Assistant Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences
College of Social Sciences and Humanities and Bouvé College of Health Sciences
Laura Senier Biography
Assistant Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences
Areas of Expertise
Sociology of medicine and public health
Community environmental health
Laura Senier is an Assistant Professor in Sociology and Anthropology and Health Sciences. Her research interests include the sociology of medicine and public health, community environmental health, and environmental justice. She is Principal Investigator on an NIH Mentored Research Scientist Award to study how political barriers hinder research translation, or the effort to migrate scientific discoveries into clinical and public health practice. She has also studied community mobilization in pursuit of environmental justice, especially concerning school environmental health and the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated land. Her work has appeared in Social Science & Medicine; Sociological Inquiry; Organization & Environment; and Environmental Science & Technology.
This research will pilot methods to assess exposure to green and blue spaces and explore how these recreational amenities are associated with mental health among schoolchildren in several Boston neighborhoods. The terms green and blue spaces are drawn from the literature on therapeutic landscapes; the former is generally taken to mean parks, playgrounds, and open space, while the latter is taken to mean rivers, streams, and beaches. There is a large and growing body of literature that suggests that exposure to green space is beneficial for a range of health outcomes, especially mental health; while blue space has not been studied as extensively, it is a logical next frontier in this current of research.
Although these findings about the health effects of green space have sparked excitement among urban planners and public health advocates, however, it is at the same time deeply evident that communities have vastly inequitable access to green and blue spaces. The environmental justice movement was originally founded to protest the ways poor communities and communities of color are unfairly burdened with polluting industries and toxic hazards, but over the past decade, EJ activists have extended their vision and now argue that their communities are also burdened by a lack of amenities such as parks and open space. Green space is thus becoming a new area of mobilization for urban EJ communities.
This grant has the following goals:
- Establish relationships with at least two community-based organizations that serve environmental justice communities in Boston neighborhoods.
- Pilot a method for collecting and analyzing data with middle-school children to discover how they feel about the recreational spaces that are available to them.
- Develop a research plan to secure future funding to study these relationships more fully.
- Prepare the community to explain the findings from this research and participate in discussions about community redevelopment and urban planning.
Publications – Past Five Years
Doyle, D. L., Clyne, M., Rodriguez, J. L., Cragun, D. L., Senier, L., Hurst, G., Chan, & Chambers, D. A. (2018). Proposed outcome measures for state public health genomics programs. Genetics in Medicine, 20, 995-1003. https://doi.org/10.1038/gim.2017.229
Joyce, K., & Senier, L. (2017). Why environmental exposures? Environmental Sociology, 3, 101-106. https://doi.org/10.1080/23251042.2017.1281375
Ponte, A., Greenberg, S., Greendale, K., & Senier, L. (2019). Moving the needle on action around evidence-based screening for hereditary conditions: preparing state chronic disease directors to advance precision public health. Public Health Reports. 134(3), 228-233. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033354919834588
Senier, L., Brown, P., Shostak, S., & Hanna, B. (2017). The socio-exposome: advancing exposure science and environmental justice in a postgenomic era. Environmental Sociology 3: 107-121. https://doi.org/10.1080/23251042.2016.1220848
Senier, L., Kearney, M., & Orne, J. (2015). Using public-private partnerships to mitigate disparities in access to genetic services: Lessons from Wisconsin. Advances in Medical Sociology: Genetics, Health & Society, 16, 269-305. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1057-629020150000016010
Senier, L., Lee, R., & Nicoll, L. (2017). The strategic defense of physician autonomy: state public health agencies as countervailing powers. Social Science & Medicine, 186, 113-121. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.06.007
Senier, L., Shields, M., Lee, R., Nicoll, L., Falzon, D., & Wiecek, E. (2015). Community-based family health history education: The role of state health agencies in engaging medically underserved populations in understanding genomics and risk of chronic disease. Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation, 3(4), 995-1017. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare3040995
Senier, L., Smollin, L., Lee, R., Nicoll, L., Shields, M., & Tan, C. (2018). Navigating the evidentiary turn in public health: Sensemaking strategies to integrate genomics into state-level chronic disease prevention programs. Social Science & Medicine, 211, 207-215. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.06.026
Senier, L., Tan, C., Smollin, L., & Lee, R. (2019). Understanding the potential of state-based public health genomics programs to mitigate disparities in access to clinical genetic services. Genetics in Medicine, 21, 373-381. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41436-018-0056-y.