Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

January 30, 2023 • 1:00 p.m. ET

Lady holding her head in stress

In this webinar, we will hear from NIEHS-funded researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and Oregon State University. They will present their research on stress, health, and the environment.

The first presentation will describe the role of acute and chronic stress in health studies and why stress is an important factor to understanding and predicting early aging, disease, and mortality. It will also discuss how stress appears important in understanding vulnerability to environmental exposures. The presenters will give a brief overview of the Stress Management Network’s Stress Measurement Toolbox for self-report measures of stress and physiological measures of stress reactivity. They will also describe the role of the NIEHS Telomere Research Network and best practices for measurement of telomere length.

The second presentation will discuss how children’s exposure to environmental chemicals and social stressors influence their neuro-cognitive development, social behaviors, and executive functioning (e.g., working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control). The presenters will introduce the Interplay Study, a longitudinal prospective cohort for which participants are currently being recruited in Oregon. Its overall goals are to examine the relationships between flame retardants, social adversity, resilience, and children’s neuro-cognitive and behavioral development. Its central hypothesis is that children, 4-8 years old, with higher flame-retardant exposure will have lower cognitive and social skills. They will study how social experiences may modify these associations. The presenters will describe their rationale for the study and the cohort design.


Presentation One: Why Should I Measure Stress? Stress Measurement in Population-Based Health Studies (2MB)

Wendy Berry Mendes, Ph.D.

Wendy Berry Mendes, Ph.D., is the Sarlo/Ekman Professor and Deputy Vice-Chair of Research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Her research focuses on how the brain and body respond to emotion and stress states using a variety of methodological techniques including autonomic physiology, neuroendocrinology, and neuroscience. Many of her published articles focus on the effects of emotion on decision-making, discrimination and stigmatization effects on health, affect contagion, and how stress influences cognition across the life span. She has won several awards including the Sage Young Scholar Award, the Gordon Allport Award for the best paper on intergroup relations, the APS Spence Scholar Award, and the Society for Experimental Social Psychology Career Trajectory Award. She was a senior editor for the journal Psychological Science, and one of the founding Editors-in-Chief of the journal Affective Science. In 2016, with funding from Samsung International, she developed and validated an algorithm to measure blood pressure via an optic sensor embedded in phones and wearables. This collaboration resulted in an app-based study called My BP Lab that collects daily responses of stress, emotion, and blood pressure and enrolled globally more than 250,000 people.

Elissa Epel, Ph.D.

Elissa Epel, Ph.D., is a professor and vice chair in the Department of Psychiatry, at UCSF. She is the director of the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center, associate director of the Center for Health and Community, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) UCSF Nutrition Obesity Research Centers, member of the National Academy of Medicine, and past president of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research and co-chair of the Mind and Life Institute Steering Council. Epel studies psychological, social, and behavioral processes related to chronic psychological stress and health, and how to apply this basic science to scalable interventions that can reach vulnerable populations. She studies processes that accelerate biological aging, with a focus on overeating and metabolism, and cellular aging (including the telomere/telomerase maintenance system). She and her colleagues develop and test interventions that combine behavioral, psychological, and mindfulness training. She co-leads studies funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIDDK, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, including an NIH-funded National Stress Network, and an Emotional Well Being Network.

Presentation Two: The Interplay Study: Examining the Effect of Flame Retardants and the Home Environment on Children’s Neuro-Cognitive and Behavioral Development (1MB)

Molly Kile, Sc.D.

Molly Kile, Sc.D., is an epidemiologist and professor at Oregon State University. Her research focuses on understanding the influence of early life exposure to chemical contaminants on maternal-child health. She resolutely uncovers environmental exposure threats to vulnerable populations, including children and families living in areas with limited resources. Kile works with communities in rural, low-resource, and primarily minority regions in the U.S. and abroad to understand and address their needs.

Shannon Lipscomb, Ph.D.

Shannon Lipscomb, Ph.D., is an associate professor and lead for human development and family sciences at Oregon State University-Cascades. Her research expertise is in human development and family science and focuses on identify effective ways of building resilience among young children and families facing adversity. Key areas of her research include: (1) the role of early childhood education in the lives of children involved in child welfare, foster care, and/or impacted by trauma; (2) the interplay between children's risks and their early experiences on development, and (3) early childhood programs and systems.

Webinar Resources

We Want Your Feedback!

Send comments, questions, and suggestions for future webinar topics to [email protected].