Environmental Factor, June 2011, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Health Affairs highlights environmental health science and policy
By Eddy Ball
(Image courtesy of Health Affairs)
The peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs (http://www.healthaffairs.org/) made history in May with its first thematic issue(http://www.healthaffairs.org/Thematic.php) ever devoted exclusively to environmental health research. Founded in 1981 under the aegis of Project HOPE, a nonprofit international health education organization, Health Affairs describes itself as "the leading journal of health policy thought and research..., explor[ing] health policy issues of current concern in both domestic and international spheres."
The journal held a briefing, "Environmental Challenges for Health," May 4 in Washington, D.C., where it released the issue (see related story (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2011/june/spotlight-briefing.cfm)). The briefing featured talks by NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D.(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/about/od/director/index.cfm), NIEHS Director Emeritus Kenneth Olden, Ph.D.(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/about/highlights/pastdirectors/kennetholden/), and 14 other leading figures in the environmental health sciences. The briefing and the themed issue, with contributions from many of the speakers, were supported by a grant from the Kresge Foundation.
With help of authorities in the field, Health Affairs Editor-in Chief Susan Dentzer(http://www.healthaffairs.org/Bios.php#SD) brought a review of what scientists know and don't know about environmental health, as well as explanations of key concepts in the field, to the journal's 10,000 domestic and international subscribers and online readers, who make an average of 1.9 million page views each month.
Dentzer opens her editorial by observing, "We've long ignored the obvious: The environment plays a role in nearly 85 percent of all disease." Still, she continues, "What we know about that subject - as opposed to what we need to know or do to protect health - is at best an inch deep."
Environmental health science, as a whole, and the NIH's sole environmental institute, NIEHS, in particular, have gained a potentially influential advocate in Dentzer, who is also a regular commentator on health issues for the PBS NewsHour. The Health Affairs briefing and themed issue promise to raise awareness of environmental health and could help make it more of a household term than ever before.
A peek inside the special issue of Health Affairs
The lineup in the May issue of Health Affairs includes articles written by NIEHS scientists, grantees, and collaborators, as well as papers by some of the leading authorities in the field of environmental health science and policy:
- Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., and NIEHS Chief of Staff Paul Jung, M.D., address costs, issues, and controversies in "From Endocrine Disruptors To Nanomaterials: Advancing Our Understanding Of Environmental Health To Protect Public Health" (http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/5/814.abstract)
- Ken Olden, Ph.D., Nicholas Freudenberg, Dr.PH., Jennifer Dowd, Ph.D., and Alexandra Shields, Ph.D., contribute an analysis and commentary piece on "Discovering How Environmental Exposures Alter Genes Could Lead To New Treatments For Chronic Illnesses." (http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/5/833.abstract) Currently the founding dean of the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Urban Public Health, Olden (http://www1.cuny.edu/mu/forum/2008/09/23/trustees-appoint-dr-kenneth-olden-founding-and-acting-dean-of-proposed-school-for-public-health/) was NIEHS director for 14 years. Freudenberg and Dowd are colleagues at CUNY. Shields is a professor at Harvard University.
- Philip Landrigan, M.D., and Lynn Goldman, M.D., author a study highlighted on the journal's home page, "Children's Vulnerability To Toxic Chemicals: A Challenge And Opportunity To Strengthen Health And Environmental Policy." (http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/5/842.abstract) University deans and board-certified pediatricians, Landrigan (http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/philip-j-landrigan) and Goldman (http://sphhs.gwumc.edu/abouttheschool/meetthedean) are former grantees and longtime partners with NIEHS.
- Phil Brown, Ph.D., and Alissa Cordner, explore regulating chemical use in "Lessons Learned From Flame Retardant Use And Regulation Could Enhance Future Control Of Potentially Hazardous Chemicals." (http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/30/5/906.abstract) A veteran NIEHS Superfund grantee, Brown (http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Sociology/faculty/pbrown/) and Cordner (http://www.brown.edu/Research/Contested_Illnesses_Research_Project/Cordner.htm) , one of his doctoral students, conduct their studies through the Brown University Department of Sociology.