Faculty Research Projects

Evaluating the Health Benefits of Green Affordable Housing

Residents of a green affordable housing complex work in a vegetable garden the roof of their building.

This project will look for improvement in housing quality and associated environmental and personal health indicators after “green” rehabbing of low-income housing in the Chicago area. “Green” rehabbing refers to environmentally friendly solutions to home renovation such as efficient home insulation, installation of proper ventilation, and moisture and mold reductions.

EOHS researchers Dr. Susan Buchanan and Dr. David Jacobs note that this project will evaluate whether asthma hospitalizations, days of school missed due to asthma symptoms, and costs of medical care have decreased in the rehabbed communities. This discovery could be then be used to help promote healthy indoor environments in housing for children.

Helping lead the charge, an EOHS Doctoral Student has been trained in the use of monitoring equipment that will be used in the homes of participants of this project. These include ambient monitors for CO2, CO, formaldehyde, temperature, relative humidity and VOCs, vacuuming for allergen dust samples, home inspection, as well as testing participants for NO in exhaled breath and spirometry, including peak expiratory flow.

The project is performed in Chicago in collaboration with Enterprise Community Partners, The National Center for Healthy Housing in Washington DC, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and the University of California San Francisco.

Injury Prevention

A construction worker sends a bundle of shingles up a conveyor belt toward a roof, where two workers are unloading the bundles of shingles and stacking them on the roof.

EOHS occupational injury prevention research is supported by CDC NIOSH, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and OSHA Area 5 office with the goal of developing a broad state based surveillance program lead by Dr. Linda Forst and Dr. Lee Friedman.

EOHS students have been highly engaged in this area of research, with many student lead projects focusing on construction workers, contingent laborers, foreign/migrant laborers service industry workers, auto makers, farmers and miners.

Students are also engaged in injury prevention within the community setting under the guidance of Dr. Lee Friedman on such topics as motor vehicle safety, firearm safety, violence across the lifespan, poisoning, substance abuse, suicide prevention and assessments of national triage guidelines.

To learn more about injury prevention at EOHS, contact Dr. Linda Forst or Dr. Lee Friedman. Funding and mentoring is available to qualified students.

Mercury in Fish

UIC professor Susan Buchanan stands with a group of Asian women, engaged in a question and answer session as part of the mercury research project.

Collaborating with SPH researchers Dr. Mary Turyk, Dr. Sally Freels, Dr. Noel Chavez, Dr. Serap Erdaland UIC researchers Dr. Kathryn Nagy, Dr. Lisa Sharp, and Dr. Benjamin Gerber, Dr. Susan Buchanan is taking an in-depth look into why Asians in the US tend to have higher mercury levels than non-Asians, with particular focus on women.

To gather this information, interviewers discuss serving and eating habits (species, sauces, and paste) with Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese residents in the field.

During the intervention phase the research team will be testing fish consumption text messages to see if women of childbearing age who receive the texts change their diets to a more healthful selection of fish.

Several students have had the opportunity to get involved in this research over the last few years, including two Master’s level research assistants. These students have had the opportunity to assist with data collection, training field workers, and working with research data.

Preparing Health Departments for Climate Change

Cars and trucks drive through a flooded Illinois street.

UIC is the only School of Public Health funded by CDC to implement the CDC’s Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework for the State’s Department of Public Health

Dr. Sam Dorevitch and a team of UIC students and faculty use data from the Illinois Department of Public Health to identify connections between weather, climate, and health conditions, such as heat stroke, West Nile Virus infection, and consequences of flooding in the BRACE-Illinois project.

Together they have developed educational videos for the public health emergency preparedness  workforce about climate change and health

EOHS students working on this project meet with health department personnel, develop educational materials about climate change and health,  conduct data analysis, study vulnerability of communities to extreme weather, and present their findings at conferences.

UIC Epicenter for Prevention of Healthcare Associated Infections

A student researchers poses for a photo wearing an electronic air sampler, which consists of a black power unit attached to her belt and a plastic air intake tube attached to her sweater.

Led by Dr. Rachael Jones and Dr. Susan Bleasdale, this study seeks to understand how healthcare workers are exposed to infectious diseases while providing care to patients, and how these occupationally-acquired infections can be prevented.

The collaborating research team of faculty and students is particularly concerned with healthcare workers’ risk of acquiring an emerging infectious disease, like Ebola Virus Disease, because standard disease transmission prevention strategies may not be appropriate.

Students in our research team are performing experiments simulating healthcare activities in the laboratory with healthcare worker study participants, observing and measuring environmental and personal contamination using a fluorescent marker.

Student researchers use multiple techniques to detect pathogens in the environment, including cutting edge air samplers (modeled by the student researcher in the photograph). Data analysis of their findings will be used to increase knowledge on how to prevent hospital acquired infections.

Water, Infectious Diseases and Health

A student stands in front of a laboratory table, measuring water into a test tube.

During summer months, a team of students and faculty use DNA-based methods to help the Chicago Park District quickly determine if health advisories are needed at nine Lake Michigan Beaches.

Many students over the past decade have worked in the field and in the laboratory.  Several students have even been able to transition this work into thesis and dissertation research leading to national presentations and publications of their results.

(Some water quality and health studies have looked at the occurrence of illness after using area waters for recreation. These studies have policy impacts and have been used in developing local regulations and strategies for water quality monitoring.)