Population Health Sciences and Epidemiology are thought about as different from one another by some, and largely overlapping by others. Depending on who you talk to, either view might spark an argument. In this crossover episode, I get the chance to chat with Aresha Martinez-Cardoso, Darrell Hudson, and Michael Esposito, hosts of the IAPHS podcast. We may or may not actually answer the question: what’s the difference between these two fields anyway?
Trans health is a growing area in public health. This is largely due to the growing number of individuals who feel comfortable expressing gender identities that do not confirm to binary male and female categories. The 2015 summary of the US transgender survey reported around 27,000 respondents, over 4 times as many as the previous 2008-2009 survey. Respondents also reported greater acceptance among family, friends, and colleagues, with over 50% of respondents describing them as ‘supportive.’ More notable in the survey was the volume of hardships experienced by transgender community members. Nearly any adverse health outcome or condition is experienced in greater proportion in the transgender community. It is also notable that people of color in the trans community tend have a greater proportion of adverse experiences compared to their white counterparts.
On this episode, we are joined by Dr. Will Beckham, an assistant scientist in the department of health, behaviour, and society here at JHBSPH, to discuss the evolution of research on trans health, where it is, and where it’s going.
Did you know trillions of microorganisms such as bacteria, virus, and fungi are living inside of your body right now? The microbiome can be described as the community of microbes that reside in a particular part the human body. The past two decades has seen an exponential increase in the number of publications related to the microbiome and how it affects human health. There is growing evidence that the microbiome, in all its complexity, can impact health and disease. Some of the diseases that have been linked to the microbiome may be surprising!
On this episode, we welcome Noel Mueller, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, to give us a primer on the microbiome and how it relates to our health.
The most recent stage of the COVID-19 pandemic has been defined by the surge of the Omicron variant, a version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is highly contagious yet seemingly not as likely to result in severe infection. Cases are now declining in most parts of the country—but yet the rate of infection is still as high as it has ever been pre-Omicron [editor’s note: host erroneously left out “pre-Omicron” in Intro to podcast]. So what is next? Is the risk now low enough to relax mask mandates and resume some sense of “normalcy”? Or should we expect more variants to emerge that will cause another surge? Is COVID-19 now endemic, and if so, what does that really mean? In this episode, hosts Bryan James and Ghassan Hamra discuss what we have learned from the Omicron surge and the transition to endemicity with Justin Lessler from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and Cecile Viboud from the Fogarty International Center at the NIH.
Social media is a major part of many people’s day to day lives, including children. Social media can connect young people to other people, groups, imagery, and ideas in a way that was never imaginable two decades ago. This can be exciting but also potentially harmful to vulnerable youth with developing minds. In October of 2021, a former facebook data scientist testified to congress that their internal research showed potential harms the social media platform can inflict on youth mental health, including increasing depression, suicidal thoughts and encouraging eating disorders, especially among girls. However, there are certainly potential benefits to social media for many young people, including encouraging engagement with family and friends more easily. In this episode of Epidemiology Counts, hosts Ghassan Hamra and Bryan James discuss the impact of social media on youth mental health with Kira Riehm, postdoctoral fellow at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.
Relevant links discussed in this Episode:
In the second episode on how the built environment of our cities and towns affects our health, we discuss how living near green spaces and natural environments can provide health benefits. The feeling of serenity while immersed in nature and vegetation is a near universal human experience; modern researchers are collecting evidence that it may be protective against health outcomes such as adverse mental health, cardiovascular disease, and mortality. Green spaces can decrease stress, promote physical and social activity, and mitigate air pollution and noise. We discuss how researchers are taking advantage of modern technology and databases to measure greenness using satellite imagery and large land-use databases linked to study participants’ addresses. This episode was a treat for host Bryan James, as he got to interview an expert he knows well: his brother! Peter James is an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, as well as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Also, we officially welcome Ghassan Hamra as the co-host of Epidemiology Counts!
Sports is life. Fans have a deep devotion to their preferred teams from their alma maters or home towns. Fans spend shocking amounts of time discussing things like player stats and predictions of final game scores. The players are expected to be at the top of their game at all times. Regardless of the sport, players demand a lot from their bodies. The safety of players is paramount, and findings ways to minimize injury risk is key. Epidemiologists can be key players in helping identify ways to minimize risk of injury. Understanding what aspects of training are more relevant to injury risk, including specific activities and intensity, can help players avoid short term injuries. And in the long term, there are concerns for many players of lifetime consequences as a result of their sport, notably Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in football and football, or Soccer as we call it in the USA). We talk with Drs. Christina Mack and Mackenzie Herzog of IQVIA about how epidemiologists can work with players and teams to minimize sports injury.
Our health is very much shaped by the structure of the spaces around us, what we often refer to as our built environment. The concept of the built environment was developed for fields of urban planning and architecture, and includes any aspects of our spaces that influence human activity, from density of homes and buildings, access to transportation options and community spaces, and the streets and sidewalks, or the lack thereof. The built environment is also highly relevant to public health. The structure of spaces around us will impact whether or not we elect to commute by automobile, public transit, or walking or riding a bicycle; it can impact selection of the foods we eat, proximity to health services, and, thereby, has greater impacts on equity, by driving housing prices and access to resources. Hosts Bryan James and Ghassan Hamra chat with Steve Mooney, assistant professor at University of Washington – Seattle about how our built environment shapes our transportation and pedestrian decisions.
Health in America is closely tied to where we live. Higher rates of preventable health conditions are concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods that are more likely to be home to a higher proportion of Americans of color. Despite modern anti-discrimination laws that make people legally free to move wherever they like, the reality is that our cities and communities remain largely racially segregated. This segregation is not a result of chance, but rather the direct result of business practices and government housing policy that date back to almost a century ago. One notorious example is redlining, in which services such as home loans or insurance were denied to Black and Brown Americans by characterizing the communities that the lived in as “too risky”. In this episode of Epidemiology Counts, we discuss the legacy of racial segregation and practices such as redlining that have shaped our communities, and the lasting effect of segregation on health disparities in America. Host Bryan James and Ghassan Hamra, assistant professor in Epidemiology and Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, talk to Dr. Sharrelle Barber a social epidemiologist at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Heath and leader of the new Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements and Population Health Equity.
The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines that are highly effective against infection and severe disease in late 2020 appeared to be the silver bullet that would end the pandemic and bring life back to the way it was in pre-pandemic times. But the emergence of the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus, coupled with large portions of the eligible public remaining unvaccinated, has dampened much of this initial hope and led to what is being called the Fourth Wave of the pandemic. The surge in infections and hospitalizations in this latest wave is primarily in the unvaccinated; however, many vaccinated persons are experiencing “breakthrough infections” in which the virus evades the protection afforded by the vaccine. How can we interpret what these breakthrough infections mean regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine and the need for continuation of masking and other behaviors? In this episode, we aim to provide tools to prepare you to interpret the many reports on breakthrough infections encountered on the news and other media. Host Bryan James talks to Justin Lessler, now a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Lucy D’Agostino McGowan, assistant professor of statistics at Wake Forest University, about breakthrough COVID-19 infections and the Delta variant. They also talk about unvaccinated kids returning to school amongst all of this and the potential for booster shots.