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UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professors Dr. Michael Jerrett and Dr. Yifang Zhu have been recognized for their work at the nexus of public and environmental health with the UCLA Faculty of the Year awards at the annual 2021 Green Gala.
“I’m honored by this award. The work demonstrates the importance of environmental quality in reducing the spread of COVID-19," Jerrett said. "But it also shows that some of the unequal burdens of Covid-19 on Black and Latinx communities may in part result from higher exposures to air pollution.”
Jerrett, professor of environmental health sciences and co-director of the UCLA Center for Healthy Climate Solutions, and Zhu, senior associate dean for academic programs and professor of environmental health sciences, were honored at UCLA’s virtual Green Gala 2021 this past month.
“Dr. Jerrett’s and Dr. Zhu’s most recent study investigates whether air pollution relates to COVID-19 incidence and mortality in neighborhoods of Los Angeles County,” said Duane Muller, assistant director with UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, who nominated the professors for the award. “In the last year, Los Angeles was a global epicenter for the COVID-19 pandemic with more than 1.2 million cases to date. As our region recovers from this global pandemic and rebuild towards a more equitable and inclusive future, we can learn so much from this groundbreaking study during this climate emergency.”
Zhu’s research focuses on air pollution, environmental exposures, and aerosol science and technology, and specifically on measuring and modeling particle emissions, transport, and transformation in both outdoor and indoor environments, as well as assessing and mitigating the associated adverse health effects.
“Both air pollution and COVID-19 are public health challenges,” Zhu said. “Both disproportionately affect the most vulnerable population of our society, people living in environmental justice and low-income communities.”
Jerrett is an expert on how the built environment affects public health, from exposure to pollution to how the design of cities influences physical activity, behavior and obesity, and has studied the disparities in health outcomes among different socioeconomic classes, specifically how to understand the social distribution of exposure to air pollution among different communities.
“As UCLA looks to co-develop sustainable interventions that center on improving equity, diversity and inclusion in the Los Angeles region, this research is fundamental, and the university is very pleased to recognize world-renowned faculty like Dr. Zhu and Dr. Jerrett,” said Nurit Katz, the university’s chief sustainability officer. “By improving air quality across our communities, we can also create healthier Angelenos and a more livable, equitable, resilient, clean and sustainable future for all.”