A new study from Berkeley Public Health provides a new framework for understanding the major factors through which the environment can affect the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research, which was published in the Annual Review of Public Health in April, explores how the environment modulates risk in the form of increased exposure, transmission, severity, and mortality, according to lead author Amanda Weaver, MPH, a PhD candidate at Berkeley Public Health.
Weaver and her team found that “reductions in exposures would have compounding benefits for public health.”
“For example, we found that heavy exposure to air pollution may increase the probability of infection following exposure to SARS-CoV-2 as well as increase disease severity,” Weaver said. “However, reducing air pollution exposures would have huge health benefits for conditions like asthma and [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease].”
The paper also aimed to identify areas of methodological weakness in the literature, according to Weaver. She added that she hopes the research could support more robust research as data access and clinical epidemiology knowledge improve.
“The pandemic has underlined and exacerbated many of the ways in which the environment contributes to health,” Weaver said. “We identified several larger-scale processes (like climate change, suburbanization, and factory farming, for example) that are likely to drive the emergence of other future pathogens.”
Co-authors of the paper include Jennifer Head and Justin Remais of UC Berkeley, Carlos Gould of Columbia and Stanford universities, Elizabeth Carlton of the Colorado School of Public Health.