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A cross-divisional department spanning

Research Areas

Environmental Inequities and Injustice

environmental injustice

Communities are often disproportionately impacted by environmental and occupational hazards based on income, race, national origin, and other factors. Public health researchers have a vital role to play in understanding exposures and rates of negative health outcomes in different populations. Our research aims to increase understanding of these inequities and potential solutions among community members, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

Research Highlights

Urban planning has focused on built environment issues in cities such as urban sprawl, availability of green space, and infrastructure for physical activity. However, in small southern towns, there are built environment issues which currently either are understudied or completely neglected by researchers. This article describes the built environment issues that burden unserved and underserved communities of color in North Carolina.

Our researchers use a case study of Mebane, NC to describe how neighborhoods of color in this small town have been impacted by environmental injustice through the denial of basic amenities, particularly sewer and water services, and overburdened by unhealthy land uses through inequities in the use of extraterritorial jurisdiction and annexation statutes. These planning inequities create public health risks for residents and nearby populations. 

Associated Faculty

Jessie Buckley, PhD*

Dr. Buckley's research is grounded in the developmental origins of health and disease framework and focuses on determining effects of early life exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. She is actively engaged in evaluating the environmental obesogen hypothesis, which posits that chemical exposures during critical developmental windows can result in permanent changes that predispose individuals toward obesity.


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Jillian Fry, PhD

Fry is interested in research that contributes to understanding the impacts of food animal production on environmental public health, especially in terms of disparities and environmental justice; resource use; effectiveness of regulation and policy processes relevant to food animal production at the local, state, and federal levels.


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Peter DeCarlo, PhD*

Peter DeCarlo, PhD, studies the chemical composition of gas particles in the air to improve our understanding of climate, air quality, and health impacts of pollutants.

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Shima Hamidi, PhD*

Dr. Hamidi has expertise in geospatial data, built environment, housing and transportation and their connections to public health.


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Chris Heaney, PhD*

Chris' research focuses on environmentally-mediated impacts on health and well-being, specifically community land use, waste disposal, and food production practices, and integrates the academic disciplines of environmental microbiology, molecular biology, immunology, epidemiology, and community-based participatory research (CBPR).


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Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá, PhD*

Lesliam's research focuses on characterizing environmental exposures to endocrine disrupting agents and examining their potential health effects on highly vulnerable, low-income and minority populations underrepresented and understudied in public health research, including occupational populations, pregnant women and women of reproductive age, and children.


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Genee Smith, PhD*

Dr. Smith explores disease patterns with the aim to expand upon the knowledge of understudied relationships between climate change and infectious respiratory diseases, including conditions such as Tuberculosis and Influenza. Her research examines how climate change has the ability to modify exposure to disease, alter host susceptibility to disease, and impact disease morbidity.


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*Denotes faculty who are accepting PhD students.