USC and partner institutions awarded $6 million children’s environmental health grant from NIH

Research to look at prenatal and early life environmental influences on lifetime health related to asthma and obesity

Staff Report

Media Coverage: Press Enterprise, Daily News, The Washington Times, Redding.com, Daily Breeze, Pasadena Star News

LOS ANGELES – September 21, 2016 – Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC have been awarded a 2 year $6 million grant, as the first phase of a large seven-year National Institutes of Health, Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) initiative involving more than 30 research entities. The USC based research team will investigate health issues related to asthma and obesity. Continue reading “USC and partner institutions awarded $6 million children’s environmental health grant from NIH”

SCEHSC Seminar Series: “Communicating Air Quality Data and Health Risk to the Public”

The SCEHSC Seminar Series presents

“Communicating Air Quality Data and Health Risk to the Public”

Jo Kay Ghosh, PhD

Health Effects Officer
South Coast Air Quality Management District

Friday, September 9, 2016
11:45 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Soto Street I Building, Room 116
2001 North Soto Street
Los Angeles, CA 90032

If you would like to attend the FREE seminar, please email jacy@usc.edu

Dr. Jo Kay Ghosh is the Health Effects Officer at the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). She earned her doctorate in Epidemiology from the UCLA School of Public Health, with her work on air pollution and birth outcomes. She also conducted post-doctoral research at the USC Department of Preventive Medicine, examining the effects of air pollution on cancer risk. Previously, she worked at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, where she managed the Epidemiology and Research Unit of the Tuberculosis Control Program. 

Continue reading “SCEHSC Seminar Series: “Communicating Air Quality Data and Health Risk to the Public””

New Research: Greenery in Neighborhoods May Reduce Adolescent Aggressive Behavior

SCEHSC Study Supports Benefits of Neighborhood Greenspace on Southern California Adolescents

A study to be published in the July 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) reports that adolescents in urban communities may have less aggressive behaviors if they live in neighborhoods with more greenery, such as parks, golf courses or fields.

Studies have shown that the families we grow up in, the places we work, and the friends we keep (our social environment) play a large role in influencing behavior.  However, not much is known about how one’s outdoor environment – such as the greenery in one’s neighborhood – affects behavior.

The University of Southern California (USC) recently conducted the first longitudinal study to see whether greenery surrounding the home could reduce aggressive behaviors in a group of Southern California adolescents living in urban communities.

The team, part of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the Department of Psychology at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, followed 1,287 adolescents, age nine to 18 years. They assessed the adolescents’ aggressive behaviors every two-to-three years, asking parents if their child physically attacked or threatened others, destroyed things or exhibited other similar behaviors. The researchers then linked the adolescents’ residential locations to satellite data to measure the levels of greenery in their neighborhoods.

The study found that nine to 18 year-olds who lived in places with more greenery had significantly less aggressive behaviors than those living in neighborhoods with less greenery.  Both short-term (one-to-six months) and long-term (one-to-three years) exposure to greenspace within 1,000 meters surrounding residences were associated with reduced aggressive behaviors.  The behavioral benefit of greenspace equated to approximately two to two-and-a-half years of adolescent maturation.

The study also found that factors such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, parents’ educational background, occupation, income level or marital status, and whether their mother smoked while pregnant or was depressed, did not affect the findings.

Additionally, these benefits existed for both boys and girls of all ages and races/ethnicities, and across populations with different socioeconomic backgrounds and living in communities with different neighborhood quality.

“Identifying effective measures to reduce aggressive and violent behaviors in adolescents is a pressing issue facing societies worldwide,” said Diana Younan, M.P.H., doctoral candidate at the Keck School of Medicine. “It is important that we target aggressive behaviors early-on. Our study provides new evidence that increasing neighborhood greenery may be an effective alternative intervention strategy for an environmental public health approach that has not been considered yet.”

Based on the study’s findings, USC investigators and their collaborators estimate that increasing greenery levels commonly seen in urban environments could result in a 12 percent decrease in clinical cases of aggressive behavior in California adolescents living in urban areas.  Researchers conclude that these results support the benefits of greenery in decreasing aggressive behaviors for adolescents living in urban communities.

