Public health

Learning As We Go

Teachers are stressed. Students are struggling. Parents are shouldering more responsibilities than ever before. While the controversy surrounding when and how schools should reopen has led to policy debates and changes in family dynamics, UNC epidemiologists and education researchers find hope in the lessons from this year.

Tracking SARS-CoV-2 Variants

SARS-CoV-2 variants may seem like a scary new chapter in the pandemic, but coronavirus experts expected their arrival. Scientists in the UNC School of Medicine and Gillings School of Global Public Health are tracking the variants to learn how they differ and affect the world’s chance of ending this pandemic.

A Public Health Prognosis

Graduate student Rachel Woodul spent two years researching what might happen to hospital capacity when the next pandemic strikes. When it arrived, she compared what her model — and others’ — got wrong to improve how we react to public health crises in the future.

READDI, Not Reactive

For decades, scientists warned of the potential for a global coronavirus outbreak. But when SARS-CoV-2 emerged, no therapeutics, drugs, or vaccines were readily available. The Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative (READDI) — founded by researchers at UNC and the Structural Genomics Consortium — is not only finding solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also drugs and therapeutics for future viral outbreaks.

Setting a Field Alight

With support from UNC student researchers, Benjamin Mason Meier has finalized a first-of-its-kind textbook integrating human rights policy into public health education — a guiding light to aid the next generation of researchers.

Addressing Pandemic Problems

While COVID-19 has shaken the world, it has also pushed society to be more innovative and creative — two attributes that have been essential to the success of researchers at UNC. Carolina students, faculty, and staff are engaged in an abundance of projects, making UNC the most cited university in the nation for coronavirus research.

Doing COVID-19 Dirty Work

Employing wastewater epidemiology — proven useful in outbreaks of polio and opioid use — UNC microbiologist Rachel Noble is leading a state-wide collaboration tracking novel coronavirus outbreaks across North Carolina, gaining insight that testing individuals does not offer. Preliminary results have shown that by using wastewater, researchers can identify COVID-19 hot spots five to seven days before they are reflected by clinical testing results.

Donald Fejfar

Don Fejfar is a junior and Morehead-Cain Scholar majoring in biostatistics within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He studies how disease relates to food and water quality, security, and accessibility on Isabela Island in Galápagos, Ecuador.

One Size Won’t Fit All

Nearly 35 percent of Americans are considered obese — a diagnosis that has become so common the American Medical Association recognizes it as a chronic disease. While the diagnosis is the same for all, the treatments vary; what works for one person typically doesn’t work for another. In response, researchers from across UNC have joined forces to tackle this ever-growing problem.

The Known Unknowns

In 2016, a group of North Carolina researchers published evidence of high rates of PFAS in the Cape Fear River basin. While this unregulated family of chemicals is used in the production of everyday goods, its impact on human health is largely unknown. For the past year, scientists from UNC-Chapel Hill, five other UNC system universities, and Duke University, have researched these potentially dangerous chemicals found in drinking water sources across the state.