Built Environment

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Can Air Pollution Make Children Fat?

(Jeff Swenson/Getty Images)

(Jeff Swenson/Getty Images)

By Chris Richard

Studies have linked air pollution exposure, especially exposure to pollution from congested roadways, with serious health conditions ranging from asthma, to heart disease, to cancer, to low birth weight.

Now a research team at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine has received funding to investigate whether children living near busy roadways are more prone to obesity.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the federal Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded $7.8 million to the medical school’s Southern California Children’s Environmental Health Center to fund research by over the next five years.

Scientists will conduct new studies and analyze existing data on whether and how roadway pollution may make children obese. They’ll also study metabolic abnormalities linked to air pollution from roads that might increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Continue reading

Rural Husband and Wife Doctor Team Reflect on Careers in Medicine and Public Service

For more than three decades, Drs. Marcia and Oscar Sablan have served the tiny Central Valley town of Firebaugh. In an affectionate portrait today, the Los Angeles Times describes a couple who made a plan to work for three years in a rural area and walk away from all their medical school debt. As Marcia Sablan mentioned last week in a panel discussion in Fresno, she and her husband moved from Hawaii and arrived in Firebaugh in July on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year.

The couple never left Firebaugh, and today they are fixtures in the community. But what I found particularly interesting was the couple’s recognition that medicine only goes so far, as reporter Anna Gorman describes in the Times article:

… (A)s they built up their medical practice, the Sablans say, they realized that they could do only so much in the exam room. For example, they would tell their diabetic patients to exercise, but there were few places to do so. So they turned to politics. “I just saw that was the only way change could be made,” says Marcia Sablan, who is still on the city council. Continue reading

If We Build It, Will People Be More Healthy?

(Image: from "Designing Health Communities")

(Image: from "Designing Health Communities")

It’s called the “built environment” and if you’re a public health whiz, you know exactly what that means. If you don’t, Dr. Richard Jackson, Chair of UCLA’s Environmental Health Sciences Department believes it’s critical you do.

“By the built environment,” he explains, “we mean everything around us that was changed by human activity, homes, building, streets that we’re surrounded by.” In other words, it’s where we live our lives, work, or go to school. When the car came along, the built environment seemed to build up on its own without any thought to health impacts. “We’ve made it hard to walk,” he says. “We’ve engineered physical activity out of our daily lives.” Continue reading