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Samina Raja Earns National Recognition

Samina Raja is the only urban or regional planner appointed to a committee of the National Academy of Sciences that has been charged with developing a framework and guidance for health-impact assessments in the United States. Photo: DOUGLAS LEVERE

By PATRICIA DONOVAN

Published June 21, 2010

Samina Raja, associate professor of urban and regional planning in the School of Architecture and Planning, is a community-based scholar whose work continues to earn national visibility and prestige in the fields of food security planning and community health.

The only urban or regional planner appointed to a committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that has been charged with developing a framework and guidance for health-impact assessments (HIAs) in the United States, she recently received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to build on her prior research on community food systems in Buffalo.

The NAS committee, sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the California Endowment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is developing a systematic, conceptual framework and approach for improving the assessment of health impacts in the United States.

The group, expected to release its findings in early 2011, will report on the value and potential value of HIAs; impediments and countervailing factors that have limited their practice to date; circumstances, criteria, concepts, tools and information required for conducting the assessments; and the types, structure and content of HIAs.

Raja also has just been awarded a two-year, $88,000 grant from the Healthy Kids Healthy Communities Initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to assess healthy eating and active living policies and environments in the City of Buffalo.

The assessment effort is part of a larger community partnership to assess and modify healthy eating and active living policies in the City of Buffalo led by the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc.

A civil engineer and urban planner, Raja’ community-grounded research focuses on planning and design for healthy communities, the fiscal dimensions of planning and the influence of the food and built environments on obesity and physical activity.

Her local research partners have included the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the Massachusetts Avenue Project, the Town of Amherst and Green Options Buffalo. Her work supports and is supported by UB’s Civic Engagement and Public Policy research initiative.