Research Impact

Photo by Matt Buck

Photo by Matt Buck

 

Our Impact on Cancer

Getting the message across

golin_carolThe way information is presented makes a big difference in the medical decisions people make. Carol Golin, MD, associate professor of health behavior and health education, is uncovering the best ways to share information with people to help them make the best decisions for their own health.

Prostate screening is a good example because many men say they don’t really know whether the screenings actually reduce risks and save lives. Although more than half of all American men, aged 50 or older, have had one or more prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, most men correctly answer less than one third of questions about the benefits of screening and early detection. Golin examined two different strategies for presenting information about the PSA test. Results showed that men understood the benefits of PSA tests better if the information was presented along with information about other men’s health issues than if only PSA tests were discussed. Knowing how patients learn about their health, and correcting misperceptions, are critical these days as patients assume greater control of their own health care and need to make informed decisions.

 

Our Impact on Obesity

Buddy system helps vets stay healthy

allicock_marlyn_2008_01Hogan and colleagues want to identify the underlying social factors that may affect a woman’s health status and her participation in health care before her baby is even conceived. Health status before pregnancy is thought to have a huge impact on pregnancy outcomes and to be a large determinant of disparities. They are using data collected from women who participated in the largest study in the United States to date that tested how health care interventions before pregnancy – called interconceptional health care – may reduce women’s risk of preterm birth. So far, Hogan is finding that even when other known barriers to care (childcare, transportation etc.) are addressed, several other factors affect women’s ability to access and participate in interconceptional health care. Multiple burdens, racism, lack of social power, unpredictable social emergencies, and institutional rules that eliminate the flexibility women require to adapt to emergent social challenges, are just some of these factors. Defining these social factors and finding a way to reduce them will improve preventive care and help reduce the risk of preterm birth among this group of women.

 

 

Our Impact on Health Disparities

Protecting babies before pregnancy

Dr. Hogan

 Premature infants face increased risks for serious health problems, such as developmental disabilities, learning and behavioral problems, cerebral palsy, lung problems, and vision and hearing loss, according to the March of Dimes. African American women have a 70% higher risk of having a preterm birth than other women in the United States. Vijaya K. Hogan, DrPH, clinical associate professor of maternal and child health, is working to eliminate this – and other maternal and infant health disparities.

Hogan and colleagues want to identify the underlying social factors that may affect a woman’s health status and her participation in health care before her baby is even conceived. Health status before pregnancy is thought to have a huge impact on pregnancy outcomes and to be a large determinant of disparities. They are using data collected from women who participated in the largest study in the United States to date that tested how health care interventions before pregnancy – called interconceptional health care – may reduce women’s risk of preterm birth. So far, Hogan is finding that even when other known barriers to care (childcare, transportation etc.) are addressed, several other factors affect women’s ability to access and participate in interconceptional health care. Multiple burdens, racism, lack of social power, unpredictable social emergencies, and institutional rules that eliminate the flexibility women require to adapt to emergent social challenges, are just some of these factors. Defining these social factors and finding a way to reduce them will improve preventive care and help reduce the risk of preterm birth among this group of women.

 

 

Our Impact on Water and the Environment
Dr. MacDonald Gibson

The United Arab Emirates is one of the most remarkable development stories of the modern world. In less than two generations, the UAE has grown from a collection of small coastal settlements to a modern, cosmopolitan nation with skyscrapers, modern industries, and superhighways – achieving what has taken other nations six generations. This development has improved quality and length of life, but has also placed an environmental burden on the health of its people.

Environmental health is measured by the excess number of deaths and illnesses due to exposure to pollutants in air, water, soil, and food as well as global climate change.

Referred to as the “environmental burden of disease,” experts at UNC have found that each year approximately:

  • 200-1100 deaths are linked to outdoor air pollution
  • 100-410 deaths are linked to indoor air pollution
  • 60,000-200,000 doctor’s visits are due to coastal water pollution
  • 16,000-63,000 doctor’s visits are due to drinking water contamination

To improve environmental health in the UAE, the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi (EAD) selected and funded our School through a competitive proposal process to lead the National Environmental Health Project. Led by environmental sciences and engineering assistant professor, Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, PhD, the project represents global interdisciplinary teamwork at its best. More than 20 faculty at the School work with numerous outside partner agencies in teams to assess outdoor air pollution, indoor air quality, water contamination and diet/exercise in the UAE.

 

 

Our Impact on Global Health

Malaria nets save lives and reduce costs

Dr. Behets

Malaria still causes the deaths of many persons worldwide, even though insecticide-treated bed nets can virtually prevent malaria. The problem is that less than ten percent of Sub-Saharan African households can afford to own nets.

Frieda Behets, PhD, professor of epidemiology, and team members evaluated the cost-effectiveness of distributing free malaria bed nets to 17,893 pregnant women attending 28 clinics in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They found that the nets prevented414 infants from dying and another 587 infants from suffering low birthweight complications. Paying for nets, rather than health treatment for malaria, saved $17.22 per case for disability-adjusted life-years, $15.70 per case for life-year saved, and $411.13 per infant deaths averted. These findings provide guidance for healthcare agencies in Sub-Saharan Africa regarding investments in the prevention versus treatment of malaria.

 

 

 Our 2013 Research Portfolio….

2.67 average number of grants awarded to faculty researchers last year

7 average number of publications per faculty researcher last year

$154 total dollar amount (in millions) of grants and contracts awarded to faculty researchers last year

414 total number of grants and contracts awarded to faculty researchers last year

1709 approximately, the total number of peer-reviewed articles published by 244 faculty researchers last year