Top School of Public Health news stories of 2017
In 2017, the School of Public Health launched a celebration of our tenth anniversary, and transformed the Xfinity Center into a huge dental clinic and health equity fair. SPH research added new knowledge of how physical activity affects brain health, and made links between what we tweet and how health we are likely to be, among other important findings.
Here we recognize and honor the research, activities and people who topped SPH news this year!
Could the initiation of a simple walking exercise program help older adults to reverse declines in key brain regions? A new study led by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers adds more information about how physical activity impacts brain physiology and offers hope that it may be possible to reestablish some protective neuronal connections. Dr. J. Carson Smith, associate professor of kinesiology, and colleagues explored how a 12-week walking intervention with older adults, ages 60-88, affected functionality of a brain region known to show declines in people suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s disease.
Could young adults who regularly consume highly caffeinated energy drinks be at risk for future substance use? A new study by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, suggests that there is reason for concern. In a study of young adults across a five-year period (from ages 21-25), Dr. Amelia Arria and colleagues with the Center on Young Adult Health and Development (CYAHD) found evidence that individuals who regularly consumed highly caffeinated energy drinks, and sustained that consumption over time, were significantly more likely to use cocaine, nonmedically use prescription stimulants (NPS), and be at risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD) at age 25.
African American adults are less likely than Whites to get an annual flu shot (39% vs. 47%), and public health efforts to address this racial disparity have had little impact on increasing vaccination rates to date. A study led by Professor Sandra Crouse Quinn in the University of Maryland School of Public Health is the first to explore racial factors and how they may influence vaccine attitudes and behaviors.
Twitter is used by many to keep up with breaking news and influential views, but School of Public Health Assistant Professor Quynh Nguyen is using it for a different aim: to predict health outcomes. Dr. Nguyen, new this year to the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, analyzed 80 million random Twitter messages—a random 1 percent sample of publicly available geotagged tweets sent that year—to learn more about people’s health in this newly published research.
Taylor Rogers, a Master of Public Health student in the new health equity track, was awarded a summer research award from the University of Nebraska College of Public Health's Cancer Epidemiology in their Special Populations (CEESP) program. After attending an orientation trip in Nebraska in the spring, she spent 15 weeks over the summer in Tanzania studying cancer patients.
Robin Sawyer didn’t set out to be the Steven Spielberg of College Park, but during 33 years at UMD, he’s directed five educational videos about sex, making him about as close to a Hollywood star as you’d find on campus. Sawyer, associate professor of behavioral and community health, taught the immensely popular course “Human Sexuality” to tens of thousands of Terps and became a national pioneer in sex education, bringing into the open once-taboo topics such as date rape, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases through his research and appearances on TV programs like “The Today Show.”
To help provide stopgap care and connect local community members with resources that will support their ongoing health, the Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Health Equity Festival, organized by the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s Center for Health Equity in partnership with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and the Maryland State Dental Association and Foundation, provided free, emergency dental and health care to adults in need on Friday, September 8 and Sunday, September 10, 2017.
Food insecurity – the lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, safe, nutritious food – is a serious problem for many Americans, including young adults at college campuses across the country. The potential negative impact on educational success may be significant, yet the scope of the problem has not been well documented or understood. Two new publications by Assistant Professor Devon Payne-Sturges in the University of Maryland School of Public Health, add to the knowledge of the extent of food insecurity among college students.
The "Health in All Policies" bill, signed into law by Gov. Hogan on May 4, will engage the UMD School of Public Health’s Center for Health Equity (M-CHE) in advising state lawmakers on healthy public policy. With support from Md. Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (pictured at left) and others, M-CHE Director Stephen Thomas (pictured at right) recommended the collaborative approach outlined by the American Public Health Association, which aims to ensure that policymakers and stakeholders include health considerations in their decision-making across sectors and policy areas.
The American Public Health Association Student Assembly newsletter included an article written by Francine Baker, a student in the SPH Public Health Science program at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). The article shared details about a recent multidisciplinary panel event on the opioid epidemic organized by students in public health, criminal justice and pharmacy programs at USG. “Even though we are small in number, USG is doing great things in the world of public health,” Baker said.