Focus Areas

Across the university’s 29 schools and nearly 300 research centers and institutes, Rutgers faculty have particular strengths in environmental impacts on health, health systems and policies, infectious diseases, noncommunicable diseases, and social determinants of health.

In aligning Rutgers’ strengths with emerging needs in the field of global health, we have identified focus areas to advance collaborative research, education, and service for maximum impact.

Acute Care Surgery

Surgery has the power to save lives and prevent disability, but five billion people around the world experience barriers to safe, timely, and affordable surgery. The disparity is starkest in low- and middle-income countries, where nine out of 10 people lack access to even the most basic surgical services, and where very few health care professionals are trained to provide effective surgical care for emergency conditions. In many parts of the world, building surgical capacity—a multifaceted endeavor that requires context-sensitive approaches—is essential to improving health.

Multiple faculty from Rutgers’ two medical schools, New Jersey Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Rutgers School of Dental Medicine; and Rutgers School of Nursing are active leaders in this field and are engaged with international partners to exchange knowledge and resources. Adding to their expertise are Rutgers’ strengths in biomedical engineering, business, education, rehabilitative care, and urban planning.

Cancer Care and Prevention in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

About 70 percent of deaths from cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries, where people with cancer often go untreated and lack access to palliative care. The health systems of these countries, which have historically focused on infectious diseases, lack the personnel, training, and resources to provide chronic health care, much less the comprehensive care and treatment most cancer patients need. The fight against cancer urgently needs equitable and global approaches.

As one of only 49 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers nationwide, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey already delivers world-class cancer care in New Jersey. Additional Rutgers strengths exist in business, engineering, nursing, pharmacy, public health, and global data science and management.

Disasters, Community Health, and Resiliency

The last 20 years have seen a dramatic rise of 151 percent, globally, in direct economic losses from climate-related disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, and floods. These disasters have created the need for emergency medical, social, and infrastructural responses to save lives, mitigate suffering, and restore strength to impacted communities. For poor communities, recovery is slow and incomplete. Efforts to aid in recovery and increase resiliency require a holistic approach to the future well-being of these communities in need.

Health care providers, educators, and researchers from Rutgers and its clinical partner, RWJBarnabas Health, are experienced in post-disaster relief efforts. In addition, Rutgers offers expertise in communication, engineering, environmental health, mental health, planning and public policy, and social work.

Epidemics—Old and New

While decades of dedicated efforts have saved millions of lives from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, these diseases continue to pose significant threats. More than 36 million people are living with HIV, with 1.8 million new infections annually. Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death in individuals with HIV and one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, with 95 percent of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Malaria continues to plague many countries, causing 445,000 deaths per year. New epidemics, such as the spread of the Zika virus, and recurring epidemics, such as Ebola and influenza, need to be prepared for and prevented. For epidemics arising in developing countries, the best solution is to strengthen the health care systems of those countries to respond to such threats early. A comprehensive and collaborative treatment and prevention approach is needed for all epidemics.

Rutgers is active in the fight against both HIV and TB through the School of Nursing’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center, which provides family-centered care for HIV, infectious diseases, and immunologic disorders. Rutgers’ Global Tuberculosis Institute, a part of New Jersey Medical School, is one of four National Tuberculosis Centers of Excellence funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Through its Center for Vector Biology, Rutgers is a leader in mosquito control and helps reduce cases of vector-borne diseases. Rutgers’ contributions to combating epidemics also include basic science discoveries and active clinical services, bioethics, engineering, and public policy.

Food, Nutrition, and Health

Worldwide, 821 million people are hungry, and the majority of them live in developing countries. At the other end of the spectrum, obesity is a serious global health concern, and its prevalence in low- and middle-income countries is approaching levels found in higher-income countries. Social determinants such as poverty, education level, and physical environment play a role in food access, diet, and health. In addition, a wide variety of environmental challenges are impacting agricultural production and food supply, security, and quality worldwide. Establishing healthier and more sustainable diets across cultures will take a broad, multidisciplinary effort.

Rutgers’ faculty contributions encompass agricultural, food, and resource economics; anthropology; communication; climate science; dentistry; environmental and computer engineering; food science; health policy; medicine; nutritional sciences; public health; and social work.

Health of New Jersey’s Vulnerable Populations

New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the country. With nine million residents, nearly 23 percent are foreign born. While significant diversity enriches our state, there are apparent disparities in health and health care access that depend on such factors as age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status. To improve the health of vulnerable populations and achieve health equity worldwide, the problems faced by Rutgers’ surrounding communities must be addressed. The university is already deeply engaged in this work; our 2017 survey of all faculty universitywide found that more than half of Rutgers’ global health-related activities involve New Jersey populations. In addition, the immigrant communities that reside here provide a window into health issues experienced by populations around the world, and there are opportunities to exchange knowledge and solutions.

With experts in behavioral health, health policy, health systems, human ecology, medicine, nursing, population health, and public health, Rutgers is well equipped to address health inequities right here at home.

Human Health and Our Changing Environment

The health of humanity and the health of our planet are inseparably linked. There is increasing evidence that the Earth’s capacity to sustain the growing human population is declining and that air and land degradation, biodiversity loss, industrialization, invasive species, urbanization, toxic chemicals, and water shortages are having significant impacts on health. These impacts include reduction of food security and quality, loss of freshwater resources, higher exposure to communicable diseases and increase of noncommunicable diseases, and greater-than-before loss of life and well-being via extreme weather events. These are problems with transnational impacts; climate change and pollution know no borders. All over the world, communities need to be mobilized to value their environment and address these issues.

Through the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute; the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; Rutgers Climate Institute; and research efforts across the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the School of Health Professions, faculty across Rutgers are confronting these issues. Additional perspectives come from Rutgers’ experts in agriculture, behavioral economics, communication, engineering, medicine, nutritional sciences, and urban planning and policy development.