Minority Health Conference to Explore Environment's Effects

The environment where we live, work and play profoundly influences our health. That intersection between health and the “built environment” will be the focus of the 26th Annual Minority Health Conference sponsored by UNC’s School of Public Health.

Titled “Health and the Built Environment: The Effects of Where We Live, Work and Play,” the daylong conference takes place Feb. 27 at the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education. School of Public Health students are organizing the event.

“The built environment has powerful ramifications for public health because it literally surrounds us,” said Danielle Spurlock, conference co-chair and a master’s degree student in city and regional planning and in the School of Public Health’s department of health behavior and health education.

“Increased rates of cancer, asthma, diabetes and other environmentally sensitive conditions are the readily apparent effects of the built environment on human health. This year’s conference brings together community members, public health practitioners, public health researchers, educators, land use planners and industry officials to better understand and address these man-made threats to public health.”

Conference sessions will explore how housing, land use patterns, transportation infrastructure, and industrial and business corridors affect health, disease rates, physical activity and quality of life.

“Other conference topics are issues such as environmental justice, access to quality food and occupational health concerns – elements of the built environment that affect minority populations,” said Marisa Guptarak, conference co-chair and a master’s degree student in health behavior and health education.

Mary E. Northridge, associate professor in Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, will deliver the day’s William T. Small Jr. Keynote Lecture.

A noted advocate of social change to eliminate health inequalities, Northridge frequently lectures and publishes on issues related to the environmental and social determinants of health inequalities. She also is editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Public Health and deputy director of the Harlem Health Promotion Center.

The keynote address, which begins at 9:30 a.m., will be taped for broadcast via satellite from Chapel Hill and over the Web at 2 p.m.

Session topics for the day include “Chemical Exposure and Farmworker Health,” “Transportation Corridors and the Spread of Disease,” “The Health Implications of Affordable Housing and Housing Segregation” and “Obesity, Physical Activity and the Built Environment.”

Information is available online about registration, the conference agenda and details on satellite and Web broadcasts, or call (919) 966-4032.

The conference is the oldest student-organized minority health conference nationwide and is coordinated by a team of organizations and programs of the School of Public Health: the Minority Student Caucus, the Student Union Board, the Minority Health Project and the N.C. Institute for Public Health.

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