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.
What happens in pregnancy and the early stages of infancy can have a profound impact on child and adolescent development, and may even affect the health of individuals as adults. A growing understanding of which events may be most harmful for a growing fetus or newborn can lead to improvements in the health of babies, but it can also create quite a bit of fear and anxiety in expecting mothers and new parents. How do new parents sift through the many “dos and don’ts” that are thrown at them during pregnancy? What does the evidence base actually support? In previous podcast episodes, we discussed infertility (how to get pregnant) and maternal mortality (how to keep mothers safe during delivery); on this episode we focus on the health of the fetus and newborn baby. Bryan James and Hailey Banack chat with Robert Platt from McGill University about the latest in perinatal epidemiology, and why it is so hard to find answers to these questions using observational studies!
Can a positive outlook on life actually have a direct effect on our health? Optimism appears to be linked to better health and the ability to cope with and bounce back from disease and surgery, while pessimistic people are more likely to develop hypertension, heart disease and die prematurely than their optimistic peers. So what is behind these relationships? Can we really just will good health into existence by just thinking about it? Or are optimistic persons more likely to engage in healthy behaviors? Or could a skeptic (those pessimists!) argue that healthier people can just afford to be more optimistic, or that socioeconomic status or some other life condition allows certain people to be healthier and more optimistic? In this episode we dive deep into the link between optimism and health as host Bryan James chats with Eric Kim, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia and Research Scholar at the Michael Smith Foundation for Health, and Bill Chopik , assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University.
By nearly any metric, Black and brown Americans are disproportionately policed, arrested, convicted, and incarcerated compared to white Americans. One in 3 Black boys born in America in 2001 can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Furthermore, Black Americans are more likely to be physically injured and killed at the hands of the police—a reality that manifested in the dramatic response to the killing of George Floyd and other high profile cases, leading to Black Lives Matter protests around the nation and the world. Racialized policing is rooted in our country’s history and legacy of systemic racism, and has substantial negative effects on the health and well being of communities of color. Living under constant threat of surveillance takes a toll on mental and physical health and can lead to and exacerbate racial health disparities. In this episode, Bryan James is joined by John Pamplin, a Provost’s postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Urban Science & Progress at New York University, as well as the Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, as well as Roland Thorpe, professor in the department of health, behavior, and society at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. They discuss the historical and structural causes of racialized policing, its effect on health, the “myths” used to justify it, and end with some ideas on what we can do about it.
In honor of the Society for Epidemiologic Research 2020 Meeting, the hosts of four epidemiology podcasts came together to record the first ever “crossover event” to talk about their experiences recording our shows and what podcasting can bring to the table for the field of epidemiology. Join the hosts of Epidemiology Counts (Bryan James), SERiousEPi (Matt Fox, Hailey Banack), Casual Inference (Lucy D’Agostino McGowan), and Shiny Epi People (Lisa Bodnar) as they engage in a fun and informative (we hope!) conversation of the burgeoning field of epidemiology podcasting, emceed by Geetika Kalloo. The audio podcast will be released on some of our pod feeds, and the video recording will be available to watch on the SER website.
COVID-19 is surging as the United States heads into winter, with 100,000 new cases reported in a single day for the first time on the day of this podcast recording. The presence of this virus is a constant in our lives and our communities, and more and more of us have been tested for the coronavirus or are considering it. But how do you know when to get tested, which test to get, and how to interpret the results? With so much discussion of false negatives and false positives and the correct timing of testing, even the savviest of us can find it very confusing. And with the holidays approaching, some of us want to know if testing can be used to see family safely. Our infectious disease experts, Justin Lessler and Michael Mina, are back to provide their expertise on COVID-19 testing on this latest episode.
Maternal mortality is a key indicator of population health. While the leading causes of maternal death vary from place to place, most of these deaths are preventable; accordingly, most wealthy countries have reported steady declines in mortality rates over time. However, recent reports from the US suggest that maternal mortality is on the rise, prompting an abundance of concern (and media coverage) about the quality of maternal healthcare in the US. What’s behind these numbers? Is the US really in crisis? More generally, how do we make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women? In this episode, host Bryan James is joined by Nichole Austin, postdoctoral fellow at McGill University, along with Dr. KS Joseph, Professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia and the Children’s and Women’s Hospital and Health Centre of British Columbia.
Note: We apologize for the sound quality of this episode which is lower than our usual standards due to technical problems during the recording.
Hurricane and fire seasons are affecting communities across the US and globally. Over 5 million acres have burned in the Western US. Smoke from these fires reached all the way to New York and Washington DC. Natural disasters are made worse by climate change, but climate change is more than just disasters. Climate change can affect our health in a range of different ways. In this episode, host Bryan James is joined by Anna Pollack to understand how climate change affects health, along with epidemiologist and climate change expert, Dr. Brooke Anderson, Associate Professor at Colorado State University.
Sleep is essential for wellbeing and overall health. We spend up to a third of our lives asleep and the general state of “sleep health” is an important question throughout our lifespan. The CDC has estimated that 1 in 3 American Adults do not achieve the recommendation of at least 7 hours of sleep each night for adults aged 18–60 years. Inadequate sleep has been associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and dementia. Bryan James and Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon host a discussion with Neil Caporaso, a Senior Investigator in the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute about the epidemiology and science of sleep and health.