Air Pollution, Climate Change and Their Effect on Human Health Focus of Simons Public Lecture

April 9, 2013

DominiciAs our climate changes, there are important impacts to consider that may effect human health. It is important to understand how various populations adapt to changes in the environment and who is most vulnerable to these changes. As part of the Simons Public Lecture Series celebrating MPE2013 (the Mathematics of Planet 2013), SAMSI is hosting Dr. Francesca Dominici, Professor of Biostatistics in the Harvard School of Public Health and Associate Dean of Information Technology, in a public lecture to be held at the UNC Friday Center in Chapel Hill on Wednesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. Her talk will be “The Public Health Impact of Air Pollution and Climate Change”, and is sponsored by the Simons Foundation. You must register for this event at:

Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health, will introduce Dr. Dominici. Dr. Birnbaum is a board certified toxicologist, and has served as a federal scientist for nearly 33 years. Prior to NIEHS, she was with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where she directed the largest division focusing on environmental health research.

This talk will review statistical modeling approaches and epidemiological evidence regarding the public health impact of air pollution and extreme heat under a changing climate. Dominici will draw upon massive, heterogeneous, and nationally representative data based on weather, air pollution, health outcomes, and socioeconomic and demographic variables to: 1) quantify health risks based on historical data; 2) predict future risks under different scenarios for climate change; 3) quantify the many sources of uncertainty in these predictions. We will also address the following key challenges: 1) how individuals and their communities will adapt to increasing temperatures and ambient air pollution levels. The health effects of combined exposure to degraded air quality and heat could be more severe than expected based on the individual exposures.

The World Health Organization has estimated that fine particulate matter (PM2.5) contributes to approximately 800,000 premature deaths per year, ranking it as the 13th leading cause of worldwide mortality. Over the next century, climate change is expected to lead to an increase in global average temperature by more than 2 degrees F and to an increase in the intensity, frequency, and duration of extreme weather events such as heat waves. In this talk, Dominici will review statistical modeling approaches and epidemiological evidence regarding the public health impact of air pollution and extreme heat under a changing climate. It is important to understand and quantify the health risks associated with these anticipated changes. Estimating the health impact of climate change cannot be done without a comprehensive understanding of how populations will adapt to these changes and which of these populations are most vulnerable.

Dominici received her Ph.D. in Statistics at the University of Padua in 1997 and was also a visiting graduate student at Duke University. From 1997 to 2009 she was at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and in 2009 moved to the School of Public Health at Harvard University.

Dominici’s research has focused on the development of statistical methods for the integration of large data to assess and monitor health risks associated with air pollution and climate change. She has developed statistical methods for the analysis of large databases on air pollution and health. She has extensive experience with the analysis of Medicare data and their linkage by geography and time to other data sources, such as air pollution, weather, and socioeconomic status. She has developed statistical methods for the adjustment of measured and unmeasured confounders, Bayesian hierarchical models, causal inference methods, and missing data methods.

Dominici was the recipient of the first Walter A. Rosenblith Young Investigator Award from The Health Effects Institute, Boston, MA; of the Diversity Recognition Award, from Johns Hopkins University, 2009; of the Myrto Lefkopoulou Distinguished Lectureship Award, from the Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Harvard University, 2007, and of the Mortimer Spiegelman Award, from Statistics Section of the American Public Health Association, 2006. Dominici is also a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.

Dominici’s lecture is a part of the Simons Foundation sponsored lecture series and is being coordinated by the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI). The MPE2013 Simons Public Lecture Series is taking place in nine locations around the world. Each lecture features a leading expert explaining how the mathematical sciences play a significant role in understanding and solving some of Planet Earth’s important problems. Over 100 scientific societies, universities, research institutes and organizations have banded together for MPE2013, including SAMSI. It is also part of the 2013 International Year of Statistics events.


SAMSI is a nonprofit organization comprised of the three major universities in Research Triangle region, the National Institute of Statistical Sciences in collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the William Kenan Jr. Institute for Engineering Technology and Science. SAMSI is located in Research Triangle Park and focuses on statistical sciences and applied mathematics.

About Simons Foundation

The Simons Foundation is a private foundation based in New York City, incorporated in 1994 by Jim and Marilyn Simons. The Simons Foundation’s mission is to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences.

About MPE2013

Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013 is an initiative of over 120 scientific societies, research institutes, universities, and organizations all over the world. The mission of the project is to encourage research in identifying and solving fundamental questions about planet Earth, encourage educators at all levels to communicate the issues related to planet Earth, inform the public about the essential role of the mathematical sciences in facing the challenges to our planet, and to encourage young people interested in sustainability and global issues to consider mathematics as an exciting career choice. The Simons Foundation is a major supporter of MPE2013 and the sponsor of the international “MPE2013 Simons Public Lecture Series” at nine locations throughout the world in 2013.

About 2013 International Year of Statistics

The International Year of Statistics (“Statistics2013″) is a worldwide celebration and recognition of the contributions of statistical science. Over 1,700 organizations are participating in this endeavor.

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