UB funds projects on refugee issues, air pollution’s effects on pregnant women in China

Release Date: November 8, 2016

Samina Raja, associate professor of urban planning

Kim Griswold, associate professor of family medicine, psychiatry and public health and health professions

Lina Mu, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Two projects addressing refugee health issues in Buffalo and a study on the effects of air pollution on pregnant women in China have been selected to receive funding through the University at Buffalo’s Community for Global Health Equity (CGHE).

CGHE is one of three Communities of Excellence established by UB in 2015 to address major global issues through groundbreaking interdisciplinary scholarship.

In particular, the Community for Global Health Equity brings together researchers from the health sciences, architecture and planning, engineering and other disciplines to develop novel and practical solutions to pressing health equity concerns globally and locally.

“Developing ways to train students in the clinical professions to deliver high-quality culturally engaged health care and analyzing the changes in fundamental relationships with food among refugees in Western New York is immediately responsive to the needs expressed by our vibrant local New American community,” says CGHE Director Pavani Ram.

“Air pollution exposure has been identified as a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and, yet, the effects of that exposure on pregnant women and fetuses has been largely understudied in the highest pollution environments. Supporting the coalescence of productive multidisciplinary teams to generate preliminary data that will support the development of exciting research trajectories is central to CGHE’s mission.”

Below are descriptions of each of the three projects.

Dealing with disparities in food acquisition

A number of factors can negatively affect the diets of refugees in their new city, leading to chronic disease. Contributors to the food-related health inequities of the refugee population include poor access to transportation, changes to how food is acquired and prepared, the availability of culturally acceptable foods and the scarcity of economic resources.

This project is a two-year pilot study of how Burmese-American residents adapt to new food environments post-resettlement by examining how they acquire nutritious and culturally acceptable foods.

Participants in the study will be Burmese-American adult residents who arrived in the U.S. as refugees and have lived in Buffalo for a minimum of six months.

The project is being led by Samina Raja, associate professor of urban planning, with researchers from the School of Public Health and Health Professions, School of Social Work and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Community partners include Burmese Community Services, UBMD, Journey’s End Refugee Services and Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo.

Role of interpreters in health care for refugees

Refugees face cultural and language barriers that often result in less access to high quality health care and lower rates of physician visits and preventative services, compared to other populations. Compared to their English-speaking counterparts, patients with limited English proficiency spend less time with a health care provider, and receive substandard medical treatment.

This project will address the need for health care trainees to understand why interpreters are important in health communication and how appropriate interpretation enhances that communication. Students will also learn about the legal justification for providing trained interpreters for patients with limited proficiency in English.

Buffalo-area refugees will be recruited to support the training of UB students in medicine, nursing and social work to hone their skills in cultural awareness and communicating with non-English-speaking patients through the use of an interpreter. Refugee participation will also help inform best practices on the use of interpretation in delivering high quality health care services by, for example, inquiring about sensitive cultural contexts.

Secondly, the project features an emphasis on interprofessional training, exposure to alternative cultures and the discourse between disciplines, which will enhance professional trainee collaboration and offer a sustainable mechanism for ongoing training in interprofessional education.

The project is being led by Kim Griswold, associate professor of family medicine, psychiatry and public health and health professions, with involvement from faculty in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Professions, Department of Communication, School of Social Work and the School of Law. The International Institute of Buffalo is also a partner on the pilot project.

Air pollution’s impact during pregnancy

Pregnant women and newborns are the most vulnerable population and their well-being, although improved significantly in the last few decades, is still one of the major global health concerns that needs to be addressed.

Air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk and airborne insults may interfere with and/or impact the early pregnancy, pregnancy complications, fetus development and birth outcome. To better understand the maternal and neonatal effects of intrauterine air pollution exposure, a large-scale cohort study with better personal air pollution exposure measurement from very early pregnancy is needed.

In this pilot project, researchers will recruit and follow-up 200 pregnant women from participating hospitals in Beijing, China, to better understand how high-pollution environments impact pregnant women and fetuses.

The study aims to:

  • Use personal air sensor data to characterize women’s exposure level to air pollution during each period of pregnancy
  • Assess their relationships with miscarriage, pregnancy complications and birth outcomes
  • Explore the association between child development and intrauterine air pollution exposure.

The project is being led by Lina Mu, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health. Also involved are faculty members from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the School of Public Health and Health Professions. Collaborators include Tsinghua University and several hospitals in Beijing, China.

Media Contact Information

David J. Hill
News Content Manager
Public Health, Architecture, Urban and Regional Planning, Sustainability
Tel: 716-645-4651
davidhil@buffalo.edu