New professor finds the links between geography and health

Clive Sabel has been appointed Professor of Environmental Geography at the Department of Environmental Science, Aarhus University. Professor Sabel comes from a position at the University of Bristol, UK.

2016.11.22 | Christina Troelsen

Clive Sabel has been appointed Professor of Environmental Geography at the Department of Environmental Science, Aarhus University.

Professor Clive Sabel is a spatial environmental and health scientist working within the over-arching theme of individual level spatial data.

Professor Sabel has succeeded in developing a research area revolving around individual exposure of health-related environmental pressures, thereby contributing to the development of the emerging field of the ‘exposome’, which encompasses the totality of human environmental exposures across the whole life course. This work is supported by a new Horizon 2020 project – HEALS – which aims to understand this ‘exposome’ across Europe.

The big question that frames his research is whether it is possible to better characterise potential exposure events to disease causing social and physical pathogens by tracing individuals through their life courses. By following people through the myriad day-to-day movements in their lives, Professor Sabel seeks more incisive explanations of what causes diseases, and conversely, happiness or well-being. This will make it possible to answer whether disease is the result of high-exposure intense events or a slow accumulation through an individual’s life. Professor Sabel works within the field of Big Data, combining large data sets such as social media and population registers with health records to extract patterns and trends.

For Aarhus University, this represents a new interdisciplinary field of research. “In the Department of Environmental Science, we look forward to complementing our research field in environmental science with this new research area. With the appointment of Professor Clive Sabel, we’ll strengthen the methodological approaches used in environmental geography, as well as integrating the area with the already strong research capacities in the department working with air pollution, environment and well-being,” says Head of Department Carsten Suhr Jacobsen.

Clive Sabel completed his MSc in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) at the University of Edinburgh in 1991. He carried out his PhD studies at Lancaster University, with fieldwork in Finland, which resulted in the dissertation ‘GIS, Health and Environmental Exposure: An Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis of Motor Neurone Disease’ in 1999.

The focus on geographical aspects of environmental exposure and stressors on health continued in his further work, which was carried out first as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of St Andrews (Scotland) and the Karolinska Institute (Sweden), and subsequently as an adjunct fellow and associate professor at the University of Exeter (UK). Since 2013, he has been a professor at the University of Bristol (UK), with many international guest visits to universities in Europe, the USA and New Zealand.

Professor Sabel will give his inaugural lecture on Friday 28 April 2017

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