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Cha-cha the sequester away: NIH funding $1.7 million dance study

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michal Conger

The sequester is no match for the cha-cha. A National Institutes of Health grant is funding dance lessons for seniors in a $1.7 million study on whether traditional dance helps encourage physical activity in older Latinos.

The study is being conducted by David Marquez, a University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of kinesiology and nutrition, who also has a grant from the Alzheimers Foundation to study the same program on a smaller scale.

The study will follow 166 Latinos age 65-74 for four months in twice-weekly dance classes, and the same number in a control group, according to the Chicago Tribune. The classes will be taught using the Bailamos method, a four-step dance program that teaches merengue, cha-cha-cha, bachata and salsa — all dances the researchers hope will get Latino seniors moving.

“Exercising is just not a very familiar concept, but when you look at dancing, it’s family parties, going out as young adults … this is just something they have done and it’s a part of their culture,” Marquez told the Tribune.

NIH issued a letter on Monday saying it is evaluating the impact of sequester but has not yet made changes to grants, and will inform individual grantees of changes “at a later point.”  The dance study is still on UIC’s list of currently funded studies and on Marquez’s faculty bio.

“The Bailamos program is an innovative and culturally appropriate intervention intended to increase physical activity among Latino seniors,” Dr. Patricia Grady, director of the National Institute of Nursing Research at NIH, told the Tribune. ”Research has shown that there are multiple health benefits of physical activity for older adults.”

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