Research

I have applied and academic experience in public health, specifically physical determinants of health, spatial health disparities, land use policy, and spatial methods using geographic information systems. My topical areas include exposure to harmful content on outdoor advertising, access to food, and spatial and policy determinants of health.

Before earning my doctorate, I served in various capacities as a public health professional in Los Angeles, CA where I worked at both non-profit and for-profit organizations providing training and technical assistance to groups and coalitions on issues related to the collection, use, and dissemination of data and the use of community-based and participatory research methods for policy advocacy. I am committed to building on these experiences as I continue to think about the potential for public policy to influence the built environment to improve well-being and alleviate health disparities observed between neighborhoods.

My academic training in public policy and spatial planning prepared me to explore these relationships more fully and investigate the way exposure to specific components of the built environment can be better understood through the collection of locally gathered quantitative data not generally found in existing databases but rather found through careful examination of the physical context. I continue to be interested in developing concepts and testing measures that will more specifically show how physical context influences community health — while public health researchers and practitioners acknowledge the importance of context, there is still inadequate understanding about how, when, where, and for whom the built environment affects health outcomes.

Spatial and Policy Determinants of Health

I am interested in clarifying the ways that the built environment influences health as a means of developing public policies and land use regulations to support positive health outcomes. I use spatial methods to understand inequalities created by public policies that regulate the location of physical determinants of health. My research in this area includes an analysis of land use policies and harmful outdoor advertising and the influence of food systems policies on the availability of produce at farmers’ markets in Los Angeles which found that markets in low-income and non-white communities offered fewer fresh produce than those located in well-off white communities. Currently, I am exploring the cannabis industry in Oklahoma through an investigation of the spatial arrangement of advertising and dispensaries and public policies intended to regulate these locations within the state. I am interested in documenting inequalities and exploring contributing policy factors to provide guidance to public health and planning professionals working to address inequities in the physical environment that inhibit well-being.

Building off work grounded in my investigation of farmers’ markets in Los Angeles, I continue to be interested in understanding how physical components of the nutritional environment influence community health. In Oklahoma, I am working collaboratively with colleagues from public health and nutrition science to explore how, where, and when grocery stores influence early care and education practices. My involvement has included the provision of training and technical assistance to graduate students in nutrition science on spatial epidemiology and in person inventories of every grocery store in the state to construct a spatial database of their locations. Alongside colleagues at San Diego State University, I am currently exploring connections between mobility and small-scale food interventions on rates of food security in an urban environment. This work has cross disciplinary implications for the practices of child care employees and small convenience store owners as well as the policies that regulate the types of foods and location of food resources in a community to improve dietary outcomes among residents.

Public health research continues to suggest that the content of messaging on outdoor advertising negatively impacts both social and environmental qualities of community through its placement and content. My dissertation examined the impact of outdoor advertising on Los Angeles and community response to a proposal to regulate its placement through zoning. As part of that work, I developed measures and techniques to conduct longitudinal photographic inventories of outdoor advertising content on over 3,000 billboards and found that harmful content clustered in low-income and non-white communities. I conducted a policy and content analysis on news stories and public meetings dating back to 1880 on the promulgation of outdoor advertising land use regulations in the city and found that policy makers have few choices for addressing harmful content on billboards; outright bans or loosely regulated buffers around sensitive uses such as schools. These conflicts continue to inform my interest in the role of outdoor advertising as both a public health nuisance and architectural amenity with a particular focus on the spatial inequalities experienced by disproportionately impacted communities.