What research questions currently preoccupy you?
My research concerns environmental determinants of public health inequities. To unpack this illusive phenomenon, I conduct community-based participatory research (CBPR) to address systemic inequities that manifest in poor health outcomes in low-income communities of color. In this, I am particularly interested in how academics, community-based organizations, policy makers, and broader community members can work together to 1) build community power, 2) redress poor community health outcomes, and 3) promote a sense of community.
What personal factors contributed to your research?
I was challenged throughout my formative years by social and physical geographies of difference. Yet, I always found comfort in “nature,” leading to an early interest in studying the effects of urban nature institutions on young people’s understanding of the environment. On a personal level, this project was transformative—the young people that I worked with learned a great deal about environmental issues and their deleterious effects on animals, from charismatic mega fauna in exotic places to the animals we see in the everyday urban context. However, the young people I worked with began to transfer this understanding to a concern for their own access to clean, safe, and healthy environments. This moment completely shifted my research to consider how we can create healthier, safer, and greener spaces and places for all.
What has been most challenging in your research?
Working in a CBPR context requires patience, understanding, and persistence. It takes time—a precious commodity—but the rewards exponentially outweigh the challenges. I have seen community members of all ages transform into active community leaders and activists, challenging decision-makers and producing policy changes that help to improve livelihoods.
How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research?
My faculty position has provided a wonderful opportunity to involve students in all levels of research. It is amazing to see how passionately our students engage in social and environmental justice research.
A hidden (research) talent:
I always have my thinking cap on.
One book that changed your life (or research) & why:
Neil Smith’s Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space. Neil’s the real deal!
A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:
The New York Times. I’m from NY!
Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:
Have at it!
Douglas, J. A. (in press). What’s good in the ‘hood: the production of youth, nature,
and knowledge. In L. Shillington & A. M. Murnaghan (Ed.), Children, Nature, and Cities. Burlinton, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company.
Subica, A. M., Grills, C. T., Douglas, J. A., & Villanueva, S. (2016). Communities of Color Creating Healthy Environments to Combat Childhood Obesity. American Journal of Public Health, 106(1), 79–86.