Division of
Public Health

College of Human Medicine

DEBRA FURR-HOLDEN, PHD

C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health

I am an epidemiologist and classically trained public health professional with expertise in drug and alcohol dependence epidemiology, psychiatric epidemiology and prevention science. I attended Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (BA Natural Sciences and Public Health, 1996) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School image of dr. holdenof Public Health (PhD, 1999). My research focus included prevention science, behavioral health equity, drug and alcohol policy, structural interventions, and environmental strategies for violence alcohol and other drug prevention. My research focuses on policy interventions and environmental approaches to violence, alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention. In 2005, I initiated the Drug Investigations, Violence and Environmental Studies Laboratory (The DIVE Studies Lab) at The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. In 2007, the group moved to The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and in January 2016, I became one of the C.S. Mott Endowed Professors of Public Health at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

As a former Flint resident and attendee of Flint Northern High School and Flint Central High School, I have a commitment to Flint that stems from my formative years. I am the developer of a novel observational environmental assessment tool, the Neighborhood Inventory for Environmental Typology (NIfETy). The NIfETy is a unique assessment strategy developed to measure features of the built and social environment linked to violence, alcohol, tobacco and other drug exposure (VAOD) exposure. My research has been used to promote environmental interventions to prevent and reduce VAOD exposure. This work is highly collaborative and has fueled a range of partnerships with researchers and policy makers across the country. In 2007, I received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers for my early career accomplishments in substance abuse research and research using the NIfETy. I have worked with local and national policy makers to improve data driven decision-making across a broad range of behavioral health topics to include 'health in all policies'. I currently maintain a portfolio of research focused on ameliorating health inequalities in substance abuse and treatment and environmental strategies to prevent and reduce substance abuse and community violence.

My Flint-based work will focus on structural interventions to address behavioral health inequalities and promote policy interventions to improve public health for Flint residents. In the wake of the Flint Water Crisis, I will put my expertise in universal and targeted school-based interventions, extensive background in community-based participatory approaches to public health, action-oriented research to improve public health, and track record of policy interventions to advance the public health status of the Flint community.