This new knowledge may provide a strong reason for further studies to examine if improving greenery in residential neighborhoods will indeed reduce aggressive behaviors in adolescents.

The article “Environmental Determinants of Aggression in Adolescents: Role of Urban Neighborhood Greenspace” by Diana Younan, Catherine Tuvblad, Lianfa Li, Jun Wu, Fred Lurmann, Meredith Franklin, Kiros Berhane, Rob McConnell, Anna H. Wu, Laura Baker, and Jiu-Chiuan Chen (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2016.05.002) appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 55, Issue 7 (July 2016), published by Elsevier.

KPCC documents community monitoring work on “invisible problem” of traffic pollution

A KPCC story today documents the work of health advocates and collaborations to implement community air monitoring of traffic pollution.  Center faculty and staff provided information for this ongoing series by Deepa Fernandes, which raises awareness about the health effects of going to school near busy roads and freeways.  The Community Outreach program partners with organizations who are interested in knowing what they are breathing at the neighborhood level.  The monitors are a valuable tool to understand more about air pollution and research.  Working with youth is also a strategy to encourage interest in science, health, and environmental issues. Continue reading “KPCC documents community monitoring work on “invisible problem” of traffic pollution”

Center Member Avol Featured in USC Trojan Family Magazine

Keck Medicine of USC’s Ed Avol wants to help Angelenos breathe easy

Katharine Gammon, Spring 2016

ED AVOL DIDN’T start out trying to change Los Angeles. After he earned his master’s degree from Caltech in 1974, the engineer used his chemistry and physics background to measure air pollution. Fairly quickly, though, he became interested in the health aspects of the air we breathe. As a Keck School of Medicine of USC professor, Avol has been instrumental in USC’s influential studies on the relationship between air quality and children’s lung health. Despite his knowledge about smog, Avol has also been an avid runner and running coach in LA for decades. Science writer Katharine Gammon recently caught up with him to talk about his personal experiences in environmental health research.

Click here to read the full story on the USC Trojan Family Magazine website.

Empowerment Congress 2016 Youth Summit

“The Case for Open Space” was the theme of the Youth Summit workshop on January 16, 2016, designed for youth to give their input on the needs and opportunities for parks and recreational spaces in urban Los Angeles. The Outreach program helps coordinate the Environmental Committee of the Empowerment Congress, a civic engagement program of County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Eighty-five young adults from 8 organizations participated in the event at the University of Southern California, which kicked off with a keynote from D’artganan Scorza of the Social Justice Learning Institute on the power and importance of getting involved in changing the space around us.

Urban planner James Rojas then led a hands-on activity called “Place It!” where each participant built their ideal park out of small objects. Many of the youth designed displays featured gardens and lush green spaces, places for families to walk and play, community centers, and many features. To connect students with current engagement efforts, Rita Robinson with the Department of Parks and Recreation led an activity similar to a community meeting for the Los Angeles County Park Needs Assessment.

Participants went through information and maps from their neighborhoods, and ranked their top priorities for parks.  Participants were thinking of their families and whole community when they put at the top of the list: accessibility, changing stations, children’s playgrounds,  bike lanes/paths, bike rental, community center, community garden, dog area/park, exercise equipment, pond, lighting, nursing/changing stations, picnic area, pool/splash pad, security features, trees, walking/jogging/hiking paths, and water fountains.

Comments from Mr. Rojas help to summarize the day:
“From the youth comments it was transformative for them. We were able to tap into knowledge that they didn’t even know they had!  This gives them a new way of seeing and articulating their community needs, challenges, and opportunities from the built environment they experience every day. This empowers them to get involved, engage and become the future leaders in their community.”

