Centers of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research

Overall Center Goal

Racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in the United States remain a significant and persistent public health problem. These trends can be shaped by disproportionate exposure to environmental, physical, and social stressors, as well as differences in vulnerability and susceptibility.

Environmental health disparities (EHDs) are based on a combination of factors, including sociodemographic and spatial patterns of exposures to chemical and non-chemical stressors; however, the methods to characterize and ultimately mitigate EHDs have been lacking. Furthermore, few epidemiological studies have characterized EHDs associated with simultaneous exposure to multiple chemical stressors or the effects caused by a complex mixture of non-chemical stressors.

The overall goal of the Center for Research on Environmental and Social Stressors in Housing Across the Life Course (CRESSH) is to understand how simultaneous exposure to multiple chemical stressors such as air pollutants, and their interactions with social determinants of health and non-chemical stressors including housing and neighborhood environment, lead to EHDs. To reach this goal, CRESSH conducts innovative, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary studies spanning epidemiology, exposure science, risk assessment, and quantitative disparities analysis, with a strong community engagement component. The center examines multiple health outcomes, including birth outcomes, childhood growth rates, and cardiovascular mortality, across the life course, operating within the targeted low-income communities of Chelsea, Dorchester, and other communities in Massachusetts.

The specific aims of this center's projects are to:

  • Develop innovative methods to determine how health outcomes, such as birth outcomes, childhood growth rates, and cardiovascular mortality, are associated with multiple chemical stressor exposures, and estimate the complex interactions of these exposures with non-chemical stressors and social determinants of health.
  • Use portable, real-time monitoring devices to estimate indoor exposures to multiple chemical stressors, noise, and thermal comfort in target communities, and determine how resident behaviors and housing characteristics affect indoor and outdoor associations of chemical and non-chemical stressors.
  • Characterize disparities in exposure to chemical and non-chemical stressors using novel geospatial data and simulation techniques to estimate cumulative risk for multiple health outcomes across the life course in the target communities of Chelsea and Dorchester, as well as across the state of Massachusetts.
  • Design, implement, and evaluate training for community residents to participate in research activities and develop culturally appropriate educational materials that translate the aims and findings of research to improve environmental health literacy while reducing risk.

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