Research By CEMHD Associates

AIMS: Albany Infant and Mother Study: Allison Appleton, Ph.D., Principal Investigator. Gestation is one of the most critical periods of development where maternal social experiences and aspects of the environment may influence child health for year to come. The Albany Infant and Mother Study (AIMS) was designed to identify biologic and epigenetic mechanisms that may help explain how psychological factors and environmental toxicants in the prenatal period may jointly shape disparities in infant health outcomes. Our study blends expertise in epidemiology, obstetrics, psychology, environmental health, and epigenetics to advance the science of health disparities and identify novel risk and resiliency factors among disadvantaged populations. The study began in June of 2015 and data collection is ongoing. A total of 300 mother and infant pairs are sought for the study. AIMS enrolls women between the ages of 18-40 with singleton pregnancies who are between 24-28 weeks gestation at an outpatient obstetrics clinic at Albany Medical Center (Albany, NY). For more information about AIMS please go to http://www.albany.edu/aims/index.php 

Reproductive Health of Akwesasne Women: Lawrence Schell, Ph.D. Principle Investigator; Mia V. Gallo, Ph.D.; and David Carpenter, M.D Co-Investigators. This project seeks to determine whether the reproductive health of women of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe (Akwesasne) on the St. Lawrence River has been adversely affected by exposure to chemical pollutants, primarily polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The community is adjacent to one federal, and two state Superfund sites and the levels of PCBs among residents of the community are high, near the 95th percentile of CDC reference values. There is considerable concern in the Akwesasne community regarding difficulties in conceiving and bearing healthy children as well as for other health outcomes. This project is a collaborative effort between the St. Regis Mohawk Health Service (SRMHS), and the University at Albany/CEMHD. Between 2009 and 2014 the study recruited 215 women between 21 and 38 years of age. Analyses of the data to date showed a reduced chance of ovulation in relation to specific polychlorinated biphenyls (the mono-ortho congeners) and no relationship with other PCB congeners or with HCB or p,p’-DDE. BMI was another significant predictor of the chance of ovulation. Data reflecting other aspects of reproductive health, cardiovascular and immune system health continue to be analyzed. Publications are listed on the publication page.                                                                                                                                                 

Get Health’e’: Jennifer Manganello, Ph.D., Principle Investigator. Kim Colvin, Trudi Jacobson, Kelsey O'Brien, Co-Investigators. Health literacy plays a significant role in one’s ability to understand health information and navigate the health system.Since youth ages 18 to 24 are beginning to interact with the health system on their own, it is crucial to enhance skills for those with low health literacy. This is especially true for young adults from vulnerable populations, as health literacy is considered a key contributing factor to health disparities. This project seeks to reverse this troubling trend and reduce health disparities by developing an intervention that can be widely disseminated to enhance health literacy skills. Specifically, we will use a digital learning system to guide skill development in an online environment, an ideal way to reach young adults who are regularly online. Digital playlists consist of a curated group of digital learning experiences and resources (e.g. videos, articles) that are developed into a sequenced pathway.Badges are digital icons that can be added to a website or social media page, and represent successful completion of a task or experience. The use of online learning, digital playlists, and digital badges is a growing trend in higher education and other organizations that seek to recognize and validate non-traditional learning in an online environment. However, we found no evidence that such systems have been applied to health skill building.This innovative project will involve developing, pilot testing, and evaluating a digital playlist and badging intervention to build health literacy skills, Get Health’e’. While the intervention will eventually include multiple playlists targeting various constructs of health literacy, this proposed project will focus on one module addressing eHealth literacy. Activities will address skills such as searching the internet for health information, assessing credibility of electronic health information, and navigating health insurance websites. We will use pre/post test data collection to pilot test the intervention and will look to see if scale scores have improved for the skills being taught. This study will fill a significant gap in the health disparities field by developing an inexpensive and easily accessible intervention that can be tailored to a range of populations and age groups and promoted on a large scale.

Protecting the Health of Future Generations: Charles Buck, David O. Carpenter, Pamela Miller and Frank von Hippel, Principle Investigators. Assessing and preventing exposures to endocrine-disrupting flame retardant chemicals & PCBs in two Alaska Native Arctic Communities on St. Lawrence Island (to be funded NIEHS 8/1/17). The objectives of this community-based participatory research (CBPR) project are to investigate exposures, endocrine effects and mechanisms of developmental disruption associated with legacy contaminants and emerging flame retardant chemicals in two Yupik communities on St. Lawrence Island (SLI) in arctic Alaska. The Arctic is subject to atmospheric deposition of globally distilled persistent organic pollutants (POPs), acting as a hemispheric sink for POPs that are transported from lower latitudes and contains some of the most highly contaminated animals and people in the world. This study addresses a primary public health concern of the people of SLI by focusing on the levels and effects of legacy and emerging contaminants on the development of children in an arctic indigenous population that is vulnerable, underserved, and experiences significant health disparities. As young children are more highly exposed than adults, we will use innovative and minimally invasive techniques to assess exposure of children to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and emerging halogenated and non-halogenated organophosphate flame retardants. We will quantify PCBs and flame retardant chemicals in household dust, known to be an important exposure route. We will assess relationships among contaminant levels and evidence of health disruption via transcriptomics and endocrinology. We will use chemical concentrations in household dust and utilization of a subsistence diet as determined by stable isotope analysis to assess exposure pathways of these compounds. In order to understand the mechanistic basis of developmental disruption, and to have a reference for interpretation of human data, we will monitor patterns of gene expression, endocrinology and histology of our resident fish model, the stickleback, from both contaminated and reference sties. Collectively, we will increase our understanding of routes of exposure, endocrine disruption, and effects on the transcriptome of Yupik children exposed to high levels of PCBs and flame retardant chemicals. This study provides an opportunity to investigate the levels of PBDEs and emerging flame retardants in nails and blood in relation to health outcomes of arctic indigenous children for the first time. Our CBPR project will also empower SLI communities with the knowledge and tools they need to address important health disparities in their communities. Our results will inform public health interventions and improve health outcomes in arctic children broadly. Furthermore discovery of bioindicators relevant to early detection of developmental disruption will enable early intervention and improve health outcomes. Importantly we will build capacity through our CBPR approach, public health interventions and policy outreach, which will mitigate future exposure of SLI children to toxic chemicals.

The Transmissions of Violence and Mental Health Problems within Social Networks: Melissa Tracy Principle Investigator. University at Albany, Faculty Research Award Program-B Sponsor. The goal of this project is to examine the spread of violence and mental health problems through different types of social relationships (e.g., between parents and children; between intimate partners; between peers) over the life course. We are using secondary data from population-based longitudinal studies (e.g., the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health) to inform an agent-based model of violence, substance use, and mental health outcomes in a simulated urban population. This model will be used to test alternative theories about the role of social connections as both increasing and decreasing risk for adverse outcomes. In addition, we plan to test hypothetical interventions aimed at reducing racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in adverse outcomes.