Newswise — Professor of environmental and occupational health, Jun Wu, PhD, from the UCI Program in Public Health, has received $771,000 in research funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to support her new project entitled, “Environmental and Social Health Determinants in Pregnancy Outcomes Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Launched in response to the NIEHS call for understanding the links between environmental exposures and COVID-19 and through its Urgent Competitive Revision funding mechanism, the project will be conducted in partnership with Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC). Researchers will assess the effects of ambient air pollution exposure and its effect on a variety of adverse maternal pregnancy complications that are likely worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, including diabetes, preeclampsia/eclampsia, preterm birth, and ante- and post-partum depression among KPSC deliveries.

The project will also examine whether certain factors related to COVID-19 impact the association between air pollution and pregnancy outcomes. Specific factors they will investigate include SARS-CoV-2 infection and the time a woman is first diagnosed with the infection, maternal co-morbidity, and sociodemographic factors. 

“Our hope is that this study’s outcomes will help inform public health practice and policy aimed at reducing COVID-19-related burdens on pregnant women and infants,” Wu said. “Such practices can include focusing on the subgroups (e.g. pregnant women with SARS-CoV-2 infection or other comorbidity, specific race/ethnicity groups) for interventions and use of air filter/purifier or wear mask to reduce air pollution exposure as short-term solutions. Ultimately, the study can help minimize adverse pregnancy outcomes and close the gap of health disparities for COVID-19 related impacts.”

Funding for this work began in September and runs through April 2022.

Wu is also currently collaborating with Kaiser Permanente Southern California on the parent R01 grant, titled: “Air Pollution and Pregnancy Complications in Complex Urban Environments: Risks, Heterogeneity, and Mechanisms.” That project is examining the impact of air pollutant mixture on pregnancy complications using high-quality clinical data in 2008-2018.