DEOHS researchers awarded four new grants by UW Population Health Initiative

Chehalis flooding on I5; wsdot flickr

Four innovative research projects involving faculty from the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS) will receive grants from the University of Washington Population Health Initiative to pursue interdisciplinary approaches to improve health and reduce health disparities in vulnerable communities.

The pilot research awards are among a total of eight new grants from the Population Health Initiative to faculty-led teams from 11 different UW schools and colleges. Each grant of $50,000 was more than doubled by matches from additional school, college and departmental funds, bringing the total value of the awards to nearly $890,000.

The four projects that include DEOHS faculty will investigate health solutions that address the needs of rural agricultural workers, homeless youth, communities recovering from disasters and those threatened by emerging infectious diseases. The projects are:

Addressing health disparities in rural, underserved agricultural communities

The team will work with a community-based partner to analyze and address health disparities related to occupational, environmental, socioeconomic and biological stressors faced by underserved rural communities. The project will launch a pilot-scale rural agricultural community survey and community health educator program in Skagit and Whatcom counties. This approach will pair environmental data collection with community-driven solutions and increase capacity and resilience through community-based participatory research, citizen science and civic engagement to achieve health equity.

DEOHS team members: Lecturer Vanessa E. Galavíz and Associate Professor June Spector

Health for homeless youth and companion animals in Seattle

This project focuses on the bond that exists between homeless youth and their companion animals. Researchers will look at the interdependent health and social needs facing homeless teens/young adults and their pets, focusing on such concerns as mental health, food security, substance dependence, risk of infection and injury, as well as legal and ethical issues related to housing, education and access to medical care. An innovative “One Health” clinic, located in the University District, will be set up to provide interprofessional team care for this vulnerable human-animal population.

DEOHS team member: Associate Professor Peter Rabinowitz

Building back better: innovative methods to measure resilience

The team will test an innovative approach to help communities hit by disasters like hurricanes and wildfires to not only recover from the event but improve their overall health, well-being and resilience. They will use focus groups and data from personal health monitoring devices and applications gathered before and after recent disasters to assess, monitor and inform disaster recovery strategies and maximize the use of disaster recovery resources.

DEOHS team member: Lecturer Nicole Errett

The UW MetaCenter for Global Disease Preparedness

This team will conduct a pilot project in Peru using a variety of data to create “vulnerability maps” that pinpoint where and when people are most vulnerable to disease outbreaks. The maps will incorporate environmental, demographic, climate, health services and surveillance data to show the areas of greatest vulnerability and improve Peru’s capacity to focus resources where they are needed most. The project will help establish an interdisciplinary center at the UW to improve global readiness for emerging infectious disease epidemics using an integrated, systems-based approach that will lead to the development of vaccines, diagnostics and local capacity to respond to disease threats.

DEOHS team member: Associate Professor Peter Rabinowitz