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