May 26, 2017

Applied Environmental Health Assistant Professor Devon Payne-Sturges has been awarded a Fulbright under their Senior Specialist Program. In this program assignments are for shorter periods of time compared to the traditional Fulbright. Dr. Payne-Sturges will be working in the Hochschule für Gesundheit, Department of Community Health, at the University of Applied Sciences in Bochum, Germany for the month of October.

Dr. Payne-Sturges’ research has focused on topics of environmental justice and cumulative exposures to multiple chemicals in the United States. “Now I will be engaging with researchers on these issues in an international context,” she said. “Cumulative risks are seen as one determinant of health inequalities. I am hoping to learn how these issues are addressed in Germany and to bring back models, frameworks, policy approaches that could be applied here. We have not made much progress on developing public policy responses to evidence of cumulative risk here in the US.”

In Germany, Dr. Payne-Sturges will be working in the “Digitale Methoden partizipativer Sozialraumanalyse Lab” or “DiPS-Lab.” Its purpose is to provide advanced training of students, practitioners and citizens on the collection and mapping of information relating to real-world settings, from the perspective of residents of a neighborhood, certain communities or stakeholders. This information could range widely to include any kind of topic relevant for community health: sources of air pollution, health care barriers for the elderly in the neighborhood, and cultural-specific health services are just a few examples.

One overall goal in the field of community health is to reduce health disparities. Economically deprived people are often exposed to multiple environmental burdens in their home communities. The tools and methods applied in DiPS-Lab are used to evaluate these cumulative risks. “Partnering with the DiPS-Lab team will facilitate understanding of the similarities and dissimilarities of environmental justice issues between our countries, and the sharing of intervention approaches that are successful to end health disparities,” Dr. Payne-Sturges said.

“I’m excited!” she said. “I anticipate my connections with Hochschule für Gesundheit will lead to increased opportunities for collaboration on a variety of research projects around cumulative environmental health risk and health disparities, which will be among the first UMD - German academic institution collaborations on public health research.”