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Research Highlights

From the November 2012 Magazine

Women in an HIV prevention trial in Malawi were more likely to reveal information about sensitive behaviors when undertaking an audio computer-assisted self-interview than when asked the same questions face-to-face by a human interviewer, a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health study has found.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that $750 billion is lost each year to wasteful or excessive health care spending – dollars that add minimal value to health and well being. In a paper published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Los Angeles County Department of Public health calculate that this spending comes at a substantial cost.

heavy freeway traffic

Two separate studies by UCLA Fielding School of Public Health research groups raise concerns about the potential health effects of exposure to vehicle-related pollution near freeways. In dense urban areas such as Southern California, as much as half of the population lives within 1.5 kilometers of a freeway; more than 10 percent of U.S. households are located within 100 meters of four-lane highways.

The occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases within a population appears to be lowest in communities where core public health activities are shared by many partners, according to a study by a group headed by Dr. Hector P. Rodriguez, associate professor of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found, conversely, that public health systems where the local health department shoulders much of the effort and offers comprehensive services are likely to have higher STD rates.

foreclosed houses with signs in their yards

Middle-age and older adults living in neighborhoods with historically high rates of unemployment are more likely to experience symptoms of depression than those whose neighborhoods have lower jobless rates, regardless of whether they are employed themselves, according to a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health study headed by Drs. Richard G. Wight and Carol S. Aneshensel of the Department of Community Health Sciences. The findings also suggest that residing in a high-unemployment neighborhood earlier in life takes a toll on an individual’s mental health later in life.

In China, 350 million people smoke. Each year, 1 million die from smoking-related disease, and many more become disabled. Approximately 20 million Chinese farmers produce the world’s largest share of tobacco, nearly 40 percent of the global supply. What is the key to cutting the number of deaths and smoking-related health problems? Convince Chinese farmers to grow some other crop.

From the June 2012 Magazine

Sexual minority stress, along with aging-related stress, jeopardizes the mental health of midlife and older gay men, according to a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health-led study published in the American Journal of Public Health. In the study, sexual minority stress included the men’s perceptions that they needed to conceal their sexual orientation or that others were uncomfortable with or avoided them because of their sexual orientation.


Coffee may do more than keep us awake; a study led by Dr. Simin Liu, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, adds to evidence that the caffeine in one of the world’s most popular beverages may also contribute to better health. Specifically, Liu’s group has provided a new explanation for the association of caffeinated coffee consumption with lower type 2 diabetes risk.


The growing diversity of the U.S. immigrant population underscores the need for improved cultural competence and an increased role for health care providers in facilitating the integration of the foreign-born population into the U.S. health care system, according to a research paper co-authored by Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante, assistant professor of health services in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

Commercial aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) emit into nearby areas large quantities of ultrafine particles – small particles that are not regulated but have been shown to be more toxic than larger particles – according to a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health study published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.

UCLA researchers may have found a key to identifying Parkinson’s disease patients who will progress rapidly toward motor decline, a finding that raises hopes for the development of new therapies and could help to identify patients who would most benefit from early intervention.

From the November 2011 Magazine

Community representatives can be trained to engage effectively in research and to use others’ findings for policy advocacy and program development, according to a study conducted at a three-day community-based health-research training program offered by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

closeup of obese child grabbing stomach fat

A significant portion of the $3 billion the United States spends annually on pediatric obesity could be saved by streamlining medical coverage to address health issues affecting young obese patients now rather than waiting to treat conditions they develop as they get older, according to a study led by a member of the UCLA School of Public Health faculty

girl receiving a shot in her arm

LOW-INCOME, ETHNIC MINORITY ADOLESCENT GIRLS in Los Angeles County are using the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine at lower rates than national estimates, researchers at the UCLA School of Public Health have found.

U.S. households are more likely to prepare for terrorism and other potential hazards when they see others preparing and when they receive information that increases their knowledge about preparedness and convinces them that preparedness behaviors are effective, according to a UCLA School of Public Health study.

farm workers spraying pesticides on artichoke plants

Combined exposure to three chemicals commonly sprayed on crops to fight pests in California’s Central Valley triples the risk of Parkinson’s disease for people who work near where the pesticides are sprayed, a research team headed by Dr. Beate Ritz, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health, has found.

Providing financial and technical assistance for community-based organizations to institute health-promoting workplace programs significantly increased implementation of new food procurement policies and exercise breaks, a group of researchers led by UCLA School of Public Health faculty has found.

woman paying for a prescription

Pharmaceutical prices in the United States tend to be significantly higher than in other countries, with prices in poor, developing countries being the lowest of all, according to a study by two UCLA School of Public Health faculty members. The study results come at a time of growing concern that the high costs of pharmaceutical research and development might create a burden for poor patients in developing countries. The study was funded by the Eli Lilly company and published in Health Affairs.

From the June 2011 Magazine

Cysticercosis – an infection by the pork tapeworm Taenia solium that can cause severe neurological illness and death in humans – is generally viewed as a disease of developing countries or immigrants from areas where it is endemic. However, a review of more than 50 years of literature by two UCLA School of Public Health faculty members, along with colleagues at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirms that cysticercosis is acquired in the United States – and in many geographic areas.

hospital staff moving a bed quickly down a hallway

Patients’ mortality risk rises as the number of understaffed nursing shifts they are exposed to increases, according to a study by researchers from the UCLA School of Public Health, Mayo Clinic and Vanderbilt University. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, additionally found that when nurses’ workloads increase during shifts because of high patient turnover, mortality risk also rises.


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