Students hit the streets of downtown Phoenix to document environmental health indicators and report back to policymakers
Downtown Phoenix doughnut lovers rejoiced this year when beloved Valley chain Bosa Donuts opened not one, not two, but three locations within a 1-mile radiusOne at the Arizona Center on the northeast corner of Van Buren and Third streets, one inside an office tower at First Avenue and Monroe Street and one inside a high-rise condominium on Fourth and Jackson streets, just west of Chase Field — in case anybody was wondering..
Students in Arizona State University College of Health Solutions Clinical Assistant Professor Deborah Williams’ brand new course, CHS 294: Community Health and Translational Research, took note for a different reason.
“It’s crazy to think about how there’s almost no other options besides cafes or junk food,” said health sciences sophomore Jordyn Stebbins, sitting outside of a Starbucks just around the corner from the new Bosa location on a recent November afternoon.
She and classmate Hannah Kirsch, a biological sciences sophomore, have spent the past couple weeks surveying a portion of the downtown area between Seventh Avenue on the west to Seventh Street on the east and McDowell Road on the north to Lincoln Street on the south.
As they crisscross the city streets, track park pathways and navigate retail centers, they’re looking for health indicator data — features of the environment that either promote or hinder healthy lifestyles. A wide sidewalk, for example, may encourage people to walk short distances rather than drive, while an abundance of liquor stores could contribute to higher instances of alcoholism in a particular area.
The data they’re collecting is part of a course group project, called the Seven by Seven project, referring to the names of the streets that serve as the eastern and western boundaries to their fieldwork. At the end of the course, students will present their findings along with recommendations for policy changes that would create an environment more conducive to healthy living.
This course and others like it that turn students into citizen scientists are an outcome of the College of Health Solutions’ translational science initiative. The point of the initiative is twofold: to shorten the time between the point when a research discovery is made and when it impacts the community, and to ensure every College of Health Solutions student receives some sort of experiential learning before they graduate, though CHS 294 and other courses are open to students from any college or school at ASU.