Researchers at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University have received a $300,000 grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to examine ways to reduce heat-related illnesses and death during extreme heat and reduce radon exposure in metro Atlanta.
Dr. Christine Stauber, director of the Division of Environmental Health at the School of Public Health, will use U.S. Census data along with satellite imagery to identify the hottest parts of the city and factors that increase temperature.
Dr. Stauber will also examine which populations are at risk and social factors such as age and socioeconomic status that put people at risk when the weather turns hot. The grant will help fund high-resolution satellite imagery for the project. With assistance from Dr. Dajun Dai, an assistant professor in Geosciences who is jointly appointed to the School of Public Health, Stauber will use maps to interpret and illustrate the data.
“The ultimate goal is to think about who is at risk in the city and how we protect them,” Stauber said.
Dr. Dai will head up the radon study and will work with the DeKalb County Health Department to identify which communities in Georgia’s third most populous county are at the greatest risk for radon exposure.
Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas that comes from the soil breaking down and is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The grant will help pay for radon testing machines that will be used to sample 200 homes in DeKalb County.
Dr. Dai, Dr. Stauber, and others on the research team will use the information from this project to educate the communities with the lowest testing rates about the potential health effects of radon exposure.
“Many people do not look into testing their homes for radon because they are not aware that they could be at risk, and effects of radon exposure are long-term and do not present any immediate symptoms,” Dr. Dai said.
The other co-investigators on these interdisciplinary projects are: Dr. Scott Weaver, assistant professor at the School of Public Health; Dr. Richard Rothenberg, Regents’ professor and epidemiologist at the School of Public Health; Dan Deocampo, associate professor and chair of the Department of Geosciences and Jeremy Diem, physical geographer in Geosciences.
The heat illness and radon studies are extensions of the researchers’ collaboration to develop an Urban Health Index, a tool designed to help policy makers, public health professionals and researchers measure and address health disparities in urban communities.
To learn more about urban environment research at Georgia State’s School of Public Health, go to: http://publichealth.gsu.edu/research-2/#environment