 

Near-Roadway Air Pollution and Coronary Heart Disease Study Published

Research encourages policymakers to consider effects of near-roadway air pollution when planning high-density housing near public transportation, say Keck School of Medicine of USC investigators

Heart disease from exposure to pollution near roads and freeways is often overlooked

LOS ANGELES — Policymakers and developers planning high-density housing near public transit with the goal of reducing automobile use and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming need a clearer understanding of the health risks from air pollution that may be created if that housing is also built near busy roads and freeways, according to new research by Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) scientists.

Click here for link to the study.

The study is one of the first to focus on the burden of heart disease that can result from residential exposures near major roadways in a large urban area. According to the researchers, the effects of the near-roadway component of air pollution is generally underappreciated and not included in estimates of air pollution-related heart disease. These near-roadway exposures are largely unregulated.

The study estimated the current impact of near-roadway pollution and of likely future exposure under proposed urban redevelopment plans for Southern California in response to landmark California legislation passed in 2008 to reduce greenhouse gases by 2035. Senate Bill 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act, sets regional targets to decrease vehicle traffic, in part by promoting urban redevelopment with multifamily homes in corridors with good public transportation. The anticipated result is less reliance on private automobiles, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and corresponding reduced levels of air pollution hazardous to health.

“The health benefits of these reduced emissions are partially offset by increased exposure to high concentrations of near-roadway pollutants among a larger population living next to major traffic corridors,” said Rob McConnell, professor of preventive medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC and corresponding author.

“The response to SB 375 is a historic opportunity to optimize the health co-benefits of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An appreciation of the health risks of near-roadway pollution would strengthen the argument for proposals to zone buffer areas between busy roadways and new high-density housing and to develop a zero-emission or near-zero-emission vehicle fleet.”

“Near-roadway pollutants are rapidly diluted over short distances,” said Rakesh Ghosh, first author and research associate, Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Residential exposure reduces markedly within a few hundred feet of even the busiest roadways.”

The investigators noted that the population is aging and that older persons are more vulnerable to the effects of pollution. Therefore, the number of heart attacks caused by air pollution is likely to increase over the next two decades even though pollution is decreasing.

Other researchers contributing to the study include Frederick Lurmann and Bryan Penfold (Sonoma Technology), Nino Kunzli and Laura Perez (University of Basel and Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland), Sylvia Brandt (University of Massachusetts), John Wilson (Spatial Sciences Institute, USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences), and Meredith Milet (California Department of Public Health).

The research, “Near roadway air pollution and coronary heart disease: Burden of disease and potential impact of a greenhouse gas reduction strategy in Southern California” was published July 7 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The research was funded by National Institutes of Health grants P01ES022845, P01ES011627, P30ES007048, R01ES016535, U.S. EPA grant RD83544101, and The Hastings Foundation.

Article cited:
Ghosh, R., Lurmann, F., Perez, L., Penfold, B, Brandt, S., Wilson, J., Milet, M., Kunzli, N & McConnell, R. (2015). Near roadway air pollution and coronary heart disease: Burden of disease and potential impact of a greenhouse gas reduction strategy in Southern California. Environmental Health Perspectives Published online July 7, 2015; doi: 10.1289/ehp.1408865

About Keck Medicine of USC

Keck Medicine of USC is the University of Southern California’s medical enterprise, one of only two university-based medical systems in the Los Angeles area. Encompassing academic, research and clinical excellence, the medical system attracts internationally renowned experts who teach and practice at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the region’s first medical school; includes the renowned USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the first comprehensive cancer centers established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States; has a medical faculty practice, the USC Care Medical Group; operates the Keck Medical Center of USC, which includes two acute care hospitals: 401-licensed bed Keck Hospital of USC and 60-licensed bed USC Norris Cancer Hospital; and owns USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, a 158-licensed bed community hospital. It also includes more than 40 outpatient facilities, some at affiliated hospitals, in Los Angeles, Orange, Kern, Tulare and Ventura counties.U.S. News & World Report ranked Keck Medical Center of USC among the Top 10 in ophthalmology and among the Top 25 hospitals in the United States for urology and cancer care.

For more information, go to www.keckmedicine.org/beyond

Contact: Robert Perkins at (213) 740-9226 or perkinsr@usc.edu