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Environmental Health Institute

Geisinger Center for Health Research and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health joined together to form the Environmental Health Institute (EHI) in 2007. The mission of the EHI is to understand how land use, the built environment, energy production and use, food systems and water systems may impact human health in central and northeast Pennsylvania. Such knowledge can be used not only to improve the health of Geisinger patients, but also to understand how to develop and promote healthy and sustainable communities.

Brian Schwartz, MD, MS, professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; professor, Department of Epidemiology and Health Sciences Research, and Annemarie Hirsch, PhD, MPH, assistant professor, Department of Epidemiology and Health Services Research, at Geisinger serve as co-directors of the EHI.

Why does Geisinger have an Environmental Health Institute?

  1. Geisinger is a leader in personalized health, integrating genomics into health systems. It is increasingly understood that our genes interact with exposures around us to cause disease. It has been said that, for many diseases, "…genes load the gun, but environmental exposures pull the trigger."
  2. Community circumstances can affect health. Many chronic diseases have lifestyle factors such as diet, physical activity and stress, that can be influenced by the communities in which we live.
  3. Community circumstances can enable or constrain the influence of healthcare. For example, diabetes care provided by the health system may be less effective in communities that constrain our ability to eat healthy or walk more.
  4. Our region has many old and emerging environmental conditions that could affect health. These include, for example, abandoned coal mines, Marcellus shale development and large-scale animal feeding operations that add antibiotics to animal feeds.
  5. New approaches to personalized medicine require that the health system consider and care for patients in the context of the communities in which they live.

Contact our team

Interested in our research?
Brian Schwartz: bschwar1@jhu.edu
Annemarie Hirsch: aghirsch@geisinger.edu

Interested in learning more about a study?
Dione Mercer: dgmercer@geisinger.edu


Team

Support staff

Dione Mercer

Joseph DeWalle

Qingping Cui

Allison Bleistein


Research areas

Community and environmental conditions in health

fast food

Diabetes and the community

Person taking blood test

Industrial farm animal production

ifap

Unconventional natural gas development

Marcellus shale

Chronic rhinosinusitis and environmental exposures

crs

Lyme disease and ecological health

wellness lyme tick season

GIS capabilities & services

gis on phone

Learn more about EHI

In the news

  • TIME: Taking ADHD Drugs as a Child Linked to Later Obesity (March 17, 2014) Link
  • CBS News: Is fracking causing a spike in radon levels? (April 10, 2015) Link
  • The Conversation: The key to your health could be in your ZIP code (September 16, 2015) Link
  • JHU HUB: Johns Hopkins study links fracking to premature births, high-risk pregnancies (October 12, 2015)  Link
  • TIME: To Many Antibiotics May Make Children Heavier (October 21, 2015)  Link 
  • JHU HUB: Childhood antibiotics and weight gain: New study finds a lasting link (October 26, 2015) Link
  • ScienceDaily: Fracking industry wells associated with increased risk of asthma attacks (July 18, 2016) Link
  • ScienceDaily: Unconventilnal natural gas wells associated with migraine, fatigue (August 25, 2016) Link 
  • MedicalResearch: Childhood Antibiotic Use Linked to Higher BMI At Age 3 (February 1, 2017) Link
  • Reuters: How neighborhoods shape life with diabetes (January 17, 2018) Link

