Mission and Goals
The Institute for Health and the Environment strives to promote interdisciplinary research among University at Albany faculty and students and other local institutions, particularly those interested in environmental science, ecology, environmental policy, environmental health, environmental law, geographic information systems, hazardous waste management, occupational health, risk assessment, management and communication, urban environmental health and the social and psychological aspects of environmental pollution in regard to human behavior.
It is well recognized that many factors determine health and illness, such as individual lifestyles and behaviors, genetics, culture, socioeconomic conditions and access to health services. Until recently, changes in the natural environment caused by chemical pollution, rapid industrialization, war, and climate change are dimensions that have been largely overlooked as significant contributors to human health.
Higher levels of birth defects, cancer, neurological deficits and immune deficiency reported in communities near hazardous waste sites is one of many examples of the mounting evidence that the state of the living environment is important for both physical and psychological health.
In response to these concerns, national agencies including the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) have established common objectives to facilitate multidisciplinary research (basic and applied) and to establish partnerships with members of affected communities. The Institute for Health and the Environment aligns itself with these objectives, as reflected in our goals and research interests.
The primary goals of the Institute for Health and the Environment are to:
- Support and facilitate interdisciplinary research and training grant applications
- Provide secretarial support for application writing and submission process
- Provide resources for grant-related activities
- Encourage involvement of faculty from different departments and schools
- Provide an infrastructure that will facilitate and support collaboration on interdisciplinary activities:
- between community grassroots organizations and University researchers, particularly in areas related to environmental justice;
- among UA faculty and faculty from other academic institutions in the region and the nation who are concerned with health and the environment;
- between professional staff in the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation, Health and Transportation, and in the Empire State Development Corporation, NYSERDA, etc., with regulatory responsibilities in these areas
- Promote and support interdisciplinary training of graduate students with interest in the environment and health
- Promote attempts to obtain funds for student support through grants
- Encourage and facilitate communication between participating faculty and students to become better acquainted and forge long-lasting professional relationships
- Hold a regular seminar series
- Organize and sponsor symposia and conferences
- Promote and support interdisciplinary international activities in the broad area of health and the environment
The research interests of the Institute for Health and the Environment include but are not limited to:
- Environmental agents that directly produce physical injury and illness
- Sociopolitical and systemic factors that lead to the development of slums, blighted and contaminated areas, and policies which encourage and prolong the deterioration of these areas
- Policies and technical advances for dealing with hazardous waste sites and "brownfields"
- Injury and death resulting from accidents, crime, tragedies and disasters and the evaluation of technologies, environmental conditions, changes in behavior, public services, market incentives, and changes in official regulations that influence the frequency and impact of these events
- Personal choices that promote injury (e.g. substance use and abuse)
- Factors that cause or promote personalities prone to impulsiveness or violence
- Health advantages of walking, gardening, biking, jogging and athletics
- Health impacts of making exercise opportunities more widely available and accessible in communities
- The use of geographic information systems (gis) mapping and analysis to investigate the relationships between the spatial distribution of environmental variables, population characteristics and mobility, and variables related to morbidity and mortality
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