KIRC at sunrise

Zilber School faculty are leading emerging research programs that address public health and health equity from the molecular to the societal levels.

Current disciplinary expertise spans epigenetics; developmental neurobiology and immunotoxicology; social and environmental epidemiology; statistical genetics; public health bioinformatics; social and behavioral sciences; maternal and child health; and public health law and policy.

The Zilber School’s five-story LEED-certified main facility near downtown provides ample space for collaborative, interdisciplinary research and anchors one of Milwaukee’s transforming historic neighborhoods. Additional dedicated wet laboratories on the main UW-Milwaukee campus provide complementary space for cutting-edge public health research.

Featured Research Projects

Biostatistics

Dynamic molecular network of immune system in cardiovascular diseases

Chiang-Ching Huang, Taura Bar, Reyna VanGilder

Atherosclerosis is the main cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the number one cause of death in the world. Increasing evidence shows that both innate and adaptive immune systems tightly regulate atherogenesis. Several immune molecules have been suggested to play a critical role in the inflammatory process of atherosclerosis. However, the fundamental knowledge of dynamic immune regulation in atherosclerosis is far from complete. This project addresses this gap in knowledge by investigating the transcriptional network structure of two major innate and adaptive immune pathways, toll-like receptor and T-cell receptor signaling in atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction (MI), and ischemic stroke (IS). A parallel comparison of transcriptional patterns across these physiopathological conditions will shed light on how these two immune systems interact to influence disease progression and identify patients at a higher risk for developing MI or IS.

Metabolomics risk score for near-term CVD events in individuals with PAD

Chiang-Ching Huang, Mary McDermott, Kiang Liu, Jane Tseng

Compared to individuals without peripheral arterial disease (PAD), those with PAD have a nearly two-fold increased risk of all-cause mortality and two- to three-fold increased rate of acute coronary syndrome (ACS), even after adjusting for cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors and comorbidities. To date, there is no robust classification system to discriminate high-risk (e.g., PAD) patients who are more likely to suffer near-term mortality or ACS events from those who are less likely. Since established risk factors discriminate near-term risk poorly, identifying novel pathways that may signal near-term ACS events is expected to improve our discrimination ability and understanding of the pathogenesis of ACS events. The objective of this project is to develop a multi- metabolite classification system for near-term ACS events in patients with PAD. This study will use high sensitive metabolomics/lipidomic techniques to systematically identify metabolic pathways and metabolites associated with near-term ACS events.

Using data science to address the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in Milwaukee

Dr. Shengtong Han is collaborating with Dr. Praveen Madiraju (Marquette University), Dr. John Mantsch (Marquette University), Dr. Aleksandra Snowden (Marquette University), and Dr. Rina Ghose (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), and submitted a proposal titled “Using data science to address the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in Milwaukee” to the Marquette University COVID-19 portal.

Genetic susceptibility to COVID-19 across race, ethnicity, and gender

Dr. Shengtong Han is involved in the team “Genetic Susceptibility to COVID-19 Across Race, Ethnicity, and Gender” with faculty from the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, UWM, and other institutions in Milwaukee.


Community & Behavioral Health Promotion

Developing a men’s wellness network to improve community health outcomes

Amy Harley, David Frazer, Jessie Tobin, Maanaan Sabir, Sharon Adams, Shanee Jenkins

The Lindsay Heights Neighborhood, home to the Lindsay Heights Neighborhood Health Alliance, is abundant with talents and assets, but also faces numerous socio-economic and health challenges. African American men, in particular, bear the burden of stunning disparities in social determinants of health (high rates of unemployment, incarceration, and racism) and health outcomes, including the highest mortality rates in the country. The Health Alliance has identified a need to strengthen the African American male leadership in this neighborhood’s community-wide health promotion and disease prevention efforts.