Presentations

  • Kim BF, Poulsen MN, Margulies JD, Dix KL, Palmer AM, Nachman KE. Baltimore Urban Community Gardeners' Knowledge and Perceptions of Soil Contaminant Risks. Children’s Environmental Health Network Research Conference, Austin, TX, 2015.
  • Casey J, Rasmussen S, Pollak J, Ogburn E, Irving J, Schwartz BS. Exposure to unconventional natural gas development in Pennsylvania and pregnancy outcomes. Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, April 2015.
  • Casey J, Rasmussen S, Pollak J, Ogburn E, Irving J, Schwartz BS. Birth outcomes and unconventional natural gas development in Pennsylvania USA 2009-2013. Concurrent Contributed Session, 48th Annual SER Meeting, Denver, CO, June 2015.
  • Casey JA, James P, Schwartz BS. Associations of greenness and birth outcomes in a range of Pennsylvania communities. Annual meeting of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, São Paulo, Brazil, August 2015.
  • Casey JA, Schwartz BS. Associations of unconventional natural gas development and maternal health outcomes. Annual meeting of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, São Paulo, Brazil, August 2015.
  • Rasmussen S, Schwartz BS. Marcellus shale development, air pollution, and asthma exacerbations. Annual meeting of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, São Paulo, Brazil, August 2015.
  • Poulsen MN. Pennsylvania farmers’ perceptions of agricultural impacts from Marcellus shale development. Joint Annual Meeting and Conference of the Association for the Study of Food and Society and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society, Toronto, ON, 2016.
  • Tustin AW, Hirsch AG, Rasmussen S, Casey JA, Schwartz BS. Associations between unconventional natural gas development and nasal and sinus, migraine headache, and fatigue symptoms in Pennsylvania. American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s 101st annual American Occupational Health Conference, AOHC 2016, Chicago, IL, April 2016.
  • Rasmussen SG, Ellis H, Koehler KA, Schwartz BS. Exposure assessment in unconventional natural gas and health studies. Annual meeting of the International Society for Exposure Science (ISES), Utrecht, The Netherlands, October 2016.
  • Poulsen MN, Schwartz BS, Hirsch AG, Pollak J, Bailey-Davis L. Food availability in food insecure homes: Associations with youth eating behavior and anthropometric outcomes. Obesity Week, Washington DC, 2017.
  • Mohammed M, Stewart D, Poulsen M, Schwartz B, Sills D. Are manure management regulations sufficient for ensuring public health? Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors Conference, Ann Arbor, MI, 2017.
  • Sundarasen A, Hirsch AG, Schwartz BS. Associations of community and environmental factors with 6-month transition states of chronic rhinosinusitis. 2017 AAAAI Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA, March 2017.
  • Hirsch AG, Durden TE, Nordberg C, Berger A, Schwartz BS. Associations of four community domains with longitudinal change in hemoglobin A1c levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. American Diabetes Association. San Diego, CA, June 2017.
  • Pacheco JA, Sundaresan AS, Borthwick KM, Chiarella SE, Coleman DT, Wu AY, Kho AN, Hayes G, Williams, MS. Portable Precision Phenotype Algorithm for Chronic Rhinosinusitis. American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Annual Symposium. Washington, DC, 2017. 
  • Wood GC, Benotti PN, Cook A, Mirshahi T, Lent MR, Hirsch AG, Rolston DD. DiaRem2: Incorporating duration of diabetes to improve prediction of diabetes remission following metabolic surgery. Annual meeting of ASMBS. Washington DC, October 2017.
  • Hirsch AG, Nordberg C, Poulsen M, Schwartz BS. Individual sociodemographic factors modify relations between measures of community context and change in HbA1c levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Society for Epidemiologic Research Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD, 2018.
  • Moon KA, Pollak J, Nordberg C, Heaney CD, Hirsch AG, Schwartz BS. Individual and community-level risk factors of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania using electronic health records. Annual Meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research, Baltimore, MD, June 2018.
  • Schwartz BS. Environmental epidemiology in geographies with a range of place types: what does rural have to do with it? Symposium: Rural Health in the U.S.: Do We Have the Right Measures for the Right Questions? Annual Meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research, Baltimore, MD, June 2018.
  • Pollak J, Moon KA, Hirsch AG, Schwartz BS. Risk factors for delayed diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease, and the identification of Lyme diagnosis and treatment stages through electronic health records and free text analysis. Annual Meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research, Baltimore, MD, June 2018.
  • Poulsen MN, Pollak J, Bandeen-Roche K, Hirsch AG, Bailey-Davis, L, Schwartz BS. Disentangling the contribution of community-level factors to child body mass index across diverse geographies. Annual Meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research, Baltimore, MD, June 2018.
  • Pollak J, Moon KA, Hirsch AG, Schwartz BS. Identification of Lyme Disease Stages with Electronic Health Records and Free Text Analysis; and Evaluation of Risk Factors for Disseminated (vs. Early) Lyme Disease. LymeMIND, New York, NY, October 2018. 
  • Panel presentation: On the Ground, in the Field, at the Bench: Lyme Disease Discovery Front Lines. Lyme Disease. LymeMIND, New York, NY, October 2018. 
  • Epidemiology of Chronic Rhinosinusitis in the General Population using Objective Evidence of Disease, Agnes S. Sundaresan, Annemarie G Hirsch, Cara M Nordberg, Brian S Schwartz Scientific Meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Seattle, WA November 2018  
     

