SCEHSC to co-sponsor LA County Parks Needs Assessment Workshops

The SCEHSC announces its co-sponsorship of the Stakeholder Workshops as part of the Los Angeles County Parks Needs Assessment.

As we know the importance of parks and their positive impact on the health and well-being of communities, we look forward to being involved in this process by encouraging our community partners in the Los Angeles area to attend these workshops. Our Community Outreach and Engagement team will also be attending several of the workshops.

Stakeholder Workshops:

November 3, 10am–12pm
El Monte Senior Center
3120 N. Tyler Ave, El Monte

November 9, 10am–12pm
Bateman Hall Auditorium
11330 Bullis Rd, Lynwood

November 13, 10am–12pm
Roy A. Anderson Recreation
Center, Comrie Hall
3980 Bill Robertson Lane,
Los Angeles

To RSVP to an upcoming workshop, click here

What is the park needs assessment?

The County of Los Angeles is conducting a countywide assessment of the need for parks and recreation in both cities and unincorporated areas. The goal of the Park Needs Assessment is to engage all communities within the County in a collaborative process to
gather data and input for future decision-making on parks and recreation. The Park Needs Assessment will increase our understanding of existing park and recreation assets, and help us to determine how to improve, expand, and make them more accessible. Specifically, the final
report will determine Study Areas and will identify, prioritize and outline costs for potential park projects within each Study Area. Download this PDF for more information.

For more information additional PDFs are available for download as well as the Needs Assessment website at:
Two Decades of Parks Projects

Healthy, safe communities have thriving parks

Courtesy of

USC Funded by NIH/Fogarty: GEOHealth Hub for Research and Training in eastern Africa

October 8, 2015: NIH Fogarty International Center announced they are investing $21 million in partnerships between research institutions in the US and Canada  to establish Global Environmental and Occupational Health (GEOHealth) Hubs in developing countries.

Through the leadership of Dr. Kiros Berhane, Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and Dr. Jon Samet, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine in the Keck School of Medicine, USC will be partnering with Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia) for the eastern Africa portion of the work which will include air pollution monitoring work in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The air pollution monitoring network and surrounding work that is a part of this hub is modeled after the longitudinal Southern California Children’s Health study of which Dr. Berhane has been an investigator. The hub will have two main components dealing with training and research activities to be led by USC and Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia) respectively. The research projects will be conducted primarily by Eastern African researchers.

Media coverage:
USC Press Release here.
NIH/Fogarty PRESS RELEASE and related resources and information about the GEOHealth Hub project can be found here.

For background on this project at USC,see this blog post detailing part of the air pollution monitoring network planning process that took place back in April 2014 when Worku Tefera, researcher from Ethiopia visited USC.

GEOHealth Hub team in Ethiopia during a planning meeting in 2013.

Worku Tefera (right), Steve Howland, and Suresh Ratnam pictured on the roof of the Soto Street building at USC HSC disassembling an air pollution monitor.

New study finds that risk of asthma and nasal allergy varies by genetic ancestry in Hispanic children

LOS ANGELES – According to the US Census, the Hispanic or Latino population has experienced the fastest growth in the United States and account for more than half of the population growth between 2000 and 2010.  With such trend in population growth, there is a growing need to investigate causes of common health conditions in Hispanic children, who have diverse environmental, socioeconomic, cultural and ancestral backgrounds.

A new study led by Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) researchers set out to investigate the effect of genetic factors on asthma and rhinitis (defined for this study as a problem with sneezing or a runny or blocked nose, when the child does not have a cold or the ‘flu’ also known as “nasal allergy”), two of the most common illnesses in children. They conducted the study among nearly 1800 Hispanic children between the ages of 5 and 7 years who participated in the Southern California Children’s Health Study in 2003.

For a link to the study, click here.

The research indicates that looking at genetic ancestry may help explain the differences in prevalence of asthma and rhinitis within the spectrum of Hispanic people and the burden of asthma and rhinitis in the fast growing, ethnically diverse Hispanic population in the US.

“Studies in the past have generally included multiethnic population with predominantly non-Hispanic population,” said Muhammad T. Salam, adjunct assistant professor of research in the department of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, and lead author of the research. “While there are common risk factors that affect everyone, we are just beginning to understand that we need to focus on specific Hispanic populations to better understand the complex interplay of genetic, environmental and cultural factors in the development of common health conditions such as asthma and rhinitis.”

To determine the ancestral (ethnic) background of each child more precisely, the researchers estimated contributions from Amerindian (ancestral background in Latin American people before 15th century), European, African and Asian ancestry using over 200 DNA sequence variations.
Such variations in DNA (human genome) are genetic markers of ancestry. Certain variants occur in one population or another in the human genome (DNA). When DNA is analyzed in this way, ancestry can be determined at a very precise level depending on how many genetic markers are looked at.