Evaluation of the Fondy Food Center Youth Chef Academy

Amy Harley, Young Kim, Lisa Kingery, Lora Jorgensen

The Fondy Food Center Youth Chef Academy aims to impart skills and knowledge that connect young people to healthy foods, empowering them with culinary skills to prepare healthy, tasty plant based meals and the context to appreciate their role in the local food system that produces and delivers food to them. The Fondy Food Center was interested in working with an academic partner to test the feasibility of conducting the Youth Chef Academy in a classroom setting, and to design an evaluation of its effectiveness in achieving its goals. The evaluation plan includes parent surveys, pre- and post- student surveys, observations of students’ willingness to try new foods and cooking skills, and a brief parent phone interview at completion of the curriculum. Data will be analyzed by observing changes in scores from pre- and post-surveys and qualitatively based on observations made by project staff.

Pathways linking poverty, food security, and HIV in rural Malawi

Lance Weinhardt, Loren Galvao, Winford Masanjala, Patricia Stevens

Poverty and lack of predictable, stable source of food are two fundamental determinants of ill health, including HIV/AIDS. Conversely, episodes of poor health from HIV can disrupt the ability to maintain economic stability in affected households. Research examining how improvements in peoples’ economic status and food security translate into change in HIV vulnerability is lacking. This is particularly germane in the Republic of Malawi, a largely agrarian society, facing severe health vulnerabilities due to poverty, food shortages and high levels of HIV infection. The Pathways project aims to answer the question: “What role does economic change have on HIV-related risk and prevention behaviors and their distribution in a population?” The American College Health Association (2008) found that 57.2% of college students did not meet the minimum requirement for healthy levels of exercise during the previous week (at least 20 minutes of vigorous or 30 minutes of moderate exercise on at least three of the seven previous days).

Predictors of hospital readmission among low-income patients with diabetes

Lorraine Halinka Malcoe, Xuexia (Helen) Wang, Renee E. Walker, Melanie Gordon

Hospital readmissions are often preventable and pose great concerns among health providers treating patients with diabetes. Readmissions are associated with decreased quality of life, increased mortality and unnecessary costs. Identifying predictors of readmissions is salient for addressing difficulties in clinical management of diabetes, eliminating disparities in diabetes treatment, and improving survival. In this exploratory study, we will identify which biomarker or combinations of biomarkers are the best predictors of readmissions 30, 60, and 90 days after a diabetes-related event among patients with Type 2 diabetes. Additionally, we will examine if predictors of readmissions differ by race/ethnicity or sex. Results of this study will allows us to better identify patients at increased risk for readmissions, identify upstream approaches for reducing the likelihood of diabetes-related readmissions and emergency department utilization, improve diabetes self-management, and reduce the economic burden associated with diabetes-related readmissions.

Public-will building to reduce obesity in the Latino community of Milwaukee

Raisa Koltun, Ana Paula Sores, Stephanie Calloway, Amy Harley, Loren Galvão, Samuel Dennis, Suzanne Galoucher

Proyecto Salud recognizes that the problem of obesity in the Latino community is equally as detrimental as the lack of engagement in the social change process. With the ultimate goal of reducing obesity in the Milwaukee Latino community, Proyecto Salud proposes taking a public-will building approach to address this issue. Public-will building is grounded in the philosophy of connecting a community to an issue through its existing values, essentially building public support for social change by understanding existing values and recognizing the context in which we live, work and play.

The Young Parenthood Project: A father engagement strategy for healthy families

Janice Litza, Paul Florsheim

The rate of childbirth to unwed parents has risen dramatically over the past several decades particularly among young, economically disadvantaged couples. While some unmarried co-parenting couples are able navigate a successful transition to parenthood, many experience high levels of stress and intense relationship problems, putting them at risk for intimate partner violence, negative parenting and paternal disengagement. Until relatively recently, young, unmarried fathers were considered irrelevant to maternal-child health because they were seen as peripherally involved in prenatal care and child rearing or having a negative influence on young mothers. There is recent evidence that many young men want to remain positively involved as co-parents, but often lack the skills or support to make that happen. This project tests the Young Parenthood Program, an innovative co-parenting counseling program designed to facilitate the development of relationship skills and decrease negative co-parenting outcomes among young, at-risk expectant couples.

