New Project to Examine How Pollution Contributes to Diabetes Epidemic.

Sansum Diabetes Research Institute (SDRI) announces a first-of-its-kind partnership with the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara to study the correlation between diabetes and pollution.

This spring, a Bren School master’s student group has launched a year-long public health impact project–in consultation with researchers at SDRI–to investigate whether there is a relationship between diabetes risk and pollution exposure and whether this disproportionately impacts disadvantaged communities. The group will combine existing sets of data–on pollution exposure, diabetes and race or ethnicity–from Santa Barbara County, with the goal of developing a practical risk screening tool.

Diabetes is an epidemic in the United States with nearly 1 in 10 Americans (30.3 million people) living with diabetes (95% of which is type 2 diabetes).“We are seeing an explosion of diabetes in populations that have been more industrialized in recent years such as China, India and Brazil,” said Dr. David Kerr, SDRI’s Director of Research and Innovation. According to Dr. Kerr, “questions we need to ask include: Is there an increased risk of diabetes the closer you live to a freeway? Is there an increased risk of diabetes if you’re an agricultural worker working with pesticides? Is the risk of diabetes in unborn children increased because of proximity to a freeway or a farm? How much harm are we doing to ourselves? How much of that is contributing to the epidemic of diabetes?”In addition to analyzing the existing database, Bren School master’s students will apply analytical skills to identify ways to ease environmental drivers of diabetes risk in the communities most vulnerable to pollution exposure and diabetes.

“Many public health issues are linked to genetics and health-related behaviors, but there are some new and exciting studies that look at environmental impacts. The studies, like this one, could eventually impact policy and legislation,” said Bren School master’s student, Hope Cupples, the team’s project manager. “This project is at the nexus of public health and environmentalism that hasn’t received as much recognition.”

“We’re delighted to have this collaboration with the Bren School at UCSB,” said Dr. Kerr. “This is going to have a global impact, beginning here in Santa Barbara, which is a natural home given the history of the environmental movement beginning in Santa Barbara.”SDRI is also pleased to partner with Groundswell Technologies, headed by Dr. Mark Kram. Groundswell aspires to integrate publicly available sensor networks with additional strategically-placed sensors to identify regions of pollutant exposure concern, concentration ranges, temporal patterns, exposure durations and causal relationships.

For more information on the cutting edge SDRI / Bren School project or to inquire about becoming an industry partner, contact SDRI’s Dr. David Kerr at dkerr@sansum.org or SDRI’s Namino Glantz, PhD at nglantz@sansum.org.

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara (bren.ucsb.edu) is a graduate school dedicated to solving environmental problems, training environmental leaders and working for a sustainable future.

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