     

Invited seminars

  • "BIG DATA environmental epidemiologic research using electronic health records." Center for Occupational Health and Safety Engineering Seminar Series, University of Michigan, March 2015.
  • “Gaining community buy-in for urban gardens and farms.” Cultivate Baltimore, An Urban Agriculture Workshop Series, Civic Works, Baltimore, MD, April 25, 2015.
  • “Climate, energy, and carbon pricing issues surrounding the built environment.” Global Health Opportunity of the 21st Century: Tackling Climate Change. The Johns Hopkins University Summit on Climate Change and Health, Baltimore, MD, October 2015.
  • “Update on Marcellus Shale Studies: Geisinger Environmental Health Institute.” Pennsylvania League of Women Voters 3rd annual Shale and Public Health Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, November 18, 2015.
  • “Update on Unconventional Natural Gas Development Studies by the Geisinger Environmental Health Institute.” Pitt Public Health Grand Rounds, University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA, November 19, 2015.
  • “Farming with People in Mind: Engaging your Neighbors, Building Community.” Cultivate Baltimore, An Urban Agriculture Workshop Series, Civic Works, Baltimore, MD, April 19, 2016.
  • Keynote Address: “Shale Gas Development and Health: Update on Studies of the Geisinger Environmental Health Institute.” Health & Shale Gas Development: State of the Science, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, Pittsburgh, PA, June 10, 2016.
  • “Linkage of community and environmental data with electronic health records to study social, built environmental, community, and contextual factors in relation to health.” NCI Conference on Geospatial Approaches to Cancer Control and Population Sciences, Bethesda, MD, September 13, 2016.
  • “Precision education and awareness in Lyme disease.” Annual Lyme Disease in the Era of Precision Medicine Conference. New York, New York, October 2016.
  • “Studies of asthma exacerbations and other health outcomes in relation to unconventional natural gas development.” Pennsylvania League of Women Voters 4th annual Shale and Public Health Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, November 16, 2016.
  • “Energy, climate, and health: A questions and answers approach with a focus on shale gas.” The Wednesday Club at The Maryland Club, Baltimore, MD, March 1, 2017.
  • “Studies of Unconventional Natural Gas Development and Health in Pennsylvania by the Geisinger Environmental Health Institute.” Academic Symposium on the Health Impacts of the Fracking Industry, sponsored by The Student Physicians for Social Responsibility – Penn State Hershey Chapter, Penn State College of Medicine, April 24, 2017.
  • “Fracking and health outcomes.” 2017 Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in Occupational and Environmental Medicine (MARCOEM). Baltimore, Maryland, September 23, 2017.
  • “Treatment delays in Lyme disease.” Annual Lyme Disease in the Era of Precision Medicine Conference. New York, New York, October 2017.
  • “Epidemiology of chronic rhinosinusitis: updates from CRISP study.” Asthma and Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Centers annual meeting, Rockville, MD, November 2, 2017.
  • “Lyme disease: epidemiologic and clinical overview; and our research.” Lyme Symposium 2017, Lycoming College, Williamsport, PA, November 6, 2017.
  • “Updates on shale gas and health studies of the Geisinger Environmental Health Institute.” Pennsylvania League of Women Voters 5th annual Shale and Public Health Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, November 13, 2017.
  • “American Medical Association Integrated Health Model Initiative (IHMI): New Hypertension Guidelines and the Data Implications.” Featured Expert, December 2017.
  • “Using electronic health record data to study social and environmental determinants of health.” Spring 2018 Methodology Center Brown Bag Seminar Series. Prevention Research Center. The Pennsylvania State University. State College, PA. February 2018.
  • “Using electronic health record data to study social and environmental determinants of health." Social Dynamics Seminar Series. Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Pittsburgh, PA. February 2018.
  • “Does unconventional natural gas development affect human health?” The Pennsylvania State University, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, EarthTalks Seminar Series, State College, PA, May 2018.
  • “Does unconventional natural gas development affect human health?” Presentation to Board of Director of The Heinz Endowments, Pittsburgh, PA, May 2018.
  • “Using electronic health record data to study social and environmental determinants of health.” Social Epidemiology Seminar Series. Department of Epidemiology. University of North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC, October 24, 2018.