Environmental Context of Health Disparities

EPA Grant Number: NIMHD007
Title: Environmental Context of Health Disparities
Investigators: Juarez, Paul D , Langston, Michael A , Hood, Darryl B , Wilson, Sacoby M. , Wansoo, Im , Lichtveld, Maureen , Estes, Maurice , Al-Hamdan, Mohammad , Matthews-Juarez, Patricia , Robinson, Paul , Levine, Robert , Crosson, William
Institution: Meharry Medical College , Charles Drew University of Medicine & Science , Tulane University , National Space Science and Technology Center , University of Maryland - Baltimore , University of Tennessee
Current Institution: Meharry Medical College , Charles Drew University of Medicine & Science , National Space Science and Technology Center , Tulane University , University of Maryland - Baltimore , University of Tennessee
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: August 1, 2011 through July 31, 2014
Project Amount: $682,101
RFA: Transdisciplinary Networks of Excellence on the Environment and Health Disparities (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Justice , Human Health


This proposal seeks to establish an Environmental Health Disparities Core (EHDC) that focuses on: (1) the six areas of health disparities that contribute disproportionately to premature death and morbidity found among poor and racial/ethnic minorities (cancer, cardio/metabolic disease, HIV/AIDS, infant mortality/MCH, intentional/unintentional injury, and mental health/substance abuse); (2) employs a definition of environment that includes physical, built, social, and policy characteristics; and (3) includes the eleven southeastern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia). This project will use a trans-disciplinary/ecological or systems approach that moves beyond the EPHT exposure–disease paradigm to one that includes the effects of the built, social, and policy environments. It will support descriptive, exploratory, hypothesis generating, and hypothesis testing investigations that have the potential to inform the development, implementation, and evaluation of targeted interventions, programs and policies to protect the public’s health from environmental risk. To accomplish this, an environmental health disparities relational data base and web portal will be developed that integrates data on health outcomes, the natural environment (data about the physical environment, (e.g. air, food, soil, water, vegetation, and, toxins), built environment (e.g., zoning, land use, growth, preservation, and development), social environment (e.g., community assets, risk factors, and social networks), with interactive, user-friendly, data analysis tools (to generate rates, charts, and maps). Public participatory GIS will be used to engage communities in identifying and mapping environmental risk factors, developing, implementing, and evaluating the impact of targeted interventions on health disparities.


The overall goal of this project is to expand the capacity of health services researchers and other biomedical scientists to use a trans-disciplinary systems approach to study the environmental context of health disparities. To achieve this goal, we propose to expand our current research center to: (1) incorporate data on the physical, built, social and policy environments that will supplement currently funded health disparities research; (2) use High Throughput Analyses (HTA) and geo/spatial and temporal analyses to examine the relationships between health disparities and environmental factors; and (3) provide training in public participatory geographic information systems (PPGIS) and interactive mapping that supports community participation in the research process and in the translation, implementation and evaluation of targeted public health interventions.


Establishment of a formal EHDC is the natural progression and necessary extension of the center’s capacity to process and analyze large secondary data bases; conduct inter-disciplinary training; use public participatory GIS; and develop interactive mapping of health disparities and community assets and risk factors (e.g. the social environment). It will extend the IMNashville web portal (www.imnashville.com) that was developed to support the processing, analysis, and mapping of health disparities data specific to youth violence at a sub-county level, in conjunction with data on the built, social, and policy environments to the eleven southeastern states. This web portal will bring together data on health disparities and the social environmental context of disparities with the tools to create interactive maps, tables, and charts that reflect geographic, environmental, and temporal dimensions of health disparities at a county and sub-county level. This new proposal brings together a trans-disciplinary team of accomplished scientists to extend the IMNashville concept to create visual and computational models that can help grow our understanding of the complex relationships between environment and areas of health disparities commonly found among disadvantaged racial/ethnic groups.

Expected Results:

(1) Establish a trans-disciplinary, environmental health disparities core as part of the HDRCOE at Meharry; (2) identify, secure and process health data bases that will enable hypothesis generating and testing of the relationship between health and the environment in the 11 southeastern states; (3) establish an environmental context of health disparities relational database and web portal will be established to include geo--referenced information on the natural, built, social, and policy environments in these 11 southeastern states.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 47 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 15 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Public policy, health effects, health disparities, trans-disciplinary (social/behavioral, public health, medicine, mathematics, geography, urban planning), geographic information systems, racial/ethnic groups, physical environment, built environment, social environment, high throughput analysis, southeast (AL, AK, GA, IN, KY, LA, MI, NC, SC, TN VA), satellite, landsat, remote sensing

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012 Progress Report
  • 2013 Progress Report
  • Final Report