The Microbes and Social Equity working group and The University of Maine Institute of Medicine present an inaugural symposium on:
“Microbes, Social Equity, and Rural Health”
June 14 – 18th, 2021
Format: virtual meeting, Zoom platform.
Session 3: “Natural resources and access to environmental microbes”
Wednesday, June 16th, 13:00 ~ 16:00 EST. Registration for this session is closed.
Section leader: Gwynne Mhuireach
The relationship between health and greenspace is well-established. There is also a recognized association between social equity and distribution of greenspace in many cities—parks are often larger, higher quality, and more prevalent in higher-income, upper-class neighborhoods; private yards and gardens are a luxury sometimes inaccessible to lower-income households; even street trees tend to be older, larger, and more numerous in higher income neighborhoods. New evidence shows that exposure to microbial diversity may be an important ecosystem service provided by urban greenspace, as exposure to greater microbial diversity early in life is related to lower prevalence of autoimmune disorders, such as allergies and asthma. This session will explore how environmental justice can be used to resolve health, microbial, and land access disparities.
Program and Registration
Registration, a full speaker list and program, and details of each day can be found here.
Registration will occur for each (day) section individually, so participants can select which topics to participate in, or all of them.
Registration is free and open to the public.
Microorganisms are critical to many aspects of biological life, including human health. The human body is a veritable universe for microorganisms: some pass through but once, some are frequent tourists, and some spend their entire existence in the confines of our body tissues. The collective microbial community, our microbiome, can be impacted by the details of our lifestyle, including diet, hygiene, health status, and more, but many are driven by social, economic, medical, or political constraints that restrict available choices that may impact our health.
Many human clinical conditions or diseases have been established as being related to the state of the human microbiome. It is known that collective social inequity can drive the prevalence, morbidity, and mortality of some of these diseases or conditions. When access to a nutritious diet and healthcare are impeded by social inequity, these disparities can also affect the human microbiome; this can further contribute to reduced or poorly functioning microbiomes.
Access to resources is the basis for creating and resolving social equity—access to healthcare, healthy foods, a suitable living environment, and to beneficial microorganisms, but also access to personal and occupational protection to avoid exposure to infectious disease. The emergence of the SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19) pandemic has dramatically altered our daily lives and the availability and ability to access essential resources, which has been worsened by pre-existing social inequity. Yet, the pandemic has also highlighted the inherent social disparity among those more likely to be exposed to infectious diseases.
This meeting highlights recent investigations into beneficial and detrimental instances of microbial exposure, in the context of how social policy may mediate or deepen disparities between and within populations. In addition to invited presentations on thematic sections, each section will involve a discussion session using smaller breakout groups, to facilitate conversations and brainstorming between attendees. These groups will be arranged around smaller themes or research questions, and group members will identify knowledge gaps for future research, as well as list actionable steps that can be taken using existing research to promote equitable social policy. Ideally, meeting attendees will gain knowledge, collaborators and connections, and a path forward for turning their research into evidence-based policy to support public health.
Unlike traditional symposium formats, this meeting will present some plenary-style talks by experts in the field, including biological scientists, social scientists, practitioners or policy makers, as well as facilitate discussion among participants. Each thematic section will feature 90 minutes of talks, which will be recorded and made publicly available after the live session. After each plenary session, there will be 90 minutes of discussion in groups led by speakers and MSE group members, and assisted by notetakers, with ~10 participants per breakout room. Participants will be encouraged to “problem solve” a suggested topic or one of their own choosing. The goal is to create action items that are meaningful for group participants, such as ideas for curricula development, identifying research needs or best practices, suggestions for engaging research in policy, and more.