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The UW School of Public Health: Making a Difference

Updates from the departments in the University of Washington School of Public Health

Updates from the departments in the University of Washington School of Public Health

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Shots for Servers

Last fall, researchers from the Health Promotion Research Center conducted a pilot study aimed at increasing flu immunization among restaurant workers. The intervention, which focused on lowering barriers to flu immunization through increased access and targeted messaging, resulted in a 74 percent increase in immunization rate among workers at 11 Seattle-area restaurants. The pilot was part of a series of studies known as the Workplace Immunization Project. “Our team feels terrific about these results,” says HPRC research scientist Kristen Hammerback. “Our next step will be putting together an easy-to-use toolkit so that restaurants can do their own flu-shot program in the future.” Led by center director Jeff Harris, the research team also included Peggy Hannon, Meredith Cook, Amanda Parrish, and Claire Allen.
Photo: Brian Hoskins

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From Cancer Gene to Silver Screen

Mary-Claire King, Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology, wowed the science world when she discovered BRCA1, the “breast cancer gene.” Now actress Helen Hunt portrays King in Decoding Annie Parker, a movie chronicling King’s 16-year quest that is slated to be released in the summer of 2014. In “A Seattle Geneticist Gets the Hollywood Treatment,” Seattle Magazine calls King’s findings “one of the most important discoveries of the 20th Century. Through King’s work, genetic testing can now identify the 10 percent of women who are at an extremely high risk of inherited breast/ovarian cancer.” King says she joined the UW’s Department of Genomic Sciences in 1995 “to try to make discoveries and develop approaches based on those discoveries that can actually be used in the real world, right away, by all of us.”
Photo: UW Office of News and Information

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Latino Omics

Biostatisticians at the UW School of Public Health are hoping to better understand the genetic risk factors for diseases such as diabetes and asthma in Hispanic/Latino populations in the United States. The School’s new Omics in Latinos Genetic Analysis Center, recently established with a $4.5 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, aims to develop new statistical methods to analyze genomic data from about 16,000 Latino participants. Using biostatistical methods, scientists can determine which genetic variants are associated with disease and how they affect the probability that someone would get the disease. “These kinds of studies have been going on for a long time, traditionally in European-ancestry people,” said Bruce Weir, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biostatistics. “It’s important to extend them to Latinos.”
Photo: Maggie Bartlett, NHGRI

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Lowering the Price of Saving Lives

Kathy Neuzil, Clinical Professor of Global Health and a program leader at Seattle-based PATH, partnered with a Chinese vaccine manufacturer to obtain World Health Organization (WHO) approval of a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis. It was the first time WHO has approved a vaccine from China for global use. Transmitted by infected mosquitoes, Japanese encephalitis is a deadly brain disease that claims the lives of about 15,000 children a year. Neuzil is director of the Vaccine Access and Delivery Program at PATH, which tested the vaccine and got it to 200 million children in Asia before its formal approval. “It really is a major milestone,” Neuzil said in a KUOW interview. “The entry of China onto the global vaccine marketplace could fundamentally shift how vaccines are made, how they’re delivered, and how they’re priced for the developing world.”
Photo: Julie Jacobson, PATH

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Sometimes a Story Is Best

The Center for Ecogenetics & Environmental Health has worked with the Northwest Indian College to develop a 32-page comic book version of The Return, a Native Environmental Health Story. The Return is a dreamlike account of a Native woman and her baby. It’s based on findings from the Native Tradition, Environment and Community Health project, which looked at differences in Native and Western understanding of environmental health. Three core themes emerged: community, wellness, and inter-relationship. The Return explores how these concepts are passed to the next generation.

Nicholas Salazar, illustrator of The Return

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