“We can create models that predict the impact of different regulations, from reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to making cigarette packaging less appealing.”


—Rafael Meza, Associate Professor of Epidemiology

Regulation or Deregulation?

Consumers and prescribers alike are confused by what Rebecca Haffajee, Assistant Professor of Health Management and Policy, calls the “chasm between federal law and state law” in regulating marijuana. Even the current environment around tobacco usage and regulation is complex, with a rapid increase in the use of alternative nicotine-delivery products like e-cigarettes. Michigan Public Health researchers continue to probe the details of conflicting laws, detrimental social issues, and the known and unknown safety concerns associated with tobacco and marijuana use.

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“There is some misconception that we’re going to be able to cure the [opioid] addiction suddenly and immediately and that’s not what the clinical evidence tells us. We should be thinking about it as a chronic health condition much like diabetes.”

—Rebecca Haffajee, Assistant Professor of Health Management and Policy

Ongoing Struggles

Opioid-related overdose deaths increased 80 percent between 2012 and 2016, and synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths have skyrocketed. Many states are overwhelmed and are begging the federal government for assistance. Michigan Public Health researchers are exploring prescription drug monitoring programs, treatment programs, and other interventions to provide temporary relief, as well as long-term solutions to this national epidemic.

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“Our first goal as public health professionals is to drastically reduce kids dying from firearms regardless of the circumstances. Just as we treat any epidemiological problem of this magnitude with intense research and data-driven interventions, we have to do the same with firearms.”

—Marc Zimmerman, Marshall H. Becker Collegiate Professor of Public Health

Strategic, Creative Approaches to a National Epidemic

While we remain in political stalemates around policy changes, gun deaths have made their way to being the second leading cause of death among children in the US. Public health researchers at Michigan continue to focus on policy and other tactics to alleviate the burdens of a violent epidemic. Injury prevention—from understanding how firearms are handled in our homes to greening efforts that reduce crime—is one of the key areas we are exploring in a society that is divided about how to address gun violence. 

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“It’s clear we must take action to reduce the amount and toll of plastics on our environment.”

—John Meeker, Senior Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences

Keeping People Healthy in Michigan and Beyond

The vulnerability of our state’s water systems and its air quality remained in local headlines. Researchers at Michigan Public Health determined that the Great Lakes’ perennial algal blooms can go airborne, and they explored associations between lead exposure and high blood pressure. Our leading environmental epidemiologists conducted research on microplastics, conditions for those working to recycle our e-waste, and many other concerns around environmental health.

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“Not all Latino immigrant families lack citizenship status, but many are still presumed to be undocumented. This makes them second-class members of their own communities.”

—Paul Fleming, Assistant Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education

Enforcement and Over-Enforcement

Over the last year, thousands of children were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border, causing trauma detrimental to brain development, according to University of Michigan researchers. Deportation creates vacuums in parental and familial support, often leaving single mothers to care and provide for families. Michigan Public Health researchers are working to redefine how we study the health of immigrant communities and how we can help families access health care, nutritious food, and other necessities in the face of uncertainty and stress.

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“One of our goals is to send a message to parents: ‘You are your child’s first and best teacher. You want to protect your child, and we want to give you tools to help you.’”

–Alison Miller, Associate Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education

The Superheroes around Us

Having a low income or living in poverty can impact everything from the roof over your head to access to healthy food. Without these necessities, health outcomes can be negatively affected. While studying how zip codes and the realities of our constructed environments impact health, Michigan Public Health researchers who work with marginalized communities continue to see the strength and adaptability of individuals and populations facing financial challenges.

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“We need to challenge the assumption that thinness is synonymous with health and adopt a more holistic and weight-inclusive view of health.”

—Kelsey Rose, Master’s Student in Nutritional Sciences

Celebrating Diversity and Stewarding Resources

Even if we all ate the same food, had access to the same resources, slept the same amount, lived in the same environment, and performed the same amount of physical activity each day, we would still be surrounded by people with a range of different body types and sizes. Michigan Public Health researchers are helping us understand more and more about our bodies, the food environments we inhabit, and the global environment that must sustain our population’s nutritional needs.

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“Mental health was in the shadows ten years ago. Now, we see entire campus communities embracing the issue.”

—Sara Abelson, PhD Student in Health Behavior and Health Education


Giving and Receiving Care in Community

Even as we slowly normalize conversations about mental health, we may still find it difficult to reach out for help. Researchers who study mental health believe critical changes need to be made at universities and many other institutions to support those who live with mental health conditions. Whether we are healing agents, recipients of care, or both, compassion continues to guide our work as researchers and as members of this educational community and many other communities.

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“In the face of Ebola’s human wreckage, the best in humanity emerged and placed the focus directly on the need for rapid vaccine development. Researchers were able to compress the implementation of certain clinical trials, typically a process that takes several years, into just a single year.”

—Abram Wagner, MPH ’12, PhD ’15, Research Fellow and Lecturer in Epidemiology

Advancing Vaccines, Access, and Understanding

It really is a dangerous world out there, and preventing disease and injury is the center of public health. While vaccine effectiveness and coverage improves, education and politics around vaccination itself continues to generate controversy. From food to noise to football helmets, we scrutinized the environments we inhabit to create healthier options. And we took heroic steps toward helping people better understand and utilize their health care.

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