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Thursday, September 23, 2021

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Steven Hooker Steven Hooker
 


Healthy Lifestyles are a Focus for new HHS Dean

Steven Hooker directed the California Active Aging Project and studies strategies to promote physical activity.
By Jeff Ristine
 

Physical activity and its benefits in keeping older adults both healthy and mentally sharp is an ongoing research specialty for Steven Hooker, San Diego State University’s new dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

It’s an interest he developed during stints with the California Department of Health Services in Sacramento, where he worked from 1996 to 2003. Hooker was coordinator of an initiative called the California Active Aging Project, aimed at promoting physical activity for those over 50 and implemented in several communities throughout the state.

Currently associate dean of research at Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions, Hooker officially begins at SDSU on June 29. He takes over for Larry Verity, who has served as interim dean since 2016 and will continue in his position as associate dean of academic affairs.

“It’s an exciting time to be at San Diego State University,” said Hooker. He looks forward with helping to “set the stage for the next 10 to 15 years of success at SDSU.” 

Hooker said he recognized the College of Health and Human Services, which includes the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences and the School of Public Health, as “a great fit for my background.”

Much of Hooker’s research focuses on design and implementation of tailored healthy lifestyle interventions for midlife and older adults, as well as factors affecting physical activity among specific racial and ethnic populations that sometimes exhibit dramatic differences in rates of disease.

Outlooks on physical activity often differ by gender and ethnicity as well, he noted. So to promote healthy habits, “You have to listen carefully and put together something that will pique their interest and meet their needs and preferences.”

Most people have a good understanding of how exercise can stave off physical decline. Some of Hooker’s research shows that it can be equally valuable in preventing cognitive decline, as seen with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Hooker has lived, taught and conducted research in locations that include the Midwest, South and Rockies, but is coming full circle in moving back to California. He grew up in Lompoc, and earned his bachelor’s degree from California State University, Fresno, and a master’s degree from CSU Sacramento (both degrees in physical education). “I’m a proud product of the CSU system,” he said.

His doctoral degree, in exercise science, is from Arizona State. Subsequent work included positions at the University of Dayton, University of Southern California, the University of Northern Colorado, and the University of South Carolina. He returned to Arizona State University in 2011 as a tenured professor in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion and became associate dean of research for the College of Health Solutions in 2015.