Preparing for Parenthood: A Father Inclusive Model of Prenatal Care

Paul Florsheim

In collaboration with Dr. Wrenetha Julion at Rush University and the Erie Family Health Center in Chicago, they are testing the Father Inclusive Prenatal Healthcare (FIPH) mode to prepare young men for parenting. The FIPH model is designed to support the development of coparenting relations and fathering skills as part of routine prenatal healthcare (Florsheim & Moore, 2020). The project is being implemented through a large multi-site healthcare center in Chicago that is well positioned to engage young fathers through their prenatal clinics. Outcome measures focus on: (a) relationship/co-parenting skills; (b) parent behavior and role identification; (c) job stability and financial support for children. All services are offered in English and Spanish. This grant is supported with funding from the Administration for Children and Families to Rush and UWM ($5,500,000 from 11/20 to 10/25)

The Parents Empowering Parents (PEP)

Paul Florsheim

In collaboration with The Parenting Network, a local community-based not-for-profit, this project uses a multilevel approach to engage parents in family support and parenting education activities in neighborhoods with high rates of child abuse reports. The goals of the project are to reduce child abuse/family separations by 1) providing community-based parent engagement activities using the Parent Café model and 2) offering parent education and support services to parents in community settings using the Triple P model. If successful, the approach will help diminish racial/ethnic health disparities in child welfare involvement. This project is supported by a grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program to UWM and The Parenting Network ($1,000,000 from 1/20 to 12/25)

The Peru Young Parenthood Program Study

Paul Florsheim

In collaboration with the Peruvian National Institute of Mental Health, we are working on a three-year project to test the effectiveness of an adapted version of the Young Parenthood Program (Florsheim, 2014) in preventing domestic violence and promoting positive coparenting relation among young fathers and mothers in Lima Peru. This project is directed by Dr. Victor Cruz and Dr. Elba Luna at the Peruvian National Institute of Public Health and supported with a grant from the Peruvian National Fund for Scientific and Technological Development.

Access to Youth Mental Health Study (AYMH)

Paul Florsheim

A study to understand and address disparities in access to mental health services among children, adolescents and young adults. Before the COVID 19 pandemic, the research team was collecting data from parents in community settings using vignette-based survey which allowed parents to share their beliefs and perceptions of mental health providers and services. The team is interested in developing a multi-leveled model for reducing disparities in access to mental health.

Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study (ABCD)

Paul Florsheim

Paul Florsheim is a co-investigator on the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study (ABCD) which is following the neurocognitive development of 11,000 children from preadolescence to adulthood. The Milwaukiee ABCD site is directed by Dr. Krista Lisdahl in the Psychology Department at UWM and supported by multi-year NIH grant (PI is Lisdahl). For more information see https://abcdstudy.org/.


Environmental Health Sciences

Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) toxins in lakes and drinking water production

Todd Miller, Michael Carvan, Gabriel Pinter

Buoy
Buoy

The number of lakes supporting accumulations of toxic blue-green algae (scientifically known as cyanobacteria) in the United States is rising due to changes in land use and climate. As a result there is increasing risk associated with lake recreational activities (e.g. swimming, boating), and consumption of fish. Environmental factors leading to toxin production by blue-green algae in lakes are ill-defined at time-scales relevant to human behavior and algal ecology (i.e. minutes to hours). Acute poisonings are well-documented, but chronic exposure to low levels of blue- green algal toxins in drinking water is not. This project is aimed at monitoring and modeling blue-green algal toxin production in Lake Winnebago and associated drinking water at a high temporal resolution using sensor equipped buoys and automated samplers.

