective assessment of an urban city’s walkability and bikeability. I recently completed a number of projects examining lifestyle behaviors among distinct populations and unique settings, which I aim to publish in the near future. For example, I examined church-related social support influences on the health behaviors of African Americans and compared multiple health behavior between NCAA athletes and college-aged non-athletes. I plan to continue similar investigations among distinct populations and within understudied environments. I also have statistical goals related to developing a multiple health behavior metric that is valid among diverse ethnic groups. Along with colleagues at the University of Hawaii, I plan to submit a NIH grant that proposes to empirically evaluate various methods of aggregating several health behaviors into a comprehensive lifestyle metric and test the generalizability across population subgroups. Ultimately, I strive to develop, test, and disseminate effective multiple health behavior promotional programs that tailor to distinct populations and contexts.

In addition to multiple health behavior, I also specifically research the determinants of physical activity maintenance. Public health researchers have successfully promoted physical activity adoption; however, promotion of long-term physical activity maintenance has been less effective. I recently completed data collection from two large projects that examine the influences of physical activity maintenance, which I plan to publish in the near future. The first compares transtheoretical constructs between NCAA athletes and sedentary college-aged athletes in relation to their physical activity and sedentary behaviors. I will match participants on certain demographic variables (age, gender, etc.) and compare their motivational mechanisms for physical activity. I plan to extend this work by comparing similar motivations between former collegiate athletes who have maintained physical activity to former athletes who have not. My second study used a retrospective study design to examine physical activity among college alumni (N > 750). Participants reported their physical activity during college and their current physical activity (at least eight years later). Using constructs from the self-determination theory, I will compare physical activity motives and self-regulation between those who reported maintenance of physical activity to those who did not. Based on these outcomes, I plan to develop a prospective, longitudinal study to examine influences of participants’ physical activity and physical activity maintenance. Ultimately, my intention is to support the development and evaluation of future physical activity promotion programs.

Finally, “Nothing is more practical than a good theory” (Kurt Lewin). A sound theoretical framework guides effective health promotion; however, without valid and generalizable measurement scales, reported outcomes are futile. My scholarship includes validation and examination of constructs defined by various health behavior theories. To date, my research has centered on constructs within the social cognitive theory, the transtheoretical model, and the self-determination theory. Relatedly, I advocate the critical role of valid methodology and measurement (e.g., exploratory/confirmatory factor analysis, structural equation modeling, etc.). A large portion of my work involves statistical validation of theoretical constructs and invariance across time and population subgroups (age, ethnicity, weight status, etc.). I have also tested measurement scales across different health behaviors within unique contexts (e.g., afterschool, garden programs, churches, etc.). For example, I am leading validation analyses on a measure of health literacy among elementary students (N > 700), and examining the validity/reliability of church-related social support measurement scales among African American adults. I am the statistician for colleagues at multiple universities, including Kansas State University, University of Hawaii, University of Memphis, and Miami University; I plan to continue my work on their projects in the future. I also plan to lead projects that examine theoretical constructs and measurement scales across various health behaviors, populations, and contexts. Furthermore, I have developed a measure of the physical environment in relation to environmental and personal health; I plan to tailor and test that measure within additional neighborhoods using graphic information systems (GIS). Again, I intend to extend this scholarship towards the development and evaluation of future public health interventions.