Focus Areas of the Center for Urban Health

The central theme of the Center for Urban Health will be Environment, Community, and Health. Each of these "spheres" would be connected by the built and social environment from a contextual standpoint and by geospatial referencing from an integration standpoint. The goal would be to enhance health and sustainability for urban populations, with an eye toward both environmental legacies (i.e., reduced contamination, removing social and economic disparities) and emerging threats (i.e., climate change, water quality and quantity). Examples of research goals that span these overlapping themes include:

Environment and Health

  1. Developing geospatially and geotemporally integrated environmental and health quality tools to help us pinpoint environmental burdens, to help us target research to explore the links between certain contaminants or contaminant mixtures and human health, and ultimately to develop practical, efficient, and science-based plans to remediate the environment and thus improve individual and community health.
  2. Developing spatiotemporal tools that enable modeling of the expected health impacts of climate change. Such an effort involves the coordination of spatiotemporal climate and health models and the unique integration of socioeconomic and environmental data available from numerous national and international assets. This effort would lead directly to translational activities focused at remediating the local scale impact of climate change as it relates to health-related concerns.
  3. Examining chronic disease epidemiology to better target disease drivers. This effort would involve biostatistical and epidemiological analyses of chronic diseases ranging from asthma to cancer.

Health and Community

  1. Examining contextual determinants of adolescent and young adult health-risk by studying where adolescents and young adults not only live but spend time, identifying specific contextual exposures – both physical and social – associated with their residence and/or dynamic locations, and how these relate to their health outcomes
  2. Obesity results from a complex interaction between diet, physical activity, and the environment. Especially in urban settings, the built environment encompasses a range of physical and social elements that make up the structure of a community and may influence obesity. Given the importance of the physical and social contexts of individual behavior and the limited success of individual-based interventions in long-term obesity prevention, more research on the impact of the built environment on obesity is vital. This Center has many unique strengths and a history of successful funded research in this area. The findings from this research will readily and directly benefit the families of central Indiana and be disseminated to other areas.

Community and Environment

  1. Translating environmental research outcomes into practical community-based solutions to urban sustainability, including design of development and greenspace, transportation corridors, safe urban gardening, green community development
  2. Determining optimal times and places where interventions may be implemented or resources may be allocated which will help improve health outcomes and decrease disease disparities.
  3. Developing models to help policy makers and advocates better understand the factors that impact public health as well as demonstrate the likely outcome of specific policy initiatives. Examples would include establishing convenient, affordable and safe recreation facilities, passing clean air policies, and providing land for community gardens.