The researchers found lower risk of asthma and rhinitis in people with more Amerindian ancestry.  For each 25% increase in Amerindian ancestry, there was an 18% lower risk of asthma and 14% lower risk of rhinitis.  In children with over 75% Amerindian ancestry, only 9% had asthma and 30% had rhinitis. In contrast, Hispanic children who had less than 25% Amerindian ancestry, 21% had asthma and 44% had rhinitis. The study took into account factors in the environment, culture, and economics.

The parents provided information on their children’s health conditions, environmental exposures such as tobacco smoke, allergens, and socioeconomic background. Acculturation is a process by which cultural patterns change when people come in contact with other cultural patterns. The U.S. Hispanic population has undergone such changes over generations. Researchers assessed acculturation based on where the mother was born and what language the parent used to complete the study questionnaire (English or Spanish)

The Southern California Children’s Health Study began in 1993 at USC and was designed to study the chronic effects of air pollution on the developing lungs of Southern California school children.

The research appears in the August 11, 2015 issue of the PLOS ONE. Co-authors include Muhammad T. Salam, M.D., Ph.D. of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and the Department of Psychiatry, Kern Medical Center; Tigran Avoundjian, M.P.H. of US Department of Veterans Affairs, Center for Health Care Evaluation; Wendy M. Knight MPH, of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Acute Communicable Disease Control Program; and Frank D. Gilliland, M.D., Ph.D. of the Keck School of Medicine of USC

The collaborative study was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (grants 5R01HL61768 and 5R01HL76647); the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (grant 5P30ES007048) funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; the Children’s Environmental Health Center (grants 5P01ES009581, R826708-01, and RD831861-01) funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (grants 5P01ES011627); and the Hastings Foundation.

Article Cited:
Salam, M.T., Avoundjian, T., Knight, W.M., & Gilliland, F.D. (2015). Genetic ancestry and asthma and rhinitis occurrence in Hispanic children: Findings from the Southern California Children’s Health Study. PLOS ONE Published online August 11, 2015; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135384

Contact: Muhammad T. Salam,

USC Establishes Research Center to Untangle Causes of Childhood Obesity in Low-Income, Urban Minority Populations

Exposure to pollution and social stresses suspected to be among the key factors

USC has been awarded a federally funded research center to explore why childhood obesity affects some populations more than others.

The Maternal and Developmental Risks from Environmental and Social Stressors (MADRES) Center will study pregnant women and their infants over time in low-income, urban minority communities in Los Angeles that have both high obesity rates and wide-ranging exposure to environmental pollutants.

Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, Center for Obesity Research Center, and Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute will collaborate on the initiative.

“One of the most striking concerns about the obesity epidemic is the ethnic disparity among women and children,” said Carrie Breton, assistant professor at Keck Medicine of USC and co-principal investigator of the center, which will try to determine how environmental factors influence childhood obesity. “Rates of childhood obesity, pregnancy-related obesity and their associated health consequences are disproportionately high in Hispanic women and children.”

For example, in Boyle Heights — home to one of the largest Hispanic/Mexican populations in the United States — 50 percent of teens are overweight or obese, compared to 34 percent in Los Angeles County and 29 percent statewide. Located at the confluence of Interstates 5 and 10, the 101 Freeway and State Route 60, Boyle Heights also faces some of the worst pollution in the county and has a disproportionately high poverty rate (33 percent).

“Childhood obesity is one of the critical issues of our time, threatening the health of an entire generation of children,” said Frank Gilliland, professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and co-principal investigator. “Over-nutrition and sedentary lifestyle clearly play roles, but environmental determinants of obesity are also likely to be important and modifiable causes.”

The MADRES Center will recruit 750 mother-infant pairs from low-income urban hospitals in Los Angeles over the course of three years to investigate the problem from two angles:
• Project 1 will explore how environmental factors relate to child weight at birth and at 12 months of age.
• Project 2 will examine the effects of pre- and postpartum environmental exposures as well as psychological stress and behavioral risk factors that affect the mother’s gestational weight gain and postpartum weight retention.

Smartphone apps will allow the team to collect real-time information about stressors and lifestyle behaviors during the daily lives of pregnant and new mothers.

Two teams will split up the research — one will work directly with mothers and infants; another will measure and map pollution.

The community outreach team will develop workshops with local partners, send out new research results and create materials for the mothers and families in environmental health resource centers.

Funding for the MADRES Center comes from the National Institutes of Health, including the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, grant 1P50ES026086-01.

More information about the MADRES Center is available at:

Contact: Robert Perkins at (213) 740-9226 or

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

Contact: Robert Perkins at (213) 740-9226 or

Keck School of Medicine of USC research finds air pollution may affect the way the brain ages and functions

Effects on brain’s white matter seen in older women who lived in locations with high levels of small particles in ambient air

PRESS: New York Times,, Yahoo Health ,, Mother Jones

LOS ANGELES – Exposure to air pollution has been known to affect respiratory diseases, lung function and cardiac health, but a new study led by Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) researchers shows for the first time that it may also have a negative impact on how the brain’s white matter ages.

