Big ideas to solve big public health problems


Climate changes are toxic to human health. Mental healthcare is structured as a crisis-response system that fails to address the full spectrum of mental healthcare needs. Both of these problems are creating public health crises around the globe. Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) is stepping up with big ideas to tackle these looming public health crises.

Climate change and health

Climate change is happening, and its impact on human health is already being felt. Record high temperatures are having drastic effects on people of all ages. BUSPH’s Dr. Greg Wellenius and his team recently published a study showing that extreme heat is sending people of all ages to emergency rooms. In addition, flooding is affecting water and food supplies leading to water-borne infections. Air quality is degrading, which in turn is increasing respiratory illness and asthma.

idea hub at BUSPH is working with Dr. Wellenius to launch a big idea to mitigate the impact of climate change on human health. The ambitious plan will implement pilot programs in 50 cities around the globe to mitigate the effects of extreme heat and other climate-related health problems. The big idea includes the world’s largest information repository for climate and health data, integrating mobility data, environmental sensing data, meteorological data, and infrastructure data with health data. This data will be made available to researchers and communities around the globe to advance knowledge and take action to mitigate the impacts of climate change on health. BUSPH’s efforts in this area will be the globe’s most significant public health response to climate-health risks to date.

Mental health through a spectrum of stress

In parallel with BUSPH’s efforts to mitigate climate-health impacts, a team led by Dr. Jaimie Gradus will be implementing a unique public health response to the United States’ inadequate mental healthcare system. Mental health support services are scarce and often deployed for crisis mental healthcare situations. Dr. Gradus’s big idea is to focus on the full spectrum of stressful states people can experience in daily living. Dr. Gradus’s research has shown that stress levels below those classified as clinical conditions may contribute to poor physical health.

idea hub is working with Dr. Gradus and a large team of mental health researchers, clinicians, public health professionals, teachers, and advocates to redefine the science to focus on the full spectrum of stress and its impact on human health. This initiative will develop diagnostic criteria, biomarkers, and prevention programs to focus mental health resources on opportunities earlier on the spectrum of stress to reduce health impacts.

Creating market opportunities

Both of these big ideas will create market opportunities for businesses to develop digital health products, remote sensing and monitoring capabilities, knowledge products, and innovative services. We are seeking partners to become early investors in these big ideas to help lead the world to a healthier future. If your company is interested in learning more, please reach out to the idea hub team.

Craig S. Ross, PhD, MBA serves as Executive Director of the idea hub at Boston University School of Public Health and holds a faculty position in the Epidemiology Department. Dr. Ross conducts research at the intersection of commerce and public health. He has published more than 40 studies examining the influence of alcohol advertising on underage drinking. He is also interested in novel research designs using ecological momentary assessment methods to examine real-life contexts for substance use.

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