Mechanisms underlying nicotine induced neuronal toxicity in zebrafish

Kurt Svoboda, Robert Tanguay

Embryonic exposure to nicotine has deleterious consequences on human development at various levels. Such exposure can lead to long term changes in the cognitive abilities and behaviors related to learning and memory. Various mammalian models have been utilized to understand how nicotine can exert such effects, but this is difficult because most mammalian behaviors and the nervous system underlying them are complex. We are studying the effects of nicotine exposure in a model vertebrate, the zebrafish, with the goal of linking behavioral abnormalities created by nicotine exposure to developmental alterations in spinal neurons and associated spinal musculature. Zebrafish embryos are sensitive to nicotine exposure (first published paper to document this; Svoboda et. al, 2002). Embryos acutely exposed to nicotine exhibit a swimming-like behavior at time when they typically do not swim. On the other hand, chronically exposing embryos to nicotine, results in paralysis. These two behavioral phenotypes point us toward candidate cell types that may be altered in zebrafish by embryonic nicotine exposure.

Water quality monitoring and modeling at Milwaukee beaches in partnership with the Milwaukee Health Department

John Hernandez, Chelsea Weirich, Sarah Bartlett, Todd Miller

John Hernandez taking water samples
John Hernandez taking water samples

The United States Environmental Protection Agency requires regular monitoring of beaches for water quality indicators of microorganisms that may cause gastrointestinal illnesses. As a Lake Michigan coastal city, Milwaukee boasts some of the most popular beaches in the nation. To protect public health, the Miller Laboratory has partnered with the Milwaukee Health Department to conduct regular daily monitoring of Milwaukee beaches for fecal coliforms and other biological, chemical, and water quality indicators. In addition, we have worked closely with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the United States Geological Survey to construct nowcast models of water quality using high resolution climate and water quality data. This project was featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Air pollutants and autism: New pathways in analysis of windows of susceptibility

Amy Kalkbrenner, Marc Serre, Gayle Windham, Xuexia Wang, Julie Daniels

Environmental chemical exposures are suspected to contribute to autism, and one study has shown that living closer to freeways is associated with increasing autism risk. We will further understanding in this area by examining the association between 3traffic-related pollutants – course particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone – with autism. This case-cohort design includes hundreds of children recognized to have autism in California and North Carolina by the autism surveillance program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, combined with birth records representing the source population and air monitoring data. Notably, we will explore critical windows of susceptibility – exploring whether air pollutant exposures in early pregnancy, late pregnancy, or early childhood are more impactful.

In utero and childhood tobacco exposures and autistic traits

Amy Kalkbrenner, Joe Braun, Kim Dietrich, Kimberly Yolton, John T. Bernert, Bruce Lanphear

Studies have yielded inconsistent results about whether maternal cigarette smoking in pregnancy is associated with autism in the child. We will address prior limitations in research on this topic using a normal pregnancy cohort from Cincinnati, Ohio. We will evaluate whether second-handsmoke in pregnancy, maternal smoking in pregnancy, and second-hand exposure to the child after birth, are associated with autistic traits, after adjusting for a comprehensive set of confounders. In this cohort, tobacco exposures were well-characterized with biomarkers and questionnaires, and the full spectrum of autistic-like behaviors and related social and communication impairments at ages 4 and 5 years was measured using standardized psychometric tools.

Perinatal exposure to hazardous air pollutants and associations with autism phenotype

Amy Kalkbrenner, Heather Volk, Gayle Windham, Nora Lee

Three studies in different populations have suggested that some hazardous air pollutants may be risk factors for autism. Specifically, methylene chloride and some metals and solvents have been implicated. This study will build upon prior research using a large national sample of children with autism and their families, the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange. After obtaining a residential history for children in these families, we will historically reconstruct exposures to over a hundred volatile organic compounds and metals, using a census-tract based model of the Environmental Protection Agency. Air pollutant concentrations will be evaluated with regard to not only the diagnosis of autism, but the continuous phenotype of autism symptoms.

