Department of Environmental Health Science,
University of California, Los Angeles
Fellowship Project: From the city to the cell: neighborhood determinants of adverse birth outcomes
Lara Cushing has expertise in environmental health disparities, spatial data analysis, climate change, and epidemiology. Lara’s research focuses on social inequalities in exposure to environmental hazards, and race and class determinants of environmental health disparities. Her work has investigated questions of environmental justice in the context of residential proximity to hazardous facilities, prenatal exposures to harmful man-made chemicals, urban greenspace, and global climate change. She is interested in the combined contributions of environmental and social stressors to inequalities in health and has contributed to the development of regulatory tools such as the California Environmental Protection Agency’s that seek to better incorporate social equity concerns into environmental policy and decision-making.
Lara received her PhD from the Energy & Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley in 2015 and an M.P.H. in Epidemiology, also from UC Berkeley, in 2011.
From the city to the cell: neighborhood determinants of adverse birth outcomes.
Racial disparities in adverse birth outcomes such as preterm and low weight births are not fully explained by known maternal risk factors such as smoking or socioeconomic status, leading to calls for more research on the role of neighborhood-level factors, including environmental pollutants and psychosocial stressors which often co-occur in disadvantaged neighborhoods. A lack of cohort studies with robust measures of both environmental and social stressors has hindered efforts to understand their joint effects on perinatal health. This 2-year project will leverage data from an existing cohort of pregnant women from California to create a unique dataset of prenatal measures of 1) neighborhood-level built and social environment characteristics (greenspace, noise, and crime), 2) exposure to traffic, 3) individual-level perceptual and biomarker psychosocial stress measures, and 4) birth outcome data to evaluate the cumulative effects of traffic-related exposures and psychosocial stressors on the length of gestation and fetal growth. Outcomes will include at least three peer-reviewed publications contributing new knowledge regarding neighborhood determinants of adverse birth outcomes.