Virginia Rauh

Professor of Clinical of Population and Family Health

Deputy Director, Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health


Past Research: Professor Rauh has been working at the juncture of the biological (environmental health) and social sciences for over 20 years. She has conducted research on the determinants of low birth-weight, preterm delivery and other adverse reproductive health outcomes, focusing on racial and socioeconomic disparities in vulnerable populations. In 1984, Rauh received a K01 Career Development Award from NICHD to study the socio-cultural determinants of child health. She has been principal investigator on numerous major research projects, including a randomized intervention trial for low birth-weight infants (Rauh et al., 1988; Rauh et al., 1990), a study of developmental outcomes of children born to inner-city adolescent mothers (Rauh et al., 1990: Wasserman et al., 1990), a multi-site study of lifestyles in pregnancy (Shiono et al., 1997), and a population-based study of the role of social stressors in preterm birth (Rauh et al., 2000, Culhane et al., 2001). This multilevel work showed that urban African American women living in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas were more likely to deliver low birth-weight infants, regardless of individual poverty (Rauh et al., 2001). Rauh and Faith Lamb Parker (MSPH, CU) conducted a multilevel analysis of the impact of Head Start on the academic success of New York City public school children, showing that adverse neighborhood conditions contribute to early school success or failure, indicating that neighborhoods need to be considered when transitioning Head Start children into the early school years (Rauh et al., 2003).

Present Research: As Deputy Director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, Rauh has extended her contextual work to study social moderators of environmental exposure effects, including air pollution, second hand smoke and pesticides. In contrast to most research on the association between environmental exposures and health, Rauh’s work documents the specific nature of environmental injustices, namely that adverse living conditions disproportionately affect whole groups of people, contributing to specific health disparities. She has shown that children living in substandard housing are more likely to be highly exposed to pesticides (Rauh et al., 2001), and that material hardship (including sub-standard housing) exacerbates the harmful cognitive effects of prenatal exposure to secondhand smoke (Rauh et al., 2004). Furthermore, Rauh and colleagues demonstrated that prenatal exposure to pesticides used in the home increased the risk of cognitive, motor, and behavioral problems, observed by three years of age (Rauh et al., 2006). As a preceptor for the Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholars Program, Rauh is also directing an initiative to integrate air quality and socio-demographic information in New York City.

Future Research: Rauh has been an expert consultant to the National Children’s Study (NCS), in the area of stress, psychosocial measurement, and community environment, and she is a member of the NCS National Steering Committee. Once underway, Rauh will collaborate with others to use the NCS to examine the effects of environmental exposures on the health and development of more than 100,000 children across the United States, followed from before birth to age 21. Exposure histories and biologic samples will be obtained during pregnancy and from children as they grow. Each child will be screened genetically, thus permitting study of gene-environment interactions. Follow-up will extend over decades. For the past four years, working groups convened by NICHD have been developing the NCS: formulating core hypotheses, delineating research protocols, and planning logistics. The study is now ready for the field. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children. Rauh is currently Co-Investigator of the Mailman School of Public Health portion of the Queens Vanguard Site for the NCS, in collaboration with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and PI of the proposed Manhattan site, a new initiative with funding pending.

Professor Rauh's Departmental Biography Page

VRauh.jpg Virginia Rauh
Mailman School of Public Health
60 Haven Avenue, B-2
Room 213
New York, New York 10032