Pediatric Public Health Psychology Lab
The Pediatric Public Health Psychology (PPHP) Lab conducts scientific studies to promote health and equal health among children and teenagers. The PPHP has a special focus on cardiovascular disease — a family of ailments that affect the heart and blood vessels.
Although cardiovascular disease (CVD) is something you might think only older adults need to worry about, it is an important health issue for children and their parents. In fact, CVD begins in childhood and adolescence, showing up in early warning signs such as changes in a child’s blood pressure, heart rate, or weight before progressing into clinical CVD in adulthood. Early warning signs of CVD, which researchers call precursors, are an important part of our research.
The PPHP is approaching these issues in two ways. First, the PPHP is investigating how lifestyle behaviors (smoking, physical activity, sleep), psychosocial determinants (stress exposure), and environmental characteristics (neighborhood environment; air quality exposure) increase risk for early disease precursors during childhood and adolescence (obesity, blood pressure) that track into adulthood and lead to the eventual development of chronic diseases. By better understanding how signs of CVD develop, and how they influence the development of disease, we hope to more accurately predict the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in adulthood, and ultimately prevent the disease by helping to create better interventions targeted at children and youth. Second, the PPHP lab is examining how varying income levels and exposure to stress can impact the health of children and teenagers. Ensuring that all children are healthy is an important public health issue. Our research aims to figure out how circumstances in a child’s environment can contribute to their physical and mental wellbeing.