Fundamental Causes

Fundamental causes are structural factors that are the root source of multiple disease outcomes. These fundamental causes often influence health outcomes by way of their contribution to multiple risk factors. Understanding fundamental causes is important because addressing them can lead to substantial improvements in a wide array of urban health problems. Researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health are currently working on projects focusing on how the fundamental causes of education, incarceration, SES, and neighborhood composition affect a range of health outcomes in urban settings.

BARD PRISON INITIATIVE AND PUBLIC HEALTH IN NYC

Dr. Robert Fullilove works with the Bard Prison Initiative to create the opportunity for incarcerated men and women to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences.  The rate of post-release employment among the program’s participants is high and recidivism is stunningly low. Dr. Fullilove teaches public health strategies, theories, and methods to program participants with the aim of training them to contribute to the public health needs of New York City upon their release from prison.

GETTING READY FOR SCHOOL

Dr. Helena Duch is the principal investigator of a three-year initiative funded by the US Department of Education to develop and test a school readiness intervention, Getting Ready for School, aimed at narrowing the achievement gap for preschool children in urban Head Start programs. The intervention targets the development of early literacy, math and self-regulation skills, predictors of long-term school success, and physical and mental health. The national focus on universal prekindergarten highlights the timeliness of this initiative.

NEW YORK RESTORATION PROJECT, HAVEN PROJECT

In the fall of 2014, investigators from the Built Environment and Health research group and the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University, led by Urban+Health Initiative co-leader Dr. Gina Lovasi, were invited by the New York Restoration Project to join their planning effort for the Haven Project. The Haven Project aims to renovate open spaces in the Mott Haven and Port Morris sections of the South Bronx, with an eye toward the health and social benefits of an improved physical environment. A summary of research evidence to inform design decisions, and interactive map website were created in time for the official July 2015 unveiling of the project at an event on the Mott Haven pier attended by government officials and staff, researchers, community advocates, and area residents. 

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH

The Built Environmental and Health Research Group studies how neighborhood built and social environments influence health and health behaviors. Research conducted by the group serves as part of the scientific rationale for the New York City ‘Active Design Guidelines’ and for the Mayor’s Food Policy Task Force’s ‘Food Retail Expansion to Support Health’ (FRESH) initiative. Team members hail from the Departments of Epidemiology and Environmental Health Sciences and the Columbia Population Research Center.