Social inequalities and toxic air pollution exposures in Milwaukee, WI

Amy Kalkbrenner, Lorraine Halinka Malcoe, D. Phuong Do, Brian Thayer

Air toxics – hundreds of airborne metals and volatile organic compounds – cause oxidative stress and systemic immune responses, biologic effects likely to underlie suboptimal birth outcomes such as infant mortality or preterm birth. Yet air toxics have been largely ignored by researchers studying these birth outcomes. This study will screen 187 toxic air pollutants from the EPA’s National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment and will lay the foundation for a full exploration of the intersection of air toxics and social inequalities in contributing to infant mortality and preterm birth. For this pilot study, the City of Milwaukee serves as the focal point – an ideal setting due to the City’s high degree of segregation, racial disparities in infant mortality, and large number of polluting sources. Levels, variations, and patterning of air toxics in Milwaukee by racial/ethnic and socioeconomic geographies will be identified. Illustrative maps will be produced to help communicate air pollutant “hotspots”, and importantly, identify and engage community partners for future collaborative research.


Epidemiology

Life course socio-cultural and early life nutritional risk factors (e.g. diet and body size) and primarily breast cancer

Dr. Velie is currently leading a large population-based case-control study of breast cancer in young African American and White women from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds (information available at: www.ywhhs.org).

Inter- and transdiscplinary approaches for advancing social justice in mental health

Marina Morrow, Lorraine Halinka Malcoe

Mainstream approaches to mental health research, policy, and practice are limited by the heavy use of biomedical paradigms, individualistic psychiatric and pharmaceutical interventions, and intersecting medical/legal/criminal justice system responses that limit the autonomy of persons classified as mentally ill. This book project, Critical Inquiries: Theories and Methodologies for Social Justice in Mental Health (University of Toronto Press, 2015) builds on a burgeoning inter- and transdisciplinary scholarship of critical and intersectional approaches to mental health research and policy that center social justice ethics. Many book contributors are investigators with the Centre for the Study of Gender, Social Inequities and Mental Health housed at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC. Authors demonstrate how mental health research, practice, policy, and state/medical system responses often reproduce social inequities, causing harm to individuals and communities. They offer alternative strategies designed to create individual, community, and societal-level responses that are socially just.

Intergenerational impact of maternal psychosocial stress on offspring mental health as mediated by maternal immune response to persistent pathogens in pregnancy

Amanda M. Simanek, Monica Uddin, Allison Aiello

Nearly one quarter of U.S. children will experience an anxiety disorder during adolescence. Studies suggest that maternal exposure to traumatic events during pregnancy may play a particularly important role in fetal programming of offspring mental health, warranting further investigation of the effect that the in utero milieu may have on the development of adverse mental health outcomes in children. Stress-mediated maternal immune activation against persistent pathogens during pregnancy resulting from traumatic event exposure may represent a novel biological mechanism whereby the detrimental effects of maternal psychosocial stress are transmitted to offspring in the form of childhood anxiety disorders. This project aims to examine the association between maternal experience of traumatic events directly before or during pregnancy, in utero exposure of offspring to elevated maternal immune response against several persistent pathogens (cytomegalovirus (CMV), herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1, and lifetime history of generalized anxiety disorder among female participants from the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study (DNHS) (R01 DA022720) and their children.

Racial Disparities Project: Rethinking quantitative research on racial/ethnic health inequalities

Lorraine Halinka Malcoe

For more than three centuries Western science has been part and parcel of societal conceptualizations and uses of ‘race’ and hierarchical racial classifications in Europe and in countries colonized and re-settled by Europeans, including Canada and the United States. In the past 25 years several systematic reviews have examined the uses, definitions, and concepts of race and ethnicity in epidemiologic and other health studies, demonstrating that most articles lacked a sound scientific basis for their use, e.g., in 1999, 75% of epidemiology articles failed to state how the variables were even measured. No systematic reviews have focused on race or ethnicity concepts in research that aims to understand health disparities. The Racial Disparities Project systematically identified all original research articles which studied explanations for ‘racial’/’ethnic’ health inequalities and were published during 2000-2009 in select high-impact epidemiology, public health, and medical sociology journals. The Project applies content analysis to assess framing of paper aims, race and ethnicity constructs, and selection of explanatory variables; it applies critical discourse analysis to examine how population scientists produce knowledge regarding race when studying causes of health differences among populations defined by race or ethnicity.

