New Research Center Aims to Improve Community Health

News Lisa Esser

ADU will utilize GIS technologies at new center to expand medical geography research in Central Florida communities

Adventist University of Health Sciences (ADU) announces the opening of the Center for Population Health Research, directed by Dr. Russ Butler, a Professor of Biology at ADU. Dr. Butler was commissioned to coordinate both faculty and student research across the University campus, and this center represents a long history of his work in this area.

Population health is an approach to healthcare that aims to improve the health of an entire population. Rather than focusing on individualistic, case-by-case healing, the Center for Population Health Research will help develop long-term prevention methods and contribute to improving the health of Central Florida’s communities.

“It is my hope that this research will impact struggling areas throughout Central Florida and beyond, closing gaps in health disparities across the population,” says Lars Houmann, President for the Florida Division of AHS.

The new research center will engage students and faculty in applying geographic information systems (GIS) technologies to medical geography research. Medical geography is the science of understanding the spatial patterns of phenomena related to human health and well-being in order to identify various factors which may affect the health of a population. Currently, Dr. Butler and his students are conducting research on water quality in nearby Bithlo, among other projects aimed at improving community health.

GIS technologies can be used to match research data with map coordinates that can reveal patterns of disease and illness as well as pinpoint high risk areas. It uses spatial statistics, geo-spatial analyses, cartographic techniques, and remotely-sensed data to assess and analyze spatial and temporal trends. In “Using that data, we can more accurately prescribe action,” explains Dr. Butler about the benefits of spatial mapping technology.

The center’s use of GIS technologies will help develop skills in spatial thinking, quantitative analysis, and problem solving while providing hands-on research experience to students. In, providing students and faculty with this opportunity, the Center will contribute to the University’s wholistic approach to education and treatment.

Dr. David Greenlaw, the President of ADU, is excited to expand the University’s role in population-health research. “It is our goal to give our students and faculty the very best resources to nurture personal and professional growth, and with this new research center they will be given the opportunity to produce results that will offer a positive impact on the community they serve.”