This Week @ Gillings: The Abstract

February 20, 2023

Whether you’re local or global, student or alumni, the Abstract’s weekly news digest will help you stay in the loop with our amazing Gillings School community.


Gillings researchers publish new findings on physical activity during pregnancy and birthweight

A group of epidemiologists from the Gillings School has recently published a study in the Maternal and Child Health Journal titled “Association Between Change in Physical Activity During Pregnancy and Infant Birth Weight.” The study found that increases and decreases in physical activity during pregnancy were not associated with differential changes in birthweight or babies being small for gestational age (SGA).

The study was co-authored by Kennedy Peter-Marske, a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology, along with Kathryn Hesketh, PhD, Chyrise Bradley, MA, and Professor Kelly Evenson, PhD, at the Gillings School.

Previous evidence about how physical activity during pregnancy influences birth weight is conflicting, and self-selected changes in physical activity during pregnancy in relation to infant birth weight outcomes are understudied. The research team studied 1,467 participants who self-reported physical activity at 17-22 weeks’ gestation and at 27-30 weeks’ gestation. They then measured the associations between activity/intensity and birth weight.

“Our finding that self-selected changes in physical activity during pregnancy were not associated with poorer birth weight outcomes may help assure pregnant individuals that maintaining or increasing physical activity during pregnancy may be safe in regards to infant birth weight,” Peter-Marske said.

Read the full study online.

Could international human rights motivate countries to support tobacco cessation?

Professor Benjamin Mason Meier, JD, LLM, PhD, and Anahita Gupta, a bachelor of science student in public health from the Department of Health Policy and Management, recently collaborated with tobacco control advocates around the world to publish a new article examining how human rights can support tobacco cessation under the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The study is available online now and will be published in the March issue of Addiction, a journal from the Society for the Study of Addition.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) seeks to realize the right to health through national tobacco control policies. However, few states have met their obligations under Article 14 of the FCTC to develop evidence-based policies to support tobacco cessation. The new article examines how human rights obligations could provide a legal and moral basis for states to implement greater support for individuals to overcome their addiction to tobacco.

“The United Nations (UN) has a well-established legal framework for promoting human rights, looking to the right to health to realize health autonomy,” the authors write. “Where addiction undermines autonomy, it is widely acknowledged that addiction presents a significant barrier to cessation for individuals who use tobacco, undermining the right to health. The UN human rights system could, therefore, provide a complementary basis for monitoring state obligations under Article 14 of the FCTC, identifying challenges to FCTC implementation and motivating states to support tobacco cessation.”

Read the full study online.

Gillings epidemiologists publish study on socioeconomic mobility and depression among young Black women

Epidemiologists at the Gillings School have co-authored a new study in Women’s Health Issues titled “Life-Course Mobility in Socioeconomic Position and High Depressive Symptoms Among Young Black Women: The SELF Study.” The study found that, among young Black women, persistently low and downward mobility in socioeconomic position (SEP) was associated with higher symptoms of depression.

Study co-authors include doctoral student Opal Patel, MPH, from the Department of Epidemiology, Gillings alumna Arbor Quist, PhD, Assistant Professor Chantel Martin, PhD, and Associate Professor Anissa Vines, PhD.

Socioeconomic mobility relates to the ability of a person to move upward or downward between economic levels or social classes. The study examined a group of 1,612 Black women enrolled in the Study of Environment, Lifestyle and Fibroids (SELF) over the course of five years. They used data on socioeconomic indicators at childhood and adulthood and used latent class analysis to create a life-course SEP mobility measure (persistently low, downward, upward and persistently high).

Of the participants, 37% had high depressive symptoms. After adjustment for age, adult social support and marital status, they found that persistently low and downward SEP mobility was associated with high depressive symptoms. These findings suggest directing mental health resources to people experiencing low SEP at any stage in life, especially those with low SEP in adulthood, to aid in the management of depression.

Read the full study online.

Gillings researchers receive new funding

Congratulations to our faculty who are leading exciting new projects that have recently received funding:

  • Lisa Spees, PhD, in the Department of Health Policy and Management, was awarded a K01 (career development award) from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) for “Patient Navigation in Gynecologic Oncology: Improving Care among Rural Endometrial Cancer Patients.”
  • Julia Rager, PhD, in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, received an early career award from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for “Wildfire Smoke Mixtures Toxicity Testing.”
  • Kun Lu, PhD, in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Instrumentation Grant for “Acquisition of an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer for element analysis at UNC-Chapel Hill.”
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