About Us

Urban sustainability is a new philosophy of developing healthy, productive communities that (1) promote and use locally-produced foods and products, (2) ensure safe access to natural spaces, and (3) establish low-carbon transportation systems. Urban living is arguably the most sustainable form of community given the concentration of resources, protection of arable land, and vertical structure of housing. In fact, urbanization is becoming the global norm; the percentage of global population living in urban settings has increased from less than 30% in 1950 to 47% in 2000; the percentage of urban dwellers is expected to increase to 60% by 2025 (Geodes, 1997; Population Reference Bureau, 2009). The promise of a healthy and sustainable urban future is clouded, however, by the reality of environmental insults, economic disparities, and behavioral pressures that exist in modern cities (Filippelli and Laidlaw, 2010; Wiehe et al., 2010). The challenge is not how to build a shiny carbon-neutral city from scratch, but rather how to transition our current urban state toward one that is healthier, has less environmental impact, and is more prepared to respond and adjust to variety of environmental, social, and health changes in the future (Johnson & Wilson 2009, Johnson et al., 2009, Huntington, 1996).

Several groups at IUPUI have begun collaborative efforts to explore connections between environment, behavior, health, and climate as related to urban environments. These translational efforts have been inter- and trans-disciplinary, as evidenced by earth scientists publishing with pediatricians, and geographers publishing with epidemiologists. These efforts are largely undertaken with a geospatial and geotemporal research template. This template allows environmental, health, and behavioral data to be collected individually but with reference to space and time, which become important metadata components for analysis. Projects have included:

  1. Assessing the spatial and temporal relationships between soil lead contamination and children's blood lead poisoning to improve patient screening and to develop cost-effective mitigation tools for improving children's health outcomes
  2. Determining the relationships between the urban heat island effect, socioeconomic vulnerability and disasters related to extreme heat. This further involves the translational development of early warning systems with significant spatial specificity for individual cities.
  3. Where adolescents spend time and how it relates to their health risks, including substance use and risky sexual activity
  4. Estimating the health impact and cost of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke to encourage passage of clean air legislation
  5. Building indices to measure community health and fitness levels that can be used by local advocates to improve health behaviors and development of built environment resources to support physical activity
  6. Understanding the distribution of the health professions workforce to develop initiatives to address provider shortages that limit access to quality health care

These interdisciplinary collaborative efforts have been driven by individual PI interest, and reveal the unique assets at IUPUI that contribute to great potential for this campus to be an innovative national and international leader in urban health. Many more resources are available at IUPUI and related research centers, but have remained untapped because of a lack of a coordinating body and a lack of adequate start-up funds to launch collaborative and translational efforts.