Research Profile

The School of Public Health-Bloomington offers a rich and multidisciplinary environment for research and creative activity.  More than 120 full-time faculty are situated across the school’s five academic departments and twenty centers, institutes, laboratories and working groups. These internationally recognized faculty and our school’s staff and students are engaged in research and creative activities focused on improving the health and well-being of communities in Indiana and beyond.

While the expertise of those within the school spans the continuum of health-related research and creative activity, there are five broad constructs that are of priority for the school and our academic and community partners.  These five areas, with examples of the unique work possible within our academic departments, provide are illustrative of the multidisciplinary approaches to some of the world’s leading public health challenges:

weight scale with apple and barbellObesity, Healthy Eating, and Exercise.   Work related to these issues is a top priority for the School of Public Health. Our academic departments, and our Division of Recreational Sports, offer an unparalleled environment for pursuing exciting and impactful work.  Examples of departmental efforts in this area include:

Applied Health Science: research focused on social and behavioral interventions to prevent obesity and/or maintaining healthy weight, clinical and applied research on nutrition and dietetics, policy-related research, and relational and familial aspects of varying body size.

Environmental Health: research focused on understanding the influence of environmental, nutritional and genetic factors on body size and weight, and laboratory and applied studies aimed at exploring how nutritional and dietary factors modify chronic disease risk.

Epidemiology and Biostatistics: research interests involve diet and nutrients in relation to chronic diseases and identifying individuals who have an elevated risk for stroke, thus providing important data identifying whether stroke risk can be reduced by dietary, supplemental, lifestyle or environmental changes to modify trace element patterns.

Kinesiology: research focused on fitness interventions, community-based efforts to enhance physical activity, and laboratory and applied studies related to human movement and body composition.

Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies: research related to recreational and built environments, human engagement within natural environments (e.g., public parks), factors associated with local food systems, and therapeutic recreation.

Alcohol and cigaretteAlcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs (ATOD).  The School of Public Health has a long history of work in this area, and through work in centers such as our Indiana Prevention Resource Center, continues to be the leading authority on this topic within the state. Examples of departmental efforts in this area include:

Applied Health Science: research focused on interventions to prevent the use of ATOD among adolescents, understanding relations between ATOD and other health-risk behaviors, and policy-related research.

Environmental Health: laboratory and applied research focused on the examining the contribution of ATOD in chronic diseases (i.e. liver diseases and cancers), and exploring genetic factors that modify risk for chronic diseases following exposure to ATOD. Research aimed at the prevention or reversal of ATOD-related diseases is also being conducted.

Epidemiology and Biostatistics: developmental epidemiology in conjunction with theoretical constructs of health behavior focus on substance use risks in adolescents.  Geospatial studies of sex workers have focused on the relationships between addictive behaviors and risky sexual behaviors.  Social epidemiology methods are applied to improving our understanding of the causes and prevalence of ATOD.

Kinesiology: examples of research include the study of the relations between the use of performance-enhancing substances and impacts on human performance.

Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies: research focused on ATOD use and outcomes across tourism- and recreation-related outcomes.

condomsSexual and Reproductive Health.  Indiana University and the School of Public Health have an international reputation for work in this area via the Center for Sexual Health Promotion and the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention.  Work includes both behavioral assessments, applied intervention research, and laboratory research. Examples of departmental efforts in this area include:

Applied Health Science: research focused on nationally representative studies to understand human sexual behaviors, condom use, and contraceptive decision making, community-based strategies to improve access to HIV and STD testing and care, and studies related to the understanding of the mental health aspects of HIV and STD infection and the economic impact of HIV, STD, unintended pregnancy, and sexual dysfunction.

Environmental Health: research focused on examining genetic influences on reproductive health, and laboratory-based assessments of the impact of exposure to chemicals contained within sexual health products (e.g., lubricants), and in the environment (e.g. endocrine disrupting chemicals) on reproductive health.

Epidemiology and Biostatistics: longitudinal designs and advanced statistical modeling to understand human sexual interactions, laboratory-based efforts to develop new and innovative diagnostic techniques, and work focused on sexual health in international settings.  Studies related to reproductive health and HIV risk are being conducted in sub-Saharan Africa.

Kinesiology: recent work includes the examination of sexual health among elite athletes at the college and professional level.

Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies: recent work has included the study of sex tourism and its health-related outcomes.

A factory emiting pollutionEnvironmental Health and Human Environments.  The School of Public Health pursues laboratory-based research related to human exposure to environmental hazards, interventions to reduce negative outcomes associated with human-environment interactions, and remains a leader in research exploring the intersections between public health and natural and built environments. Examples of departmental efforts in this area include:

Applied Health Science: studies related to the built environment, exposure to risks in the workplace, the management of safety risk and occupational health, and policy-related research related to exposure to toxic substances (e.g., tobacco smoke).

Environmental Health: laboratory and applied research evaluating the contribution of environmental and occupational exposures to adverse human health outcomes, including the contribution of gene-environment interactions in human diseases.  Research on intervention and preventative strategies to mitigate adverse health outcomes is also studied.

Epidemiology and Biostatistics: Nutritional epidemiology focusing on trace elements that are associated with disease is highly integrated into environmental epidemiology as the source of these trace elements.  The role that ingested elements play in chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and stroke, is currently under investigation.

Kinesiology: recent work includes that related to the impact of the physical environment on physical activity.

Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies: this department is a leader in the area of human environments and the manner in which humans engage within environmental settings.

man sitting on train tresselRural and Other Health Disparities.  The School of Public Health’s provides opportunities for both research and service efforts related to the unique needs of state and federal health disparities, with a particular emphasis on the capacity of Indiana’s public health and health-related workforce.

Alignment of this research area within school departments:

Applied Health Science: studies related to health outcomes among ethnic minority populations and aging communities, sexual minorities, and intervention research to increase access to care and prevention services among rural and other underserved communities.

Environmental Health: research associated with the assessment of factors and outcomes associated with environmental risks unique in rural areas (e.g. pesticides and agricultural factors) and among underserved or low socio-economic status communities.

Epidemiology and Biostatistics: Social epidemiologic and environmental epidemiologic methodologies are being applied to the study of health issues among rural and underserved communities, particularly longitudinal designs to assess access to care and prevention services. Current work includes longitudinal studies to assess sexual and reproductive health outcomes among ethnic and behavioral minority populations.  Studies performed in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa are providing data that may be applicable to underserved populations in local settings.

Kinesiology: research related to the elderly, psychologically challenged, and rural communities, both in the form of basic behavioral research and intervention-based research and practice.

Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies: research related to the use of recreational areas in rural communities and by those from underserved communities, and recreational and therapeutic characteristics of minority communities.