Selected Highlights of Berkeley's Contributions to Public Health

Since the School of Public Health's founding in 1943, our community of faculty, students, and alumni has greatly contributed to the improved health and welfare of our communities, the state, and the world. Among our accomplishments:

Combating Disease

  • Developed the first vaccine for coccidioidomycosis, a respiratory infection more commonly known as valley fever.
  • Established interventions to improve adaptation to cancer following diagnosis—increasing the quality of life of long-term survivors and reducing the late effects of cancer treatment.
  • Developed the only effective vaccine for brucellosis in the 1950s.
  • Provided infectious disease training to frontline public health workers in California and Nevada.

Conducting Cutting-Edge Research

  • Completed the first sequencing of the Chlamydia trachomatis genome.
  • Showed that some children have extreme biological responses to stress and challenge.
  • Contributed to the discovery of BRCA1, the gene responsible for susceptibility to inherited breast cancer.
  • Identified a number of environmental and genetic correlates of leukemia risk and found that most of the major chromosomal changes associated with leukemia occur prior to birth.
  • Provided definitive evidence that arsenic in drinking water is a potent cause of human bladder and lung cancer.
  • Found that a daily multivitamin and an especially good diet, may delay the onset of AIDS in many men with HIV infection.
  • Pioneered studies in arboviral research.
  • Developed a simplified polymerase chain reaction procedure which can be used inexpensively in the developing world to identify infectious agents.
  • Developed the characterization of a cluster of genes associated with latent infection in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB.
  • Identified the genetic factors that predispose people to multiple sclerosis, as well as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Contributing to Health Policy

  • Founded the field of health planning in the United States.
  • Developed the technique for measuring exposure to environmental tobacco smoke that was adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, contributing to the banning of cigarette smoking on domestic flights.
  • Found that states that provided smoking cessation coverage not only improved the health of Medicaid enrollees, but were likely to get a return on their investment in health care costs.
  • Helped the State of California develop an environmental health surveillance system.
  • Provided key research for drafting of Medicare Reform legislation, incorporating programs that pay physician organizations more for providing better chronic illness care to the nation's elderly.
  • Established California's Encephalitis Surveillance Program, an early-warning system involving flocks of chickens, used to predict whether an arbovirus is present, such as in the 2003 West Nile virus outbreak.
  • Developed the CalTOX risk assessment framework for the California Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Created the UC Berkeley Parents Guide, part of an information kit distributed by the state of California's First 5 program to 500,000 new parents in California each year, significantly helping parents learn about and make important changes in their parenting practices.
  • Played a leadership role in establishing the nation's Organ Procurement and Transportation Policy.

Eliminating Health Inequities

  • Helped bring about changes in food access, housing, crime, and safety in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. Graduate students, working with low-income elders, formed the award-winning Tenderloin Senior Organizing Project, an organization of tenant associations that has been replicated in the United States and Canada.
  • Established CHAMACOS, the first longitudinal cohort study of low-income Latino families to track the relationship between the environment in an agricultural community (the Salinas Valley) and children's health.
  • Identified social support and social inequalities as risk factors for heart disease and developed community interventions to lower those risks.
  • Conducted a long-range study examining the development of obesity and other risk factors of heart disease during adolescence in African American and Caucasian girls to identify factors contributing to heart diseases in women and the associated racial differences in risk.

Promoting Global Health

  • Developed the first international human growth standards.
  • Advanced human rights by examining mass graves in Bosnia and Croatia and surveying them in Rwanda; documenting the consequences of land mines that have claimed limbs in Cambodia and other war-torn countries; and tracing disappearances and torture in Latin America.
  • First in the world to utilize techniques involving Global Positioning Systems, remote sensing and geographical information systems to monitor schistosomiasis in China.
  • Reduced maternal mortality in the developing world through work on safe abortion and the control of postpartum hemorrhage in villages.
  • Found that countries that quickly initiated control measures saw a slower spread and a lower fatality rate of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which was attributed to better control measures, rather than a difference in infectivity or virulence of the disease.
  • Created a range of concepts, such as "exposure trading" and 'natural debt," designed to improve environmental quality by providing a framework for countries to negotiate responsibility for cleaning up the environment.
  • Developed a model still used by UNICEF, the World Bank, and USAID today, to prioritize severely limited health resources, leading to dramatically changed policies and funding for child survival.