The Ties that Bind: Investigating the interconnections between metropolitan segregation, neighborhood context, and racial/ethnic health disparities

D. Phuong Do, Reanne Frank, John Iceland

Though neighborhood conditions, such as poverty and disorder, are thought to be the primary means through which segregation affects health, we know very little about how segregation and neighborhoods interact together to influence the health. Are the effects of metropolitan segregation conditioned on neighborhood factors or are the effects uniform across all neighborhood types? Do the effects of neighborhood-level (local) segregation on health differ from the effects of metropolitan-level (metro) segregation? Using data from the National Health Interview Survey, this study comprehensively examines the interconnections between metropolitan segregation, neighborhood context, and individual health. We utilize spatial measures of metro and local segregation, account for neighborhood conditions, and apply three- level hierarchal models to asses how contextual factors at different levels interact to affect the health of blacks, Hispanics, and whites in the U.S. This fundamental determinants perspective underscores the potentially immense impact of housing policies, urban design, and the spatial allocation of resources and patterning of risk exposure in reducing racial health disparities.

A marginal structural modeling strategy investigating short and long-term exposure to neighborhood poverty on BMI among U.S. black and white adults

D. Phuong (Phoenix) Do, Cheng Zheng

Estimating the causal impact of neighborhood effects from observational data has proven to be a challenge. Omission of relevant factors may lead to overestimating the effects of neighborhoods on health while inclusion of time-varying confounders that may also be mediators (e.g., income, labor force status) may lead to underestimation. Because policy inferences and anticipated impacts of interventions rely on estimates of causal versus associational connections, addressing these sources of bias are important to make appropriate policy recommendations. Using longitudinal data from the 1999 to 2013 years of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this study investigates the link between neighborhood poverty and body weight. We address the issue of possible downward bias due to adjusting for mediating factors by employing a marginal structural modeling strategy, which appropriately adjusts for simultaneous mediating and confounding factors. We then compare conventional naïve estimates to those recovered from marginal structural modeling. To address the issue of possible upward bias due to omitted variables, we conduct a sensitivity analysis to assess the robustness of results against unobserved confounding.

Associations of neighborhood segregation with BMI and obesity in the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)

D. Phuong (Phoenix) Do, Ana Diez Roux, Kiarri Kershaw, Mahasin Mujahid, Mercedes Carnethon

Racial/ethnic differences in obesity, an epidemic in the U.S., are only partially accounted for by individual-level socioeconomic status, suggesting that examination of the causes and correlates of overweight and obesity ought to include other factors patterned by race and ethnicity, including various features of the environments in which groups live. Using the longitudinal data from the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), this study investigates the association between local spatial measures of segregation and BMI and whether these associations differ between blacks, Hispanics, and whites. We also investigate whether specific physical and social features of neighborhoods (e.g., social cohesion, safety, food access) explain any associations found. Three- level hierarchal models with repeated measures nested within persons nested within neighborhoods are applied across multiple MESA sites, providing a detailed and comparative analysis of the relationship between local segregation and BMI across multiple cities in the U.S.


Public Health Policy

A marginal structural modeling strategy investigating short and long-term exposure to neighborhood poverty on BMI among U.S. black and white adults

D. Phuong (Phoenix) Do, Cheng Zheng

Estimating the causal impact of neighborhood effects from observational data has proven to be a challenge. Omission of relevant factors may lead to overestimating the effects of neighborhoods on health while inclusion of time-varying confounders that may also be mediators (e.g., income, labor force status) may lead to underestimation. Because policy inferences and anticipated impacts of interventions rely on estimates of causal versus associational connections, addressing these sources of bias are important to make appropriate policy recommendations. Using longitudinal data from the 1999 to 2013 years of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this study investigates the link between neighborhood poverty and body weight. We address the issue of possible downward bias due to adjusting for mediating factors by employing a marginal structural modeling strategy, which appropriately adjusts for simultaneous mediating and confounding factors. We then compare conventional naïve estimates to those recovered from marginal structural modeling. To address the issue of possible upward bias due to omitted variables, we conduct a sensitivity analysis to assess the robustness of results against unobserved confounding.

