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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Georgia State: Studies of Heart Disease, Environment Need Improved Methods

Future studies into how socioeconomic factors such as poverty and unemployment, along with air pollution, influence heart disease could benefit from standardized metrics and inclusion of more diverse populations, according to a study led by a researcher at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.

[Photo: Dr. Christina H. Fuller]

While current research suggests that social factors as well as exposure to air pollutants, such as particulate matter and ozone, are associated with heart disease, the literature examining joint effects is “still relatively small,” the study noted.

To determine where the gaps and inconsistencies in current research lie, the study reviewed articles published in peer-reviewed journals between January 2005 and December 2016. Researchers found that only 30 of the hundreds of articles they culled explicitly evaluated the impact of air pollution and socioeconomic factors on cardiovascular health.

The articles included in the study looked at the effect of air pollution on cardiovascular disease and susceptibility by socioeconomic factors; many without clear, standardized definitions of those factors. Some studies did not include racially or ethnically diverse sample populations, making disparities harder to pinpoint.

“Studies with new approaches are needed to develop a more robust and comparable set of evidence regarding how air pollution and socioeconomic position may together influence cardiovascular health,” the researchers concluded. “Specifically, taking action to establish standardized metrics, incorporate diverse populations and utilize multi-pollutant models or air pollution indices is advisable to strengthen future study designs.”

The results of the study are published in the article “Air pollution, cardiovascular endpoints and susceptibility by stress and material resources: a systematic review of the evidence” in Environmental Health. The study’s lead author is Dr. Christina H. Fuller, assistant professor of environmental health at Georgia State University. The study’s authors also include Ms. Karla R. Feeser, of Metrics for Management; Dr. Jeremy A. Sarnat of Emory University; and Dr. Marie S. O’Neill of the University of Michigan.

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