“Although it is widely agreed that multiple environmental and socioeconomic factors affect health, less is known about their complex interactions.”
— Michelle Bell, Mary E. Pinchot Professor of Environmental Health
Further, older individuals can be especially vulnerable due to lower baseline health levels, and longer cumulative exposure to potential risks.
“We’re focusing on an older population not because other groups aren’t important, but because this particular group is already especially vulnerable to health problems and environmental factors,” said Bell, the Mary E. Pinchot Professor of Environmental Health at F&ES and primary investigator of the study.
Other partners in the study are Marie Lynn Miranda, Provost and Professor of Statistics at Rice University, and Francesca Dominici, Professor of Biostatistics and co-director of the Data Science Initiative at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Using statistical and geospatial modeling, the team will calculate the differences in health risk and exposure to environmental and socioeconomic factors among the senior population. They will also determine differences by subpopulation (such as race/ethnicity, age, sex, and community socioeconomic status) for associations between environment and socioeconomic factors and specific adverse health outcomes, including cardiovascular and respiratory hospital admissions, emergency department visits, and mortality.Ultimately they will combine disparities in exposures and disparities in health responses to calculate the overall environmental health disparities.
“Although it is widely agreed that multiple environmental and socioeconomic factors affect health, less is known about their complex interactions,” said Bell. “Our long-term objective is to investigate how these factors jointly contribute to health disparities in the older population.”
By identifying the most common contributors to these environmental health disparities, the scientists hope to identify potential opportunities for intervention and improved health policy.