Connecting the social and built environment to health and health inequalities

Kate Duchowny

Research Assistant Professor, Social Environment and Health Program

I am a social epidemiologist and research investigator in the Social Environment and Health Program at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. My overarching research goal seeks to bridge the social, environmental, and biological determinants of musculoskeletal health and physical functioning in older adults to inform interventions. My current research is organized around two lines of inquiry: 1) Identifying which aspects of the built and social environment matter most in helping older adults maintain independence and physical mobility, and 2) Examining life course sociobiologic mechanisms (e.g., viral infections, mitochondrial function) that drive disparate outcomes in physical disability especially related to neighborhoods.

Research Projects

Examining the role of the neighborhood environment on muscle function in older adults

(NIH/NIA K99 AG066846)

Poor muscle function is a pressing public health problem as half of all U.S. older adults meet criteria for muscle weakness. The goal of this project is to identify which features of the neighborhood environment are related to muscle function, physical activity and mitochondrial health in older adults. This study’s findings will enhance our understanding of what social and biologic risk factors matter most for muscle function and could be targets for future interventions.

A National Neighborhood Data Resource to Understand Inequities in the Health and Socioeconomic Impacts of COVID-19 in the United States

(NIH/NINR; U01NR020556)

The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have been unequally felt by individuals and communities across the United States. To understand these patterns, we will create, integrate, and share data on neighborhood characteristics, both before and since the pandemic, that can be readily linked to existing survey or cohort studies at various levels of geography. This national neighborhood data (NANDA) resource will support the scientific community in understanding the mechanisms that may convey risk and resilience, particularly in underserved and vulnerable populations, and will allow us to more effectively prepare for the next public health emergency.