What is Environmental Health Research?
Environmental health research encompasses all levels of research from bench-to-bedside to populations. All of these levels are critical to studying and creating solutions to the questions and problems we have regarding our health. The four levels of research are:
Basic science research deals with molecules, clinical research works with individuals, population-based research is done on groups of people, and translational research applies the findings of the previous levels towards increasing well-being. Below, you will find detailed descriptions on each of these levels, and how they relate to one another in an environmental health context.
Basic Science Research
Basic science research, also known as “bench” or “wet lab” research, focuses on conducting experiments in a laboratory setting. These experiments range in variety, addressing inquiries from the creation of a new pharmaceutical drug, to studying the regulatory effects of genes. At its core, medical bench research is about addressing the interaction between molecules and seeing how they can impact human health and well-being.
Clinical research focuses on the application of basic science research findings on a patient level. The applications for this type of research range from evaluating a new testing device, to the efficacy of a new drug. To this end, clinical researchers often work closely with basic science researchers to analyze patient specimens in order to continually assess the point of inquiry. This type of research is often referred to as “bench-to-bedside.”
Population-based research uses the lens of populations to study possible correlations between behavior and health. In doing so, it provides a starting point for research focusing on other levels to investigate the probability of causation from a physiological perspective.
Translational research refers to the direct application of research findings all levels towards the betterment of health and well-being for individuals and the public. For more information, you can visit the NIH: National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences website.
How Do Different Types of Research Fit with Environmental Health?
In relation to environmental health, the different levels of research can be integrated to see how the environment influences the functionality of biomolecules and investigate its subsequent impact on human physiology and well-being. An example of this is illustrated by current research by Dr. Li Li, studying relationships between ethnicity and colon cancer risk from both genetic and behavioral perspectives. From here, analysis of what behaviors lead to increased colon cancer risk will serve as a platform for further research involving intervention-based studies, where at-risk individuals are provided alternatives to their present habits.