The research indicates that older women who lived in geographic locations with higher levels of fine particulate matter in ambient air had significantly smaller white matter volumes across a wide range of brain areas.

Fine particulate matter is smaller than 2.5 micrometers and is known as PM2.5, a form of pollution that easily enters the lungs and possibly the bloodstream. White matter connects brain regions and determines how information is processed in the brain.

“Investigating the impact of air pollution on the human brain is a new area of environmental neurosciences,” said Jiu-­‐Chiuan Chen, M.D., M.P.H., Sc.D., associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and lead author of the research. “Our study provides convincing evidence that several parts of the aging brain, especially the white matter, are an important target of neurotoxic effects induced by long-­‐term exposure to fine particles in the air.”

The study found that older women ages 71 -­‐ 89 who had lived in places with greater PM2.5 exposures had significantly smaller volumes of white matter, and that this could not be explained by the geographic region where they lived, their race or ethnic background, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, or medical conditions that may also influence brain volumes.

Click here to see the study abstract.

The researchers performed brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 1,403 women who are part of the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS), a nationwide study based at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-­‐Salem, N.C. The researchers also used residential histories and air monitoring data to estimate the participants’ exposure to air pollution in the previous six to seven years.

This is the first study to differentiate between white and gray matter while examining the neurotoxic effects of PM2.5 on brain volumes of older people, The USC-­‐led research may be the largest neuroimaging study conducted in community-­‐ dwelling elderly persons to examine the association between long-­‐term PM2.5 exposures and volumes of gray matter and white matter in the brain.

White matter contains nerve fibers and connects brain regions with each other by traveling deep within and passing nerve signals throughout the brain. Gray matter is primarily composed of neuronal cell bodies, dendrites, glial cells, and capillaries. The study did not find impacts from exposure to air pollution in participants’ gray matter.

The WHIMS study began in 1996 at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for the purpose of studying how postmenopausal hormone treatment affects cognitive impairment and brain aging.

The research appears in the June 15, 2015 issue of the Annals of Neurology. Co-­‐authors include Xinhui Wang, M.S., and Helena Chui, M.D. of the Keck School of Medicine of USC; John McArdle, Ph.D. of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; Gregory Wellenius, Sc.D. of Brown University; Mark Serre, Ph.D. of the University of North Carolina; Ira Driscoll, Ph.D. of the University of Wisconsin; Ramon Casanova, Ph.D. and Mark Espeland, Ph.D. of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center; and JoAnn Manson, M.D., Dr. P.H. of Harvard Medical School.

The collaborative study was funded by in part by the National Institutes of Health grant R01AG033078 and by the Rosenblith Award from the Health Effects Institute, an organization jointly funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and certain auto and engine manufacturers. The work was also supported by the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center (5P30ES007048). The research was also supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through contracts and by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc, St. Davids, PA, and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, which funds the Women’s Health Initiative Program and its memory study.

Article cited: Chen, J.C., Wang, X., Wellenius. G.A., Serre, M.L., Driscoll, I., Casanova, R. McArdle, J.J., Manson, J.E., Chui, H.C., Espeland, M.A.. Ambient Air Pollution and Neurotoxicity on Brain Structure: Evidence from Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. Annals of Neurology June 15, 2015. doi: 10.1002/ana.24460. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 26075655

Press Release by Leslie Ridgeway, Keck Medicine of USC Marketing and Communications

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. For more information, go to

Southern California Children’s Health Study Forum

The Southern California Children’s Health Study Forum: “Healthier kids and the future of cleaner air” was a chance for researchers to talk about the latest information about air pollution in the Los Angeles basin, and what this means for children’s health.  Community leaders discussed their work to reduce emissions from freeway pollution and the ports in the future.

Thank you to all the speakers and participants at the May 18, 2015 event in Long Beach, CA; nearly 100 residents and members of nonprofit organizations attended.

The event featured panelists Frank Gilliland, Rob McConnell, Ed Avol, and Jim Gauderman of USC, mark! Lopez, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Elisa Nicholas, Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma, and moderator Andrea Hricko, USC.  Panelists discussed recent research, including studies on overall levels of air pollution and improving children’s lung function, studies linking air pollution exposure to higher weight and obesity, and the health costs of air pollution to families.  Levels of ultrafine particles, the smallest particles that can get deep into the lungs, are still too high near roadways and downwind of LAX Airport.

Residents were able to talk with USC scientists about their environmental health concerns, and discuss how to use research results in the future.  Participants brought up many important issues, and talked about ways in which the community and researchers can partner together.

“Building partnerships and opportunities for youth to go on to these career paths is important.”
– East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quoted the Children’s Health Study.”
– Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma

“The work you’re doing here in LA is also helping people 1500 miles away.”
– Diesel Health Project, Kansas City

Panel of speakers at the forum.

Over 100 people attended.

Organized by the Trade, Health, and Environment Impact Project, and sponsored by the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center, the Southern California Children’s Health Sciences Center, Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, and The Kresge Foundation.