Population Health

June 7, 2017

Initiative announces population health Library Research Awards

Undergrad Recognition AwardThe Population Health Initiative has awarded Population Health Recognition Awards to four students participating in the annual Library Research Award for Undergraduates. Award winners were chosen based on the quality of their writing and how well they connected their work to the theme of population health.

This award was created in partnership with the UW Libraries and was open to students from all three campuses. Submitted projects were completed for either UW credit course or for the Undergraduate Research Program.

The four awardees and the titles of their papers or presentations are:

Allison O. Dumitriu Carcoana, "Integration Trumps Alienation"

Part of population health is providing a solution where a need is present. My paper, “Integration Trumps Alienation,” outlines the numerous mental health disorders faced by many Somali immigrants and refugees who come to America. Somali communities have their own terminology- “puffs”- for the triad of PTSD, anxiety, and depression which many of them face due to past trauma and new social anxieties. If that is not harrowing enough, in the 2016 document, “Voices of Seattle’s East African Communities: An Overview of Community Issues and Opportunities,” Somali community members specifically stated their need for programs that would support healthy homes, integration of their children into recreation activities, and language learning classes for adults, among other things.

All of these programs would help alleviate the uncomfortable power dynamics, marginalization in schools, low-income, cultural misunderstanding, and the resulting dangerous mental states prevalent among Somali refugees and immigrants. I believe that through utilizing similar, more in-depth research, we as a community can make decisions to support these Somali communities and give them more of the organizations they need. The strategy and planning area of focus of population health deals with just this. Showing the evidence from research supporting Somali immigrant and refugee needs to governments and possible monetary donors would lead to the tools that would serve to reduce the threat of mental health to these communities, and help their following generations prosper.

Medina Khedir, "Changes in Air Pollution and Socioeconomic Status Over Time at the County Level, 1980 – 2010"

According to a research cited by BBC, polluted air causes the deaths of 5.5 million people every year, inhalation of fine particles (PM2.5) being the leading cause. Some communities are privileged to have clean and healthy air. The Environmental Protection Agency, established the Clean Air Act in 1970 to set national standards for air pollutants that are harmful. My research focuses on marginalized communities in the US, and seeing if they are at risk of being exposed to higher levels of air pollution (specifically PM2.5), than those who are privileged. The theme of population health, is upheld by three major pillars: human health, environmental resilience, and social and economic equity. My research touches on all three points.

Using my research, I am observing that if marginalized communities are being exposed to higher levels of PM2.5, then they are at risk of facing numerous health consequences. In terms of environmental resilience, I am looking at PM2.5 levels since 1980 and comparing it to 2010, hence, observing how the environment has changed overtime. Lastly, I know that marginalized communities do not have the resources that will change their situation. But I hope to use my research, to give these communities a voice and influence policy decisions, that would allow for people, regardless of their socioeconomic status to be able to have access to clean and healthy air, and thus, have a right to live healthy life.

Heather Lopes, "Battle of the filter feeders: bacterial transmission in the presence of ascidians"

As we continue to shift to sustainable food sources and rely on marine organisms as protein, we are increasing the risk of encountering food-borne illnesses such as gastroenteritis from undercooked oysters. Marine diseases are a major cost to aquaculture industries as well as infestations of invasive species. The goal of my research proposal is to take two prominent problems in aquaculture and test if an invasive filter-feeding ascidian can alter the transmission of bacteria to commercially valued oysters.

My proposal is a perfect blend of how environmental science meets population health. The scientific research is done with human health as the main driver, as there is a need to feed the growing population. In addition, aquaculture is economically valued, being the only means of income and livelihoods in some areas. Lastly, aquaculture has a role in food security, aquaculture is the only food source for some and is important for people to have access to nutritious and affordable food. If marine disease were to increase the amount of infected people would increase, livelihoods would be at risk, and the access to nutritious food would be limited. Therefore, creating an innovative way to decrease the number of pathogens transmitted to aquaculture is important to both environmental science and population health.

Daniela Ayon Moreno, "Barefoot Doctors: How a Community-Based Program Improved China’s Healthcare"

The barefoot doctors were able to shine a light for the fast-growing rural population in communist China. They were a team of minimally trained medical practitioners that transitioned from working the rice paddies barefoot to reaching their patients in the same way. This campaign was simple, economic, feasible and effective; with a common purpose from the government and doctors: getting healthcare to inaccessible rural areas.

The barefoot doctors’ initiative, in 1968, addressed one of the major pillars population health advocates for: human health. Although it was an emergency response to the precarious health conditions of rural China, the action of the barefoot doctors is still a relevant example of how passionate collaboration among individuals and integration of ideas can improve population health.

In this case, the implementation of western and traditional medicine to emphasize prevention and education in the villages can be compared to University of Washington’s current efforts to fight health inequality globally. That social responsibility that was once the drive of the barefoot doctors to reach every corner of previously neglected villages, resonates in every research laboratory of our university and every classroom full of students searching and creating opportunities to make a positive impact in the world. To improve population health globally, a massive collaboration of ideas and effort is paramount; and it will be as difficult and gratifying as the labor of the barefoot doctors once was.

Please visit our funding page to learn more about these awards.