A UC Davis Health Team of Scientists Pilots an Integrated Approach to Study Health Effects of Wildfires

Firefighters fighting brush fire

A UC Davis Health Team of Scientists Pilots an Integrated Approach to Study Health Effects of Wildfires

The climate crisis continues to escalate, leading to extreme weather events, such as wildfires, further exacerbating socioeconomic and health disparities. Given projections of worsening climate conditions, there is a critical need for large-scale, multidisciplinary research that can fully address health impacts of climate change. 

Dr. Hertz-Picciotto is leading a team of faculty members across UC Davis that received a UCDH School Of Medicine Cultivating Team Science Award to develop a research program focusing on the effects of climate change on health.

This award will support a pilot project focusing on how wildfire smoke affects respiratory, immunological, muscular-skeletal and mental health. The goal is to gather preliminary data for the clinical and epidemiologic studies that will support establishing a new SOM Center on the Human Health Impacts from Climate Change.

Researchers will collect smoke and air samples to analyze its chemical composition, investigating how wildfire smoke impacts a variety of health conditions, including infectious diseases. 

Mobile Health Clinics will be set up in affected vulnerable communities where clinicians will provide physical exams and collect biospecimens. To expand their research team’s reach, staff will also be collecting biospecimens from those exposed but unable to attend the clinic, using innovative specimen collection tools such as a breathalyzer-like device designed by the Associate Vice Chancellor of Interdisciplinary Research and Strategic Initiatives and Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cristina Davis.  

The team is also actively looking to partner with community stakeholders to ensure that the research responds to the needs of vulnerable communities disproportionately impacted by wildfires.

This interdisciplinary project will significantly advance knowledge of health impacts of wildfires. Integrating multiple fields of expertise is essential in addressing the complex nature of the effects of wildfires. The pilot will also lay the groundwork for the establishment of the new SOM Center on the Human Health Impacts from Climate Change which will address health effects of other climate change-related issues such as heat waves, drought, floods, and new endemic areas of infectious agents, and conduct research necessary to prepare us for the future.

For questions about the project, please reach out to hs-wildfireproject@ucdavis.edu.

Julianne Ng

Julianne Ng is an undergraduate student at UC Davis studying Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning and intends to minor in Technology Management. Julianne has recently joined the EHSC team as a summer 2023 student assistant. Within this role, she writes blogs delving into various EHSC projects, assists with the Pilot Projects Program, and contributes to social media analytics efforts.

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For any further questions, please reach out to the team at hs-wildfireproject@ucdavis.edu