Briefs

The Abstract: September 26, 2022

This Week @ Gillings: The Abstract

September 26, 2022

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.

New Gillings-led study highlights how COVID-19 vaccines, boosters and prior infection protect from severe health outcomes

Dr. Danyu Lin

Dr. Danyu Lin

Findings from a study of more than 10 million North Carolinians, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), underscore the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, boosters and prior infection in reducing the risk of future infection and preventing hospitalization and death.

Titled “Association of Primary and Booster Vaccination and Prior Infection With SARS-CoV-2 and Severe COVID-19 Outcomes,” the research was led by Danyu Lin, PhD, Dennis Gillings Distinguished Professor of Biostatistics, along with Yu Gu; Yangjianchen Xu; Bradford Wheeler, MPH; Hayley Young, MPH; Shadia Khan Sunny, MD, PhD; Zack Moore, MD; and Donglin Zeng, PhD.

In the study, researchers sought to examine how the association between vaccination and prior infection with subsequent infection and severe COVID-19 outcomes changed over time based on data collected from adolescents and adults between March 2020 to June 2022.

Their results point to a significantly lower risk for future infection – including infection with the omicron variant – and severe infection resulting in hospitalization and death among people who:

  • Received the primary COVID-19 vaccines compared to those who were unvaccinated,
  • Received a COVID-19 booster compared to those who had only the primary  COVID-19 vaccination, and
  • Had a prior COVID-19 infection compared to those with no prior infection.

The protection waned over time, however, especially against re-infection. The study was also conducted before the release of the bivalent omicron boosters.

“Our study provides the most comprehensive characterizations of the effectiveness of primary and booster vaccination and prior infection in the United States,” said Lin. “The findings about waning effectiveness of boosters and prior infection against omicron point to the need for omicron-specific boosters.”

Read the full study online.


Does the expansion of health centers in small and medium-size cities provide net value to locals? Planey wins funding to find out.

The closure of rural medical facilities across the country has called national attention to important questions about the economics of health care; Who pays for medical infrastructure and who benefits from it? Whose interests are served by current methods of allocation?

Dr. Arrianna Planey

Dr. Arrianna Planey

As academic medical centers, “eds and meds,” expand in small to mid-size cities (SMCs), they benefit from substantial tax advantages based on the idea that they create jobs and provide medical care for local residents. Arrianna Marie Planey, PhD, MA, assistant professor of health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and fellow at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, raises important questions about how this shifting medical landscape affects health equity. With new funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Planey and her colleagues, Donald A. Planey, PhD, assistant professor of city and regional planning (Co-PI), and Mark Holmes, PhD, professor of health policy and management and director of the Sheps Center for Health Services Research (Co-I), will apply a suite of approaches, including economic impact analysis, archival work and spatial analytic methods, to answer questions about the net benefits of health system expansions in small and medium-size cities. Key outcomes include the changing composition of the local labor market, housing affordability and differential access to healthcare services.

“While academic medical centers’ expansion can and does create jobs, the fastest growth in health care employment is concentrated in low-wage, precarious work, which is disproportionately carried out by women of color,” said Planey. “Even less is known about the effect of “eds and meds” expansions on racial and ethnic disparities in geographic access to care within their health service areas.”

The team’s evaluation will address the following research questions: 1) Is forgone property tax revenue a developmental challenge for municipal governments that host “eds and meds” clusters? 2) Do the economic benefits of “eds and meds” expansions exceed municipalities’ foregone property tax revenue? 3) How does the development and expansion of “eds and meds” corridors impact housing affordability in the region? 4) Does “eds and meds” expansion affect racial, ethnic, and class inequities in spatial access to healthcare services in SMCs?

Support for this research was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.


West talks climate change with Weather Channel

Dr. Jason West

Dr. Jason West

Check out Professor Jason West, PhD, as he talks about the impacts of climate change on air health and pollution with the Weather Channel. These interviews aired on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.

Interview 1

Interview 2


Dorothy and Felicia Browne earn honors from ATHENA of the Triangle

Dr. Felicia Browne and Dr. Dorothy C Browne

Dr. Felicia Browne and Dr. Dorothy C Browne

The ATHENA Leadership Award is presented to a woman or man who is honored for professional excellence, community service, and actively assisting women in attaining professional excellence and leadership skills. Dorothy C. Browne, DrPH, former full-time faculty in the Department of Maternal and Child Health and now an adjunct professor, received the Athena of the Triangle’s Leadership Award at its Women’s Leadership Luncheon held on September 22, 2022, at the Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C. Browne works at Shaw University as a senior research scientist and is conducting research on the impact of COVID-19 on a community of color in N.C. and collaborating with a consortium of five N.C. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to expand this study of COVID-19 to other communities within the state.

Browne’s daughter, Felicia Browne, ScD, who earned a Master of Public Health degree in health behavior and health education from Gillings and is now an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior, was one of three finalists for the Athena of the Triangle’s Emerging Young Professional Award. This award is given to an individual who demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in business or professional endeavors, provides a service to improve the quality of life for others and serves as a role model for young women both professionally and personally. Browne, a senior research social epidemiologist at RTI International, has more than a decade of experience working on HIV behavioral intervention studies for key populations at risk for HIV in the United States and South Africa.

Congratulations, to mother and daughter!