State and local agency responses to community health concerns associated with industrial farm animal production

Jillian Parry Fry, Linnea Laestadius, Clare Grehis, Keeve Nachman, Roni Neff

Large-scale industrial farm animal production (IFAP) operations have been associated with a number of health concerns for individuals residing near facilities. This study sought to examine the ways in which state and local agencies respond to and prevent community-driven health concerns associated with IFAP facilities. An initial manuscript focused on state and county health department responses was published in PLOS ONE in 2013. A follow up manuscript examining state departments of agriculture and facility permitting agencies is currently under review.

The Ties that Bind: Investigating the interconnections between metropolitan segregation, neighborhood context, and racial/ethnic health disparities

D. Phuong (Phoenix) Do, Reanne Frank, John Iceland

Though neighborhood conditions, such as poverty and disorder, are thought to be the primary means through which segregation affects health, we know very little about how segregation and neighborhoods interact together to influence the health. Are the effects of metropolitan segregation conditioned on neighborhood factors or are the effects uniform across all neighborhood types? Do the effects of neighborhood-level (local) segregation on health differ from the effects of metropolitan- level (metro) segregation? Using data from the National Health Interview Survey, this study comprehensively examines the interconnections between metropolitan segregation, neighborhood context, and individual health. We utilize spatial measures of metro and local segregation, account for neighborhood conditions, and apply three-level hierarchal models to asses how contextual factors at different levels interact to affect the health of blacks, Hispanics, and whites in the U.S. This fundamental determinants perspective underscores the potentially immense impact of housing policies, urban design, and the spatial allocation of resources and risk exposures to combat the root cause of racial/ethnic health disparities in the U.S.

Associations of neighborhood segregation with BMI and obesity in the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)

D. Phuong (Phoenix) Do, Ana Diez Roux, Kiarri Kershaw, Mahasin Mujahid, Mercedes Carnethon

Racial/ethnic differences in obesity, an epidemic in the U.S., are only partially accounted for by individual-level socioeconomic status, suggesting that examination of the causes and correlates of overweight and obesity ought to include other factors patterned by race and ethnicity, including various features of the environments in which groups live. Using the longitudinal data from the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), this study investigates the association between local spatial measures of segregation and BMI and whether these associations differ between blacks, Hispanics, and whites. We also investigate whether specific physical and social features of neighborhoods (e.g., social cohesion, safety, food access) explain any associations found. Three- level hierarchal models with repeated measures nested within persons nested within neighborhoods are applied across multiple MESA sites, providing a detailed and comparative analysis of the relationship between local segregation and BMI across multiple cities in the U.S.

Content analysis of COVID mask policies

Dr. Linnea Laestadius conducted a content analysis of COVID mask policies across several nations in collaboration with Dr. Young Cho, Dr. Yang Wang and others.

Adolescents alerting parents about distressed social media posts from peers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dr. Linnea Laestadius made a grant submission to the Technology and Adolescent Mental Wellness program via SMAHRT titled “Adolescents Alerting Parents about Distressed Social Media Posts from Peers during the COVID-19 Pandemic.: The PI is Dr. Celeste Campos Castillo in UWM’s Sociology department.

More than a 1000 words: visual content & COVID-19 vaccine health behaviors

Dr. Linnea Laestadius made a grant submission to Facebook for a project titled “More Than a 1000 Words: Visual Content & COVID-19 Vaccine Health Behaviors.” The PI is Virginia Commonwealth University. This project looks at visual social media and vaccine misinformation.