Our Divisions : Environment & Public Health

Environment & Public Health

Changing Environments, Improving Health

Effective environmental intervention and management improves public health. We conduct interdisciplinary research and training on the health effects of environments and occupational settings, with the goal of developing effective interventions. We train future researchers, health practitioners, and decision makers on how to assess, evaluate, reduce, and prevent the environmental disease burden.

Linking the Environment and Disease

Our approaches and findings provide public health guidance for communities, nations, and policy makers around the world. Faculty expertise and research spans exciting progressive dimensions beyond traditional programs, with a collective vision that emphasizes how future public health leaders must be equipped with interdisciplinary skills to tackle high priority health issues.

Obesity:
Around the world, people on average are much heavier today than they were a generation or two ago. In the US, we are seeing the first generation of children and teens who, because of overweight and obesity, may have a shorter life span than their parents. In the 20th Century, Type 2 diabetes was often referred to as adult onset diabetes. With the epidemic of childhood obesity, we now see increased rates of childhood onset of Type 2 (no longer adult onset) diabetes. Our genes have not changed in the last generation or two, but our environment has. Since the middle of the last century, with the increasing popularity of the car, more and more people moved into communities built for cars rather than walking. As we moved away from walkable neighborhoods and into suburbs we became more sedentary, our weight increased, and so did our rates of chronic diseases linked to overweight and obesity such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, orthopedic and joint disease and some types of cancers. However, decreased walking is not the only culprit for the obesity epidemic. Our food consumption has also changed in ways that lead us to consume more calories with limited nutritional value. Stress-producing environmental factors also contribute to increased weight. We have launched a University-wide initiative to create a scientist-community alliance to encourage more research that can help us turn the tide on the obesity epidemic, and provide educational public health experiences that will prepare tomorrow’s leaders to continue to battle this problem. Jose Szapocznik, Ph.D.

Built Environment:
“Where we live, where we work, where we go and how we get there all impact our behaviors, and ultimately our health and well-being. Our work on the built (physical) environment, behavior, and health studies a range of aspects of the environment created by humans. Our network of faculty pursues research to examine how homes, neighborhoods, cities, and regions impact public health challenges such as obesity, chronic disease, and mental health. Our early work examined impacts of block-level features of the built environment impact health. We examine the role of walkable communities in relation physical and mental health outcomes in new immigrants, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in Miami-Dade County. Our research informs neighborhood and community policies that strongly promote physical activity and positive social interactions.” — Scott Brown, Ph.D.

Environmental Exposure:
“We care about the environment to protect and improve public health, and the health and sustainability of ecosystems. We characterize the environment and quantify harmful personal exposure. We use modern methods of satellite remote sensing, portable samplers, smart phone applications, and optimal interpolation techniques to quantify environmental burdens of disease and disability, and develop effective environmental management strategies.” — Naresh Kumar, Ph.D.

Occupational Health and Safety:
“The U.S. civilian workforce (155 million people) spend a quarter of their time and up to half of their waking lives at work or commuting to work. Despite advances in workplace policy and job organization that support improved occupational health and safety, workers in the U.S. continue to suffer from significant work-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses. Given an individual’s work environment is filled with physical and psychosocial exposures, the workplace provides a unique venue for public health intervention. Our Miami Occupational Health Research Group addresses worker issues by conducting occupational health surveillance research as well as by designing, implementing and evaluating workplace interventions that integrate both worker protection with workplace health promotion.” — Alberto Caban-Martinez, DO, PhD, MPH, CPH

Vector Biology and Control:
“Here in Miami we don’t tolerate our families being bitten by even a few mosquitoes. Why should it be any different in developing countries? Globally, tens of millions of people suffer and die from insect-transmitted pathogens. Progress is being made but the best prospects for the future are environmentally tailored action programs that not only stop pathogen transmission but also reduce infestations and biting by all insect pests. If we take steps to understand biological diversity and human interaction within the environment, then we can develop strategic ways to manage and improve the environment that will contribute greatly to the overall quality of life.” — John Beier, Sc.D.