Sadler Research Projects

Given my training in urban planning, geographic information science, and health geography, I am well-suited to lend expertise on a wide variety of work in public health. My publications can be found on any of the sites at right; on this page, you’ll find brief descriptions of each of the domains where I am actively conducting research.

My work on food systems extends to multiple projects, including the Flint Food Store Survey, the Flint Leverage Points Project, the Flint Farmers’ Market relocation, and community engagement with organizations like Edible Flint, the Flint Fresh mobile market and food hub, and the North Flint Food Market. A primary goal is linking improved knowledge about food access to initiatives that address these geographic gaps, and I continue to work with community groups on this knowledge translation.

I started this work while interning at the Genesee County Land Bank. The premise is that, by improving the appearance of vacant properties, we can intervene directly on criminal behavior and make neighborhoods nicer places to live. I continue to do work on this topic in Milwaukee, as well as through the Prevention Research Center of Michigan’s project in Flint. I also provide direct community service via the Land Bank’s Clean & Green program on Flint’s Fenton Road corridor.

In addition to vacant properties, disorder in communities and the quality of housing can play a critical role in shaping health behaviors. Furthermore, historical patterns like redlining and blockbusting have created huge inequalities in the quality of our neighborhoods. This work links historical and contemporary patterns in housing to mental health, infectious disease, and life course health. A new project includes evaluating the effect that moving to a new housing complex will have on the health of new residents.

I have been involved in research on the water crisis from the outset when Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha pegged me to be the geographer on her work. I work with the Pediatric Public Health Initiative and the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership on topics related to water quality and distribution.  This work has been hugely important to the Flint community for its direct relevance in shaping water crisis relief efforts, as well as indirectly through bringing attention to the poor state of infrastructure in the U.S. today.

Health equity is an overarching theme in all my work, but since 2016 I have also served as the Methodology Core Director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions. In that role, I have worked with research and community partners to contextualize the built environment, lend methodological insights into other projects, and connect our team’s expertise to the rest of the center. With the base data we compiled as part of this center, our team is poised to continue work identifying gaps in health equity in the Flint community.

Building on the work I have done on food environments, I now conduct research examining disparities in exposure to alcohol outlets, as well as methodologies behind this work. This builds on my colleague Dr. Debra Furr-Holden’s advocacy and research to help enact Transform Baltimore, which will significantly reduce the number of alcohol outlets in the city. I am working with the Genesee County Prevention Coalition and the Michigan Council to Reduce Underage Drinking to extend these lessons to Flint and Michigan.

Another health equity-related topic pertains to growing and potential inequalities in the handling of the opioid epidemic. Flint continues to be disproportionately burdened, and access to services remains a barrier. Colleagues from FCHES and elsewhere are now partnering on multiple strains of workaround linking national data to local response efforts, and the tools I have used to identify unhealthy environments related to food, housing, and alcohol can be leveraged in this work.

As the resident geographer in the College of Human Medicine, I have worked on a diverse set of projects (with faculty and medical students) that allow me to use my expertise in geographic information science to contextualize the built environment and add value to my colleagues’ work. This has included papers on the clustering of bystander CPR, access to autism services, access to buprenorphine treatment, and inequalities in pharmacy quality, to name a few.

Because of the direct connection between poverty and poor health, I have remained active in research on economic development with colleagues at multiple universities. Initially, this extended to efforts made by municipal officials to brand their communities in competing for investment. More recently, this entailed the creation of a prosperity risk index that explores the connections among municipal fragmentation, suburban sprawl, racial segregation, regional inequality, poverty, and regional indicators of